At a fraction of historical numbers, Snake River sockeye, Chinook and steelhead are all listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and were among the first fish in the Columbia Basin to be listed, some listings dating back to 1991.
According to the Idaho Governor's Salmon Workgroup, spring-summer Chinook had a historical population of about 1 million adults, and now number about 7,000 returning adults. Fall Chinook once numbered 500,000, and now number 8,360. The river's 600,000 steelhead that once returned have dwindled to about 28,000 adult fish. And the run of sockeye, the only endangered fish, have had returns of 100 or fewer, but were once 84,000 strong.
Scientists in the region say to rebuild the stocks, the smolt-to-adult return rates need to be in the 2- to 6-percent range with an average of 4 percent. Those goals are included in the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Fish and Wildlife Program. SARs for Idaho's listed stocks have been below that in recent years.
The workgroup and other entities in the region have set a goal to return stocks to "healthy and harvestable" levels, which is beyond the goal of recovery from their current threatened or endangered status.