Endangered Species: The Chinook salmon
Because I hail from the great state of Washington, I have chosen to write about the Chinook or King Salmon. Let us begin with defining what an endangered species is and compare it to an extinct species, so we are clear about what we are talking about. "An endangered species of plant, animal, or microorganism is at risk of imminent extinction or expiration in all or most of its range. Extinct species no longer occur anywhere on earth, and once gone they are gone forever."(US Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Endangered Species Program, Nov. 19th 2002.) This fish is found mainly along the pacific coast of the United States and also in Canada. This is a popular fish that fetches a hefty price on the market for those of us that love the taste and flavor of them. This particular salmon is also a favorite of the fisherman to catch due to their immense sizes for wall hangings. In this paper, one will be able to see why these fish are being driven to extinction and what it is that we can do to stop this.
There are many reasons we will talk about in detail as to why the Chinook Salmon are being driven to extinction and are on the endangered species list, the first one is going to be overcrowding. This is one of the top reasons for extinction or being led to extinction for any species on the endangered or extinct list. We as a people seem to expand more and more without looking out for the things that exist around us. "Up to 4 million Chinook salmon died this week in a federal fish hatchery because stress from overcrowding made them susceptible to bacterial gill disease, officials reported." (LA Times, February 13th 1985) With overcrowding comes the Chinooks number one advisory, hydroelectric power. The greatest impact there is on the Chinook salmon populations are all of the water management projects, like hydroelectric dams. Projects like these alter the water flow of the rivers and streams as well as hindering the migration of both the juvenile fish as well as adults. Pooling of water below the dams for water sheds or small recreation ponds and lakes for human purposes makes the spawning grounds that the salmon need to go to no longer suitable and now provide a habitat for a number of nontraditional predators that would not be there if it were left alone. The impacts of the water projects on salmon include the reduction of cold, clean water needed for salmon to migrate and spawn with due to upstream reservoir operations. The killing of tens of thousands of juvenile salmon by the giant hydroelectric pumps every year that we use to generate power for our cities. Then there is the blocking of the rivers by smaller dams without a route made for salmon to get back to their spawning grounds through. We then have the pollution of the clean water that kills off the salmon as well, over fishing which in reality is a small percentage of why there is a decline in the salmon, and finally the last of the reasons for the decline of the Chinook salmon as well as one of the biggest ones; "genetic weakening" due to the introductions of hatchery-raised salmon. These are a few but the most prominent problems the Chinook salmon are facing in this time and why they are on the endangered species list.
What exactly is the human role in the potential extinction of the Chinook salmon? Most of the problem spans from overcrowding and all that comes with it. Often water can be the first noticeable affected area due to resource development, it can also be the last. The polluting that occurs can come from many areas, mine drainage, phosphorus released from refinery plants; nitrates from fertilizers, human waste, and construction all significantly alter water systems reducing water quality for animals, plants, and humans. Along with dam construction poor water quality has severely impacted he populations of the Chinook salmon. It not only contaminates the habitat, but it contaminates the food sources and redds of the female salmon, as well. (Redds are spawning beds created by female salmon) Dams have successfully prevented the salmon from returning to their regular migratory spawning grounds. With all of the development going on due to our ever growing population and ways of life, more and more dams have risen up to dry up more land for us to inhabit. By doing this, we have significantly restricted the Chinooks travels. Here in the Pacific NW, we have logging as well. This increases the traffic on the river as well as the pollution that is created by harvesting the logs from the mountains,