Trucking Salmon Concerns

“Healthy fisheries are vital to Tribes, river communities, and Oregon’s culture and economy; they deserve the highest level of protection,”
-Miles Johnson, Columbia Riverkeeper 


Tribes and Fish Advocates File Legal Challenge Over Trucking Salmon

In an eleventh-hour rule change without meaningful public or tribal input, Oregon weakened protections for salmon; Tribes and fish advocates want the state to restore safeguards.

Salem, Ore. (September 5, 2023)—The Nez Perce Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, along with seven fish advocacy groups, have challenged a December 2022 decision by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) that weakened state-wide protections for migratory fish like salmon, steelhead, and lamprey. Instead of requiring that artificial barriers be upgraded to allow fish to swim freely past them, Oregon’s weakened rules can allow dam operators and others to trap salmon and load them into trucks for transport around dams—a process with much lower survival rates. 

salmon crowded together underwater, rocks below them. The water is clear and the salmon are a dark reddish brown color. The rocks are somewhat yellow green like algae.
Photo credit: Lance Koudele

“After all the public process and discussions that went into developing the new rules, it’s really disappointing to see ODFW insert a major change at the last minute without consulting Tribes or notifying the public,” said David Moskowitz of The Conservation Angler, who participated in the rule-making that began in 2021. “ODFW’s new rule makes it less likely that effective and proven volitional fish passage will be constructed at dams, culverts, and diversions in Oregon, hindering efforts to recover Oregon’s migratory fish.”

“Healthy fisheries are vital to Tribes, river communities, and Oregon’s culture and economy; they deserve the highest level of protection,” said Miles Johnson, Legal Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “It’s disappointing to see ODFW weaken those protections without explaining why or asking for public or Tribal input.”  

“Call me a radical, but I believe that salmon and steelhead should swim in our rivers, not be trapped and hauled around in trucks,” said Steve Pedery, Conservation Director with Oregon Wild. “Whoever at ODFW came up with the idea of redefining Oregon’s rules to allow trap-and-haul to substitute for freely swimming salmon should have been laughed out of the room.”

The conservation and fishing groups involved in the legal challenge include Columbia Riverkeeper, The Conservation Angler, Institute for Fisheries Resources, Native Fish Society, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Oregon Wild, and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. They are represented by the non-profit Crag Law Center.

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Saving Salmon

Columbia Riverkeeper fights to protect salmon from dams, hot water, toxic pollution, and climate change.