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Endangered Species Act Reviews for Some Northwest Salmon and Steelhead Show Promise for Recovery

Four threatened species of salmon and steelhead on the lower Columbia River should retain their current listing statuses under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), NOAA Fisheries has determined.Threatened Oregon Coast coho salmon and threatened Lake Ozette sockeye salmon should also retain their current statuses. The agency’s West Coast Region released 5-year reviews that weighed the progress of the six species toward recovery and recommended priority actions for the next 5 years.

The reviews are the latest 5-year check-ins on the ESA listing status of 28 threatened and endangered West Coast salmon and steelhead species. NOAA Fisheries expects to complete the reviews in the next several months.

Most of the species lack sufficient access to functional floodplain habitat, the reviews found. Where rivers can reach their floodplains, high seasonal river flows can turn low-lying lands along rivers into productive wetlands. Juvenile salmon feed and grow there on their way to the ocean. Dikes, levees, and rip-rap that isolate rivers from their floodplains eliminate that opportunity. That leaves the juvenile fish in simplified channels with less hiding cover and prey. Floodplains and wetlands also absorb cool water and then gradually release it back into rivers, which will be increasingly important as the climate warms.

The highest-priority recommendations of the 5-year reviews for five of the six species include reopening and restoring this valuable floodplain habitat to support salmon recovery.

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