"These fish, and others, are dying right now because the dams and climate change have made the Columbia and Snake rivers too hot," -Miles Johnson, Columbia Riverkeeper
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Yakama Nation, Environmental Groups Hold Vigil to Highlight Salmon Die-Offs, Need for Lower Four Snake River Dam Removal
Cook, WA (July 30, 2021)—Today, Yakama Nation leaders and over 40 people gathered along the Columbia’s scenic Little White Salmon River for a Salmon Vigil, an event to raise awareness about the ongoing death of sockeye salmon impacted by hot water. Speakers demanded Pacific Northwest leaders like Senators Cantwell, Murray, Wyden, and Merkley support Lower Snake River dam removal and other action to cool rivers.
"These fish, and others, are dying right now because the dams and climate change have made the Columbia and Snake rivers too hot," said Miles Johnson, senior attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper. "We can’t afford more talk. We are out of easy options and nearly out of time—we need our elected leaders to take action to restore our rivers before it is too late."
Speakers, including Gerald Lewis, Yakama Nation Councilman; Jeremy Takala, Yakama Nation Councilman; Donella Miller, Yakama Nation Fisheries Program Manager; Wilbur Slockish Jr., Hereditary Chief of the Klickitat; Davis Washines, Yakama Nation Fisheries Government Relations Liaison; Cathy Sampson-Kruse, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation and a Columbia Riverkeeper board member; Miles Johnson, senior attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper; and Giulia Good Stefani, a senior attorney for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) called on Pacific Northwest Members of Congress to support Lower Snake River dam removal, which would cool the Snake River and help sockeye return.
"What do I tell my grandchildren, how do you continue to give hope for the future? We carry on the best we can, but we are now at a precipice. And that precipice is either that we change, or that we survive," said Cathy Sampson-Kruse, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation and a Columbia Riverkeeper board member.
“We are losing so much more than a fish,” said Giulia Good Stefani, a senior attorney with NRDC. “Salmon support a way of life for both native and non-native rural communities from the coast to the Northern Rockies. The reservoirs behind the four Lower Snake River dams are reaching deadly temperatures, and the time to take action, both ecologically and politically, is right now.”
New underwater video footage shows heat-stressed sockeye salmon dying because the Columbia River is too hot. The video shows sockeye with dramatic lesions and fungus, which affects fish subject to thermal stress. The Columbia River currently exceeds 71 degrees F—much hotter than the legal limit of 68, which scientists set to protect salmon from unsafe temperatures. Some of the sockeye in the video may have been returning to the Snake River, which is also superheated. The dams create unnaturally hot water due to huge stagnant reservoirs, and now climate change is pushing it over the edge.
In 2015, when roughly 250,000 sockeye died in the Columbia and Snake rivers because of hot water, sockeye also sought refuge and died in the Little White Salmon River and nearby tributaries. Scientists predict that fish kills like this will become more common as dams and climate change continue to warm the rivers and likely cause the extinction of Snake River sockeye—unless we address how the dams warm the Columbia and Snake rivers.
Resources and background information:
- B-Roll from Salmon Vigil, July 30, 2021
- Facebook Live Broadcast from Salmon Vigil, July 30, 2021
- Hot Water and Salmon Info Hub
- FAQ on Dying Fish at Little White Salmon River
- Dying sockeye video footage, Little White Salmon River in the Columbia River Gorge.
- Press Release about Video Footage July 27, 2021
Salmon Dying from Hot Water in Columbia River