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Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe declares State of Emergency over declining Chinook salmon population

The Chinook salmon population has been declining despite conservation efforts by Treaty tribes, state and federal agencies.

DARRINGTON, Wash — Editor's note: The above video on a study revealing one way to protect Chinook salmon originally aired on Dec. 21, 2021.

The Sauk-Suiattle Tribal Council declared a State of Emergency Thursday over the decline in the Chinook salmon population, despite conservation efforts. 

Chinook salmon of the Skagit River and its tributaries, including the Sauk, Suiattle and other streams, were designated a threatened species in 1999 and the population has continued to decline since 2007, according to the Tribe's resolution. 

The population fell below thresholds that would trigger directed fishery, despite rehabilitation, habitat restoration and conservation efforts by Treaty tribes, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, federal agencies and the Skagit River System Cooperative.

The Tribe declared the native Chinook salmon of the Skagit River basin system to be in a State of Emergency. The Tribe is calling upon the state, federal and local governments, Treaty tribes and Tribal organizations to prioritize the preservation and recovery of the salmon population.

Advocates have also been calling on added protections for other Chinook salmon populations in recent months. The fate of a commercial Chinook salmon fishery in southeast Alaska was called into question when an environmental group sued to stop the harvest, arguing it was a threat to protected fish and endangered killer whales that eat them. 

The decrease in salmon also poses a threat to Southern Resident killer whales, a fragile population of orcas that span from the California coast to Haida Gwaii in British Columbia's Queen Charlotte Islands. 

A recent study found the killer whales have not had enough food to eat for several years. Chinook salmon represent up to 90% of the Southern Resident killer whales' diet during the summer months, according to the study. Orcas are estimated to eat between 166,000 and 216,300 Chinook salmon between April-October. 


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