Klamath Falls, Ore. – Endangered sucker fish in the Klamath Basin are getting some extra help this spring.
The fish were released into the Shoalwater Bay area by Alan Mikkelsen, an advisor to the Secretary of the Interior.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Biologist Evan Childress explains: “We are conducting the first release of reared endangered suckers here in Upper Klamath Lake.”
Mikkelsen elaborated on the effort. “What’s going on here is an attempt to stabilize and ultimately increase the population of suckers in the lake.”
While there are plenty of young and old sucker fish in the lake, there are few adolescents.
Childress says no one knows exactly why. “We’re not getting new individuals that join the adult spawning population…exactly what’s causing that disappearance is not totally clear.”
The dozen or so fish released Tuesday were caught as larvae in the Williamson River, and raised in a ‘nursery’ on Lower Klamath Lake Road.
“Over the next two weeks, we’ll be releasing about 2,500 fish that have been raised at ‘Gone Fishing’.” Notes Childress.
Mikkelsen adds: “We hope to get to 100,000 fish as quickly as possible.”
A statement from the Klamath Tribes indicated that they felt this was a step in the right direction, but it was also a little bit too little, too late.
Alan Mikkelsen says he understands. “We have to start somewhere, and nobody believes that this is anywhere near the numbers that we need.”
Mikkelsen said it felt good to release the fish. “I actually felt really, really good, because I release, I catch and release a lot of fish – normally, they are steelhead and salmon.”
The Klamath Tribes claim the sucker fish are on the brink of extinction, and have called for higher lake levels to protect the fish.
That could limit irrigation supplies for farmers already facing drought conditions.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is earmarking $300,000 a year through the end of 2023 to support sucker fish restoration efforts.