THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE COLUMBIA RIVER INTER-TRIBAL FISH COMMISSION
The Nez Perce Tribe and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife took a historic step today with the reintroduction of coho salmon to northeast Oregon’s Wallowa Valley. Today’s release of a half million coho smolts into the Lostine River marks the first time that coho have been in the Grande Ronde Basin in 31 years.
“It is a great honor to be able to witness the first steps in reintroducing coho salmon, ‘kállay’ as they are known to the Nez Perce people, back to an area where they have been absent for far too long,” stated Mary Jane Miles, Chair of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee. “Our tribe has worked towards this day for nearly three decades and it is wonderful to see the fruits of that labor.”
In the late 1800s, an estimated twenty thousand adult coho that returned to the Columbia River were produced in the Grande Ronde/Wallowa river basin. Poorly designed hatchery programs, habitat changes within the basin, construction of mainstem dams, and overfishing depleted coho returns, not only in the Grande Ronde/Wallowa basin, but throughout the entire Columbia and Snake river basins.
The Nez Perce and Oregon reintroduction project is designed to provide measurable harvest for treaty and non-treaty fisheries along the Columbia River, re-establish natural production of coho in the Wallowa and Lostine rivers, and encourage the natural recolonization of coho into the Grande Ronde River and its tributaries.
“Today represents a new chapter in century-long efforts to reestablish this important species, and we are confident that a strong partnership with our tribal co-managers will finally make this a success,” said Jeff Yanke, Wallowa District Fish Biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This is an excellent opportunity to sustain tribal and non-tribal harvest opportunities in the Columbia River while realizing the ecological benefits of these adult returns within the Grande Ronde Basin,” he said. Yanke credits the co-managers’ ability to reintroduce coho to the decades of investments in habitat improvements by private landowners and funding entities.
Today’s reintroduction is the latest in a series of tribal projects that have reintroduced coho throughout the Columbia River Basin. Prior efforts include the Yakama Nation’s upper Columbia coho reintroduction program and the Nez Perce Tribe’s coho reintroduction program on the Clearwater River in Idaho. Both of these programs have successfully rebuilt naturally spawning coho populations and both rivers now support treaty and non-treaty coho fisheries.
“I would like to thank the tribal staff that have worked on this project over the years for their dedication and commitment to preserving and protecting the culture and traditions of the Nimiipuu [Nez Perce people],” continued Miles. “I believe these efforts will help realize a future that includes a species that is an integral part of this region and the Nez Perce culture.”
The Nez Perce Tribe’s planning for this reintroduction began in 1988 with funding from Bonneville Power Administration. Implementation of this program was developed through the U.S. v. Oregon Management Agreement and funded by the Mitchell Act and Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. The juvenile coho were reared at the Cascade Hatchery near Bonneville Dam and transported to the Lostine River for release. The first adult coho from this release are anticipated to return to the Lostine River in the fall of 2018.
“I would also like to thank the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, the Bonneville Power Administration, Wallowa County, and the local landowners for their support and assistance of this program. Without them it would not be possible,” concluded Miles