BELLINGHAM — Forecasts for this year’s salmon runs show a doubling of spring chinook in the Nooksack River, giving room for hope even though the species remains threatened across the Puget Sound region, according to fisheries managers and environmental officials.
Projected runs for 2021 show 7,540 spring chinook returning to the north fork of the Nooksack River, almost double the 3,949 fish that returned in 2020, according to Fish and Wildlife data published in late February.
Numbers were similar for the Nooksack’s south fork, with a forecast of 7,248 spring chinook in 2021 against 3,619 fish that returned in 2020, the Bellingham Herald reported. Those were almost all hatchery fish, said Chad Herring, a salmon policy analyst for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“This is a pretty decent increase from last year’s forecast,” Herring said. “(But) over the last 20 years, Puget Sound chinook continue to decline.”
Puget Sound chinook, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, are the primary food of the Salish Sea’s endangered orcas, called southern resident killer whales.