Salmon and steelhead returns approach 40-year lows

Idaho's salmon populations are suffering a big blow this year, in most cases coming in worse than  already-poor pre-season forecasts.

Just last week, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game took the incredible measure of closing this fall's steelhead harvest because of disastrously low returns. What's more, this continues several years in a row of continually lowering returns.

The poor returns are often shown in contrast with 10-year averages, which are generally higher numbers. But it's important to point out that even the 10-year averages aren’t even close to what scientists would consider recovery.

For steelhead, chinook and sockeye we’ve seen consecutive years of declines that call into serious question the sustainability of the runs with the lower Snake River dams still in place.

Read on for more specifics about this year's dismal returns, updated Aug. 16.

Sockeye: Recovery goal is 2,000 wild adults per year

  • 2015: 11 wild of 56 total to Stanley Basin
  • 2016: 34 wild of 577 total
  • 2017 so far: 8 wild, 53 total
  • (2017 forecast was for 135-150 total)

Spring/summer chinook: Recovery goal is 80,000 wild adults per year

  • 2015: 21,000 wild of 120,000 total at Lower Granite Dam
  • 2016: 15,900 wild of 70,500 total at Lower Granite Dam
  • 2017 so far: about 7,500 wild of 36,000 total
  • (2017 forecast was for 10,000 wild of 55,000 total)

 Steelhead: Recovery goal is 90,000 wild adults per year

  • 2015: 39,300 wild of 140,000 total at Lower Granite Dam
  • 2016: 23,800 wild of 100,000 total at Lower Granite Dam
  • 2017 so far: 301 wild of 447 total
  • (2017 forecast was for 17,300 wild of 61,000 total, and only 800 wild B steelhead)