The Klamath tribal council's recent call for dam removal needs a reality check.
Dam removal is not about salmon restoration. Any salmon species that existed in the Upper Klamath river basin have been extinct soon after the first Copco dam was built in 1920.
In order for populations to be considered under the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service requires them to be part of a distinct population segment that is part of an "evolutionary significant unit."
A distinct population segment is one which is "substantially reproductively isolated from other conspecific (belonging to the same species) populations and represents an important component in the evolutionary legacy of the biological species."
Furthermore, Marine Fisheries is required to identify all components of a unit, including populations of natural fish (wild populations) and hatchery stocks.
After the coho were listed as endangered species in 1997, scientists developed a genetic otolith test that measures the chemical composition of fish ear bones which, combined with NFMS microsatellite data, is more than 90% accurate in determining a fish's stream of origin.
In 2010, Marine Fisheries undertook a genetic mapping of fish in the Klamath river basin which finished in 2012. To this day, the genetic mapping results have not been published.
It is time to move beyond anecdotal testimony about salmon in the Upper Klamath basin and reveal scientific evidence of native fish. The Klamath Tribes should join me in calling for NFMS to publish genetic fish mapping results for the Klamath River basin.