Panel suggests abandoning fish conservation effort

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A scientific review panel has suggested that biologists abandon their efforts to conserve an endangered population of fish.

According to a report in The Seattle Times, a presidentially elected 11-member independent science review committee nicknamed "the god squad" has recommended that the run of endangered Sockeye salmon in Idaho's Redfish Lake should be allowed to go extinct.

Biologists are working on a captive breeding project designed to restock the waters but the panel says that dams and other downstream features mean that any efforts to conserve the fish are likely to fail.

The panel said: "Not only are these limiting conditions not likely to change, the fish themselves are likely to be changing as a result of present intensive propagation and rearing procedures so that their viability even under restored conditions is increasingly in doubt."

Experts fear that the salmon run is likely to collapse if the conservation project is abandoned. The Seattle Times says that the Redfish Lake run used to see 35,000 Sockeye salmon returning to the Lake, but last year's saw just six fish recorded.

The conservation project, which is said to produce around 160,000 fish to release into the wild, is costing around $2 million to run.

The Sockeye, or Red salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka, is an anadramous species and spends part of its life in the Pacific Ocean, but returns to freshwater to spawn, virtually always in rivers with lakes on their drainages.

The species gets its common name from the very bright red colouration that the male and female fish develop during the spawning season. Unlike most other salmonids, the species is primarily a planktivore.

The species is a close relative of the Rainbow trout or Steelhead, O. mykiss.