SEATTLE — Rallies are taking place across the Northwest to support salmon, which face dire conditions in the Columbia River Basin.
Saturday, the Rally for the River is calling for action from Congress to save endangered fish species in the region, including removing four lower Snake River dams that impede salmon migration and heat up the river.
Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, said his group recently captured video of the sockeye salmon struggling in the warm waters of the Columbia.
“The heartbreaking video of the sockeye covered in lesions and fungus should sound an alarm,” VandenHeuvel asserted. “We need action now from the Northwest delegation.”
Water temperatures above 68 degrees can be lethal for salmon, and the Columbia already has been above 70 degrees this year. VandenHeuvel pointed out high temperatures stress salmon metabolism and leave them more susceptible to predation and disease.
He predicted the situation will only get worse unless leaders act to remove the Snake River dams.
Betsy Emery, advocacy and campaign manager for the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, said anglers contribute $5 billion per year to the Pacific Northwest’s economy, but she fears salmon in the basin are at a tipping point.
“A lot of us who spend time on the river and spend time thinking about these fisheries are really nervous,” Emery remarked. “Could this be that catastrophic event that starts pushing some of these runs that we love so much from a fishing perspective into a space where they might not be strong enough to fish?”
VandenHeuvel added people are becoming inspired to take action.
“More and more people are getting involved and recognizing how serious and urgent this issue is,” VandenHeuvel contended. “For salmon, for the orcas that depend on them, for the people of the Pacific Northwest.”
Rallies are planned for Boise, Corvallis, Eugene, Portland, Seattle and Spokane on Saturday.
Photo credit: Struggling salmon also are bad news for the orcas of the Northwest that rely on them. (Conrad Gowell/Columbia Riverkeeper)