The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering whether the spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon that occupy the rivers of Northern California and southern Oregon are genetically distinct.
The decision has huge implications for fish populations as the number of spring-run Chinook salmon has plunged to such depths it would almost certainly result in a listing under the Endangered Species Act if seen as a separate species.
“The science is in on that,” said Rich Nawa, an ecologist who petitioned the agency a year ago to consider the spring-run Chinook salmon as genetically distinct. “There are several papers so no one disputes the science, it’s just how to incorporate it into policy at this point.”
The fisheries service said Monday it will consider the new science as it analyses whether an update to its listing policy is warranted.
“We find that the petition presents substantial scientific and commercial information indicating the petitioned action may be warranted,” the agency said in a document.
The key word in the phrase is “may,” as a significant dispute exists in the scientific community whether the spring-run Chinook is what is referred to as an “evolutionarily significant unit.”