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Columbia River Basin Closures Put Fishing Jobs 'On Hold'

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Tuesday, September 21, 2021   

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Closed fisheries from imperiled fish runs in the Columbia River Basin are prompting calls for action before it's too late.

Steelhead trout numbers in the Columbia and its tributaries could be the lowest since records began in the 1930s. On the Columbia, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued an emergency closure on salmon fishing up to Bonneville Dam, although portions now have reopened with strict limits.

Chris Hager, executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, said the closures are dealing a blow to the fishing industry in the region.

"When you're specifically looking at the recreational angling community, it's putting guides on hold for having to either not fish, switch it up to other resources," Hager explained. "And so you're putting jobs on hold."

Hager argued removing four lower Snake River dams in southeast Washington would help restore salmon and steelhead populations in the region. Earlier in the year, eastern Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., praised spring Chinook salmon runs on the Snake River, which were higher than in 2019 and 2020. The members of Congress said it was proof dams and salmon can coexist.

Marcia Brownlee, program manager for the Artemis Sportswomen initiative at the National Wildlife Federation, also supports removing the lower Snake River dams. She said the region has taken half-measures to save endangered fish for too long.

"We need to do everything in our power to make sure that emergency closures do not become permanent closures," Brownlee asserted. "And what we've seen this summer has really illustrated that what we're doing now isn't enough. We need to do more."

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, has proposed a $33 billion plan to save endangered fish species, which includes removing the lower Snake River dams. Other leaders in the region have not yet supported including this proposal in Congress' budget-reconciliation package, which is being debated in Washington, D.C.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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