Action Alert: The Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council have petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to place Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawystscha) on the state’s Endangered Species List. Listing would afford new protections and opportunities to fund habitat restoration.
Spring Chinook (King) Salmon were once the most plentiful salmonid in the Klamath system, with hundreds of thousands of fish returning to spawn each year. More than a century of dam building, irrigation diversions, mining, and logging have destroyed or denied access to much of their historic habitat. Today these fish number in the hundreds of individuals.
Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook are genetically distinct from Fall Chinook
Prior listing attempts failed as geneticists were unable to distinguish Spring Chinook from their Fall-run counterparts; however, recent studies reveal that the two are indeed genetically distinct from one another. This is the basis of the new petition to list.
Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook are culturally important
Spring Chinook were a staple for countless generations of Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa, Shasta, Modoc, and Klamath people. The return of Springers initiates the ceremonial season for Klamath Basin Tribes and signals the end of winter. Today, Karuk ceremonial leaders struggle to harvest a single fish necessary to host the annual first salmon ceremony.
Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook are prized by anglers and consumers
Spring Chinook enter the river in the spring and navigate ice cold snow melt to the headwaters of the Klamath system. In order to make the journey, Springers enter the river with a much higher fat and oil content than Fall Chinook which gives them the extraordinary flavor appreciated by sport fishermen and consumers.
Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook are part of a complex ecosystem
Spring Chinook spend part of their life cycle in the open ocean where they are an important part of the diet of at-risk populations of killer whales. When they return to rivers to spawn and die, they transport ocean nutrients inland providing an important source of protein and nitrogen to forest ecosystems.
Genetic diversity is key to species survival
Differences in migration timing is an evolutionary strategy for Chinook salmon’s long-term survival. It allows Chinook populations to use a wider range of spawning habitats within a watershed and to enter freshwater at different times of year. This allows the population to survive stressful habitat conditions that may be temporary or limited to a subregion of the watershed. Loss of this genetic information increases the risk that we will lose Chinook salmon runs entirely!
Written comments due by 5 p.m. on January 24. You may submit comments by clicking the link above or mail comments to:
California Fish and Game Commission
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
Tell the Commissioners in person to protect Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook at the California Fish and Game Commission hearing on February 6 at 8:30 a.m. The meeting is at:
California Natural Resources Building
First Floor Auditorium 1416 Ninth Street Sacramento, CA 95814