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Lake Sammamish kokanee do not qualify for Endangered Species Act protection

Post by Jeff Mayor / The News Tribune on Oct. 4, 2011 at 11:17 am with No Comments »
October 4, 2011 11:17 am

After evaluating current available scientific information, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service a short time ago announced that Lake Sammamish kokanee
salmon do not meet the criteria of a distinct population segment and
therefore, are not a listable entity under the Endangered Species Act.

Here is the rest of the news release:

The determination comes in response to a 2007 petition from a group of
conservation organizations and local and tribal governments concerned about
the decline of the kokanee population. In 2008, the Service published a
notice in the Federal Register indicating the petition provided substantial
information that listing the population might be warranted pending further
investigation through a status review. That review, now complete, indicates
the Lake Sammamish kokanee does not meet the definitions of a listable
entity under the agency’s Distinct Population Segment Policy.

“Although this population does not qualify as a listable entity, we remain
concerned about its conservation status in light of the extinction of the
summer and fall kokanee populations in Lake Sammamish,” said Ken Berg,
Manager of the Service’s Washington Fish and Wildlife Office Pacific
Region. “We fully support conserving this kokanee population as a component
of the native biodiversity of the Lake Sammamish ecosystem. We have
demonstrated this through our ongoing technical and financial support of
the collaborative propagation efforts for the late-run kokanee with the
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and King County, as well as our
collaborative efforts in ongoing habitat restoration and research efforts
for this population.”

Berg also said the Service is interested in gathering further information
regarding the species.

“We ask the public to continue to submit to us any new information that
becomes available concerning the taxonomy, biology, and status of the Lake
Sammamish kokanee, and to help us support continued cooperative efforts for
this population,” Berg said.

Kokanee are the land-locked version of ocean-going sockeye salmon
(Onchorynchus nerka) and are considered the same species. The kokanee in
Lake Sammamish evolved from sockeye that entered the lake from the ocean
and remained to form a resident population that developed into a permanent
kokanee population. Kokanee do not return to the ocean but spawn in streams
entering the lake where they live or along the shores of the lake. Native
to lands bordering the northern Pacific Ocean, kokanee have been widely
introduced to lakes across North America to provide sport fishing
opportunities. Although kokanee are salmon, a species normally under the
jurisdiction of the NOAA Fisheries, the Service has jurisdiction over fish
species that spend most of their lives in freshwater. Because kokanee spend
their entire lives in fresh water, they have been determined to be the
responsibility of the Service.

Under the Service’s Distinct Population Segment policy, three
elements are considered in the decision regarding establishment of a
population as a possible DPS. These elements are: the discreteness of a
population segment in relation to the remainder of the species to which it
belongs; the significance of the population to the species to which it
belongs; and the population segment’s conservation status in relation to
the ESA’s standards for listing, delisting or reclassification. Although
Lake Sammamish kokanee were found to be discrete from other O. nerka
populations, biologists found no evidence the population has a special
significance to the well-being of the species throughout its range and
therefore, does not qualify as a DPS under the Service’s 1996 DPS policy.
Because it does not qualify as a DPS, the population is not a listable
entity under the ESA.

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