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Opinion >  Letters

Another culprit in the decline of salmon

I have great appreciation and admiration for the Nez Perce Tribe’s determined efforts to restore salmon and steelhead runs to their native lands. Sports fishermen like me have benefited greatly from their efforts over the years, including the successful reintroduction of Coho salmon to the Clearwater River Basin within the last few years which allowed us to harvest this once abundant species for the first time in decades.

And while I agree that the dams are a major cause of the declines in the runs of anadromous species, I have also become convinced that an even bigger culprit lurks in that great mass of saltwater — the Pacific Ocean. Very little is known about what happens to salmon and steelhead once they enter the Pacific Ocean and little or none of the $16 million spent on salmon restoration since the passage of the Regional Act in 1980 has been targeted at ocean research.

We have known for years that El Nino is bad for salmon and steelhead and more recently the so-called “blob” of unusually warm water in the northern Pacific Ocean that started in the fall of 2013 seems to have an even worse effect. This is most likely just another effect of global warming but we have little research to confirm this. I would like to see more dollars go toward researching what happens to our salmonids once they enter the ocean. I fear that what happens in the ocean may even overwhelm dam removal.

Rick Itami

Liberty Lake

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