American Fisheries Society Governing Board Issues Policy Statement Calling For Breaching Lower Snake River Dams

The American Fisheries Society Governing Board issued a policy statement this month calling for breaching the lower Snake River dams to “safeguard” Snake River basin salmon and steelhead from going extinct.

When the body of scientific evidence is considered, says the AFS, “it is clear that breaching the four lower Snake River dams is necessary to (1) substantially improve the probability of recovering these cultural and ecological keystone species to healthy and harvestable populations and (2) safeguard those fishes from extinction.”

Dam removals often take decades of comprehensive planning and implementation, notes the AFS, “and replacing those services provided by the dams will also take time. This will require Congress, the Biden Administration, regional rightsholders, and stakeholders, to negotiate an agreement soon for the dam removal to proceed expeditiously.”

Today, say the scientists, only 1-2% of historic wild salmon and steelhead numbers return to the Snake River to spawn above the four lower dams. 

“Climate change has and will continue to worsen the outlook for these coldwater species. Access to this habitat is the best opportunity to promote broad-scale population recovery and persistence in the face of climate-change induced warming.

“Restoring healthy and harvestable salmon and steelhead populations will require a change in approach.   Since the 1980s, many fisheries recovery strategies (e.g., supplementing with hatchery-raised fish, transporting fish, fish passage improvements, and rehabilitating habitat) have been attempted with little or no success. Despite spending billions on recovery, these species continue to decline, affecting both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, other imperiled species, tribal rights, and commercial and recreational fishing.

“Scientific studies continue to show that breaching the four lower Snake River dams would provide greater certainty of achieving long-term survival and recovery of native wild fishes more than any other measure or combination of measures without dam breaching.”

The full statement can be found here.

The AFS represents over 7,500 professional fishery scientists and resource managers across the world. The members represent a holistic array of fisheries experts who are employed in academia, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private consulting.

For background on the topic of lower Snake River dam breaching see

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