National group says pesticides poisoning Pacific Northwest salmon

SEATTLE -- In a report released this week, a national group highlighted Chinook salmon as one of the top 10 species imperiled by pesticides.

The Endangered Species Coalition released its 2019 report, Poisoned by Pesticides, which included Chinook salmon. The report said pesticides sprayed nearby reach rivers and enter salmon streams through contaminated runoff, killing salmon prey and impacting salmon's ability to swim and evade predators.

The report also linked the toxic salmon to the critically-endangered southern resident orcas, which primarily rely on fatty Chinook salmon to survive and are impacted by toxins when the whales are nutritionally deficient and access fat storage, where toxins are also stored.

Chinook salmon was nominated to be included in the poison report by Earthjustice and Fly Fishers International Northern California Council.

"Small amounts of those pesticides have big impacts on the fish," said Mark Rockwell, president of the Northern California Council. "It interferes with their breathing capacity; their ability to exchange oxygen from the water; it interferes with their neurological function, meaning how their nerve system controls both breathing muscles as well as their swimming capacity."

Rockwell said toxins have such a big impact on mobility that young fish have a harder time avoiding predators, battling currents and making it to the ocean. Most of the Chinook salmon runs are already listed as threatened or endangered.

Other species in the report include the monarch butterfly, northern spotted owl and Crotch's bumble bee.