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Locus Focus on 04/29/13
Back in 1992, "Lonesome Larry” was the lone male sockeye salmon that returned to Redfish Lake, high in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. In the 6 years following Larry’s demise, the dearth of sockeye returns to Redfish Lake (named for the sockeye) confirmed the sense that these iconic fish would soon join the roster of extinct species. For several years scientists experimented with a captive breeding program to boost sockey numbers but met with little success.
In 2005, a federal judge, James Redden, ordered more water dedicated to salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. For a few months during each of the following summers, the system was managed to resemble a river. Water, and juvenile fish migrating to the ocean, actually moved downstream. Salmon liked the idea, and responded accordingly. Numbers on returns bounced upward, offering a ray of light for endangered sockeye and other strains of Columbia River salmon. Yet this story was never accurately reported in the media.
On this episode of Locus Focus, Hood River author Steve Hawley returns to talk about why salmon prefer swimming up and down a river that resembles a real river, rather than growing up in a hatchery.
Steve Hawley is the author of Recovering a Lost River: Removing Dams, Rewilding Salmon, Revitalizing Communities. His blog, Larry: The Online Journal of Pacific Salmon Recovery, was so named in honor of Lonesome Larry–not the erstwhile Idaho Senator with an infamously wide stance, but an historic sockeye salmon whose species he tried to help flush down the toilet bowl of extinction.