Petition Prompts ESA Review of Upper Klamath and Trinity River Chinook Salmon

February 2018

Over the next year NOAA Fisheries will weigh whether Chinook salmon in the Upper Klamath and Trinity Rivers in Northern California need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as sought in a petition from the Karuk Tribe and Salmon River Restoration Council.

female chinook salmon underwater

A female spring-run Chinook salmon makes her way up the Salmon River, a tributary to the Klamath River. Photo: Thomas Dunklin

In November, the two organizations petitioned NOAA Fisheries to list Chinook salmon in these two rivers as either threatened or endangered, which would provide the fish with extra protections under Federal law. 

Today NOAA Fisheries found that the petition provided enough information to determine that listing of these two species under the ESA may be warranted.  This does not mean the species will be listed, only that there is enough information to warrant further review.

Nationwide, approximately 2,300 species are listed under the ESA. NOAA Fisheries has jurisdiction over 159 of these species that spend at least part of their lives in the ocean. The rest of the species fall under the purview of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

male chinook salmon underwater

A spring-run Chinook salmon returns to the Salmon River via the Klamath River. A Chinook salmon typically will stay two to four years in the ocean before returning to spawn in their natal stream. Photo: Thomas Dunklin

The ESA listing process often begins with a petition to either NOAA Fisheries or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Any person or group may submit a petition. The agency then evaluates the request to determine if it includes substantial information suggesting that a listing may be warranted.  If the agency determines that the information is enough to warrant further review, it begins a review of the overall status of the population.

NOAA Fisheries now has one year from the date of the petition to conduct a status review for the fish and determine whether Upper Klamath and Trinity River Chinook salmon should be listed as threatened or endangered. The status review evaluation will include an analysis of the best available scientific and commercial information about the population’s abundance, productivity, distribution, life history, and threats.

NOAA Fisheries is requesting the public’s help in gathering this information, as well as information on other possible factors that will help inform the agency’s listing determination. After reviewing the information collected, NOAA Fisheries will determine whether Upper Klamath-Trinity River Chinook salmon will be listed no later than November of 2018.

For more information, including instructions for submitting comments, please visit our website at

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Home page photo: Thomas Dunklin