SACRAMENTO — Wednesday, the California Fish and Game Commission made Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook salmon a candidate for listing under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).
The decision was in response to a petition filed last year by the Karuk Tribe and the Salmon River Restoration Council. A final decision to list the species will be made within 12 months; in the meantime Klamath-Trinity Spring Chinook will be afforded all the protections of a listed species.
That will include fishing restrictions, according to a press release from the Karuk Tribe and Salmon River Restoration Council.
The move by the Fish and Game Commission forces California to restrict fishing to protect the fish, however, the Tribe and council want to work with fishermen and the agency to develop common sense fishing regulations.
“There is a population of hatchery born spring Chinook on the Trinity River that can and should be fished,” said Karuk Tribe Executive Director Joshua Saxon.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis led by Michael Miller, recently published two reports in the journal Science Advances and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that explains the genetic differences between fall Chinook and spring Chinook.
The research provides new insights into salmon evolution and reveals that spring Chinook salmon deserve to be treated as its own evolutionarily distinct unit separate from fall Chinook.
Before the age of dams, industrial mining, and clear-cut logging, spring Chinook salmon were the most abundant run of salmon in many Pacific Northwest Rivers, the release said. Today, these fish are nearly extinct throughout much of its historic range.
“These fish have been on the brink of extinction for years,” said Saxon, “but no one believed us when we said they were a distinct species from fall Chinook until now.”
Spring Chinook enter rivers in the spring when snow melt swells rivers allowing the fish travel into the upper reaches of a watershed. Then they must reside in cold water areas all summer until they spawn and die in the fall.
Fall Chinook migrate into rivers in the fall where they spawn and die relatively soon after entering fresh water. Having two life strategies allow Chinook to take advantage of the entire watershed instead of just the upper or lower reaches. This behavioral diversity enhances the chances of long-term survival for the entire population.