The National Marine Fisheries Service is reviewing a petition to consider whether or not spring-run Chinook salmon in Northern California and southern Oregon rivers are genetically distinct from fall-run Chinook salmon, potentially qualifying the fish for endangered species status. “We find that the petition presents substantial scientific and commercial information indicating the petitioned action may be warranted,” the agency said in a Federal Register notice, which also solicited additional research.  In 1999, the agency identified the Southern Oregon and Northern California Coastal (SONCC) Chinook salmon Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) as including both spring-run and fall-run Chinook salmon and determined that the ESU did not warrant listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Rich Nawa, a Staff Ecologist for the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center who submitted the new petition, argues that that there is new research indicating significant genetic differences underlying the spring- and fall-run life history types. However, John Carlos Garza, with the University of California, Santa Cruz,  authored research last fall that said the spring-run and fall-run Chinook are genetically similar.  “It’s like blue and brown eye color in humans--it just depends on what genotype you inherit from your parents," wrote Garza. Scientific and commercial information pertinent to the petition must be sent to NMFS by May 17.

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