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Fish recovery programs having a positive impact

For the fourth consecutive year there was an increase in the total adult salmon returns to the Yakima Basin.

That was the news shared with the SVID board during its monthly meeting yesterday, Tuesday.

David Child, a biologist with the Yakima Basin Joint Board, provided the updated fish count.

He noted the counts included adult spring Chinook, fall Chinook and Coho returns in the Yakima River Basin as counted at the Prosser dam.

Child said spring Chinook numbered 11,875 at the Prosser site, compared to 10,844 the year before. "In 2012 the forecast is for 12,040," he said of continued growth in spring Chinook numbers.

The improvement was particularly notable for Coho salmon, as their numbers jumped from 4,791 in 2010 to 6,424 in 2011.

There was a slight decline in the fall Chinook numbers, from 2,763 to 2,318, but Child noted the overall number of adult salmon were on the rise in 2011.

While there is progress on the salmon front, Child cautioned another species, the Pacific lamprey, is on the decline.

"All of a sudden it's a big issue," he said. "From my perspective their run has totally declined."

The job now, Child adds, is to find out why.

Ironically, he notes biologists here may find the answer from the Great Lakes region, where officials are trying to kill off the lamprey, a parasite that attaches to fish. Child says that by learning what is being done to eliminate the lamprey, biologists here may be able to take the reverse steps to revive their numbers in the Yakima River.

Child says the Pacific lamprey is important in this region because of its cultural significance to the Yakama Nation.

He notes efforts to increase Pacific lamprey numbers are also crucial to avoid more stringent steps that would be needed if it is listed as an endangered species.

In the big picture, though, Child sees progress in restoring habitat and numbers for species in the Yakima River.

"I think we've reached a good point in the Yakima Basin," he told the SVID board. "There's good cooperation between everyone."

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