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On World Water Day, A Quarter of World’s Sockeye Salmon Endangered

Today, March 22, is World Water Day, reminding us that both fresh- and saltwater ecosystems are in peril the world over. The fate of Pacific Sockeye Salmon, Today’s Endangered All-Star, lies in rivers, lakes, wetlands, and oceans, making it the perfect Poster Fish for their protection and restoration. Although some Sockeye populations remain in their natal lakes for life (known as kokanee), most migrate to the ocean, turning from their original silvery blue to a startling rosy red when they return to their birth rivers to spawn. Thus, every salmon “run” associated with a particular riparian system represents a distinct subpopulation. Of the eighty Sockeye subpopulations along the Pacific rim, five are extinct, and seventeen are threatened, according to State of the Salmon, an IUCN Red List assessment—the most detailed and comprehensive such study ever—conducted by the Salmonid Specialist Group. Several of the runs examined were described as “critically endangered.” Help support Sockeye going forward: * Don’t buy farmed salmon (or farmed fish of any kind): Tell stores and restaurants you frequent why. Urge management agencies to move fish farms away from wild salmon runs. Infestations of sea lice at fish farms have proved deadly to Sockeye and may have been a factor in the mass disappearance of millions of Sockeye migrating to the Fraser River last year. Six to ten million were expected to return in 2009; less than two million survived to make the trip. One specialist termed sea lice from farmed fish, a “worldwide epidemic”. * Support legislation to control climate change. Warmer temperatures have devastated ocean plankton, the chief component of the Sockeye diet. Write your legislators; get active with 350.org, a group dedicated to pushing for change through strategic direct action. * If you live in the U.S., lobby the Obama Administration to create a Salmon Czar for the Pacific Northwest; support dam removals on the Snake and other rivers, as well as larger water releases on existing dams; and insist that all decisions regarding salmon management be based on the best available science. To further these actions, join Save Our Wild Salmon, which is working to these ends.
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