"Oregon tribes are reintroducing a species that creates important habitat for First Foods. But the Beaver State's laws don't work in the animal's favor."
"C’waam and Koptu were once a staple meal for the Klamath Tribes. They’re a rarity now — members are allowed to catch only two of the suckerfish a year. The ray-finned C’waam, with its long snout and the smaller white-bellied Koptu, with a large head and lower notched lip, are only found in the Upper Klamath basin.
Once fished in their thousands as one of the tribes’ important First Foods, the fish populations were decimated when the health of their spawning grounds declined from a spate of dam building in the Upper Klamath Lake during the 1900s.
The lake has been plagued by toxic algae, which starve the fish of oxygen, and the tribes have seen suckerfish populations plummet from the tens of millions down to less than 45,000. They are now endangered. The C’waam, also known as Lost River sucker can grow up to almost 3 feet long, and weigh 10 pounds. The Koptu, also called the shortnose sucker, can reach 18 inches and live up to 30 years.
The tribal government has tried various tactics to restore fish populations: raising young fish to older ages before releasing them in the lakes, monitoring water quality, working with landowners to restore riparian habitat, and bringing a lawsuit, which was eventually dropped, against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to save the C’waam and Koptu. Now the tribes are turning to an unlikely hopeful savior: the beaver."