Salmon: Running the Gauntlet
Video: Full Episode

Watch the full documentary Salmon: Running the Gauntlet here on the PBS Nature web site.

This film investigates the parallel stories of collapsing Pacific salmon populations and how biologists and engineers have become instruments in audacious experiments to replicate every stage of the fish’s life cycle. Each of our desperate efforts to save salmon has involved replacing their natural cycle of reproduction and death with a radically manipulated life history. Our once great runs of salmon are now conceived in laboratories, raised in tanks, driven in trucks, and farmed in pens. Here we go beyond the ongoing debate over how to save an endangered species. In its exposure of a wildly creative, hopelessly complex, and stunningly expensive approach to managing salmon, the film reveals one of the most ambitious plans ever conceived for taking the reins of the planet. Watch the full episode. Buy the DVD. This film premiered May 1, 2011. (Video limited to US & Territories).

  • Rose Power

    Hi I can’t view this video, it says that it is not available, please advise.

  • Sue Drais

    Great video!!!!! Should be shown in schools, and other places. Mabe made available to groups for programs??I cannot tell you how enthusiastic I was about viewing it. So pertinent to our time. This is a great way to educate people about the plight of our salmon & the beyond ridiculous, tons & tons of $$$ we have thrown at it, instead of removing the dams! What does it take to wake people up? It has been a political thing, I realize, but now is the time to wake up!!!!!

    Thank loads for making & showing this for TV & making it available on this video.

  • Patrick McCarthy

    Wonderful film, kudos to PBS for sponsoring such a thoughtful production. As a southwesterner I had no idea how misguided and expensive the salmon recovery effort is. I applaud the efforts of Save Our Wild Salmon and other groups to restore ecological and fiscal sanity to our nation’s salmon and river management.

  • Bob Schwend

    It’s obvious that we could have taken all the money spent on these ignorant programs and purchased the dams then take them down paying whomever didn’t like it until they drowned in money. That’s how much has been spent. A BILLION DOLLARS +………is ridiculous. Oops…I forgot….everything is ridiculous when it comes to politics.

  • June Conniff

    Man destroys the natural habitat that God created with its complex and beautiful flow of life and then tries to play God to reinstitute it in such a way that has such a concentrated lack of re supplying the depletion in so many ways because man is NOT God. Man is manipulating the food and life chain to the point of his own starvation and demise.

    These are sad days but they are the end times. God bless the planet and everyone still left on it.

  • Steve Noble

    Very well done. I’m going to recommend it to as many people as I can. I was particularly struck by the part about reduction in genetic diversity in the hatchery system. The beekeeping industry seems to be facing a very similar difficulty as the result of trying too hard to create the perfect bee for human purposes. The variables that nature throws at wild creatures are what make them what they are. There is no way human engineering can come close to matching nature in this critical regard. Again, stunning video and excellent commentary. I hope it has a big impact on people’s thinking.

  • Stian Stensland, Norway

    Video not available in my region (Norway) due to rights restrictions. Is it posted somewhere else so I can watch it?

  • Brett Shelagowski

    I teach a fisheries biology class at Corvallis High School in Corvallis, Montana. This video will tie in perfectly to the life history, problems faced, history and conservation / management efforts for Pacific Salmon. Thank you PBS for another outstanding educational resource.

    What a shame that some Congressman want to try and balance the budget buy cutting funding for PBS, remember that when it comes time to vote.

  • Mark Johnson

    I am putting together a presentation on “green infrastructure and the spirit of place”. I would love to get a great image of the stream/river such as the one shown during the segment about rancher Doug McDaniel. A landscape shot with salmon in it would really get across have life makes a place come alive. Anyone have any resource or suggestion? I’m glad to give credit for the image I might use.

  • Sean

    Great job!! So much more info about this to be shared that wasn’t able to be done in a one hour doc. You could make a full on 2-2.5 hour movie. For example, Orcas were not even mentioned. The south pod feeds exclusively on salmon and because of the low numbers, they are literally starving to death according to the book “Recovering A Lost River” by Steven Hawley.
    I wish they would have said something about how to get involved too. Try here!!

  • Edward Dunkerly

    Very well done unfortunately most people still do not recognize that our status is not privileged and that eventually the loss of species could easily result in our extinction.

  • Foster Boone

    Just another notch in humankind’s destruction of the Earth.

