PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – NOAA Fisheries, the government authority on the science and management of fish, released a report at the end of September identifying large-scale actions that must be taken to rebuild Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead to healthy and harvestable levels. 

The report, released Sept. 30, conveys the urgency behind the Columbia Basin Partnership’s 2020 recommendations that say merely avoiding the extinction of native salmon and steelhead is not enough. 

Instead, the partnership called for reestablishing healthy and harvestable numbers of fish that contribute fully to the culture, environment and economy of the region. 

NOAA Fisheries believes if the actions it suggests are taken, there’s a chance of reaching this goal. The goal of its evaluation is to inform the region on what will help achieve the Columbia Basin Partnership’s mid-range goals for naturally produced adult salmon and steelhead abundance by 2050. 

The eight large-scale actions NOAA Fisheries suggests taking include increasing habitat restoration, reintroducing salmon into blocked areas, managing predators, breaching dams, reforming fish hatcheries and harvest, improving water quality, managing marine ecosystems and reconnecting floodplain habitat. 

Within its suite of actions, NOAA Fisheries said there are some changes that are more pressing and necessary than others. 

For example, for fish stocks in the Snake River, the centerpiece action is restoring the lower Snake River via dam breaching. 

For fish in the upper Columbia River, they said it’s necessary to reintroduce fish to areas that are blocked by high-head dams. 

In the mid-Columbia River, it’s important to improve water quality. 

To develop these recommendations, NOAA Fisheries examined several factors including the status and outlook of Columbia River basin fish stocks, the importance of climate change, the primary ecological threats, and what sort of confidence scientists have in salmon and steelhead responding to the actions they hope to take. 

The report is not a regulatory document. It is meant to inform and contribute to regional conversations and funding decisions. 

The full report is available to read on NOAA Fisheries’ website

The Columbia Basin Partnership was a task force chartered by NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee in 2017 to develop common goals for the Columbia River basin’s salmon and steelhead. Group members included tribes, states, watershed groups, electric utilities, the fishing industry and more.