Environmentalists wait to learn fate of Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon
February 16, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 6 a.m. Feb. 16, 2010
Conservationists await a decision by the federal government about the status of the dwindling Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon — almost two years after the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recommended the species for review.
Environmentalists have petitioned for the salmon to be included on the endangered species list. Before a species can receive protection under the Endangered Species Act, the animal or plant must be placed on the federal list of and threatened endangered species.
After the agency receives a petition, officials must determine within 90 days whether the petition merits further action. Officials issued the initial finding in May 2008, and recommended the species for further review.
But a backlog of endangered-species petitions has slowed a decision on the salmon, Jeff Chan, a fish biologist with the federal Fish & Wildlife Service at the agency’s Lacey office, said last week.
“We are not technically meeting our statutory target,” he said.
Officials estimate that fewer than 100 Lake Sammamish kokanee remain. Attempts to introduce other varieties of kokanee into the lake have been unsuccessful.
The endangered species listing requires officials to develop a recovery plan, designate critical habitat and put penalties in place for people caught harming the fish or habitat.
“Your guess is as good as mine” about when the U.S. Department of the Interior will issue a decision, Chan said.
Conservationists seeking to protect threatened Lake Sammamish kokanee salmon received a boost from the King County Council last June, when council members called on federal officials to list the fish under the Endangered Species Act.
Efforts to preserve the salmon continue as conservationists await a decision from the federal government.
State biologists and ecologists used dip nets to collect fish from the Lake Sammamish watershed last fall. Scientists netted about three dozen kokanee pairs from streams near the lake, and took the fish to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. Workers and volunteers collected 34,700 kokanee eggs. The offspring will be raised at Cedar River Hatchery and introduced into the Lake Sammamish watershed.