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Government refuses to recognise unique salmon species

US - The kokanee of Issaquah Creek, ruby-red fish so rare that none have been seen in seven years, weren't important enough to be protected under the Endangered Species Act, the federal government announced Tuesday.

Four years after King County Executive Ron Sims declared the summer run of Lake Sammamish kokanee extinct, the US Fish and Wildlife Service finally responded to years of requests to save it.

The answer: No.

Tuesday, biologists with the agency said that the landlocked salmon, which once wriggled by the thousands up Issaquah Creek to spawn, were indeed genetically different from the other fish in the lake. But they weren't significant enough that their loss would alter the fate of the region's entire kokanee population.

"Did losing them mean there would be no more kokanee in Lake Sammamish? No," said Doug Zimmer, Fish and Wildlife spokesman. "Does it mean there will be no more in Lake Washington? No. Does it mean there will be no more in the state of Washington? No."

Few were surprised by the decision. Oddly, it may not even prove to be the last gasp for a run of fish that numbered more than 15,000 just two decades ago.

Since the mid-1970s, a combination of fish-blocking culverts, pollution and muddy runoff from suburban development all helped push the kokanee's decline. At one time, workers at the Issaquah Fish Hatchery actually killed kokanee fry because they carried a virus that could harm sockeye salmon being introduced into Lake Washington.

Source: SantaBarbaraNewsPress