  • Cunningham,Ken

    Does anyone remember how Oregon streams got blocked(YEAR)? Ie: logging/ or some intentional purpose?
    Principal Question: What year were Oregon Streams blocked/ what year were they restored. Was this done only to those streams historically “Salmon spawing streams. Do period maps exist, or littrature on the matter?
    Excellant and most educational about, the ignorance of the well placed plans of #*^> & men. As befeld the
    the buffalo/ the carrier-pegion/ big-horn sheep/the native american. Is the body we wash also on a list
    somewhere? Great Spirit help you people!

  • Blessing

    Moving and educational program. Gratitude goes out to the humanity and spirit of individuals who care about our earth and the creatures and creations that inhabit it alongside us.

  • Kate

    We are trying to fix the mistakes we had made in the past. Atleast now we know if we lead anymore animals to extinction we will pay the price.

  • Bryan

    I t is doubtful that we will see the numbers of salmon that occured in the past unless we open all of their original habitat. I talked with a old man who worked on Grand Coulee dam who said Grand Coulee was built with no fish passage because it was too high. There are a lot of ugly things that go into removing a massive struture like that why don’t we build a canal around Grand Coulee and try to restore runs into the upper thirrd of the river and let nature take its course. It will take time but we should know by now that humans can’t duplicate nature no matter how hard they try.

  • Shel

    Most certainly, this is one of the better accounts of what has happened to Pacific salmon and the less than bright future that seems to await them. The cinematography is excellent and the continuity is well conceived and executed. However, the seemingly recurrent penchant for anglo-saxon breast-beating that “we have sinned” occasionally overshadows what should have been a fully objective report on the systemic failure of Pacific coast salmonid resources. For example, little is said about pelagic threats to salmon and steelhead populations throughtout the northern Pacific, and a blind eye is turned to the impact of foreign incursions on North American salmonid fisheries.

    Likewise, the efforts of hatchery programs are cast as an Adamic sin that somehow ensures that, by artificially reproducing salmon, we have gone against the best wishes of our God, Nature and whatever else we choose to render in uppercase. The failure here is an almost Aristotelian penchant to move deductively from “Good Science” to an assumption that natural selection does not apply to fish that were inseminated in Ziploc bags. A small reminder: Heisenberg is dead but his principle is not. Whether we like it or not, we are part of the picture – and we must consider that picture in its systemic totality.

  • jerry meninick

    If there is one leason we should grasp and respect as domesticated humans is the mighty Salmons will to persevere despite our continuing interference with his life cycle.
    We have thrown many barriers in the salmons migration paths both downstream and upstream, polluted the waters he lives in with chemicals, industrial waste, agricultural chemicals but he continues to exist and regenerate as if to tell us “Is that all you got”?
    There isn’t enough money in the world that could purchase that level of strength and commitment to duty that we witness in the Salmon, fact is, it is us the human race that struggles to understand the gifts of life.

  • Kelly Star

    That’s so crazy how they’re wasting tons&tons of $ it’s silly. Nature fixes everything involving nature at least to me. it’s as if they can only see one inch & then there’s a wall & right behind it is nature.but a really good video!!!

  • Chris


  • Brent

    Nice Video.. But… We need just a bit more common sense on some of the predation that happens… Birds fly and a new nesting ground is not the answer… Sea Lions are smart and sadly… you just have to kill them. Wait .. not sadly… you just have to thin them down… Not the one’s in the Ocean.. Just the one’s that swim to the Dam’s and up rivers that get out of control… and get a few pelican’s while your at it… Just being real and Honest…

  • Armando

    Hi ,did any body knows wich damp is the one where the show a gentelman fishing? Thanks
    Good Video.The name of that gentelman is Tim Histand i just remember that are a few guys fishing.

  • Ben

    As an aspiring Environmental Engineer, this is the kind of stuff that I look forward to solving (I know that I probably won’t be solving the salmon problem) but I look forward to finding ways to allow humans and nature to coexist together. This episode got me thinking about many different ways to divert the salmon around the damns, make a fake stream, that loops around the damns (not a fish latter), and allows fish to not have to worry about how to migrate around them. Or at hatcheries, feed them food they would eat in the wild so that they do’t get dependent on the surface feedings, and place branches and stuff to allow the to learn survival skills. I don’t know in any case these fish are resilient and hopefully they will survive long enough for people the get their act together.

  • Chris Martin

    Hi I can’t view this video but would love to , it says that it is not available, any chance of getting it sorted ?

  • Levi

    It is incredible that we spend to much money so we can recover a species…just so we can kill them and eat them. We NEED to address harvest if we really want to recover the salmon.

  • Mark

    Wonderful film. Great content. Critical issue. Thanks.

  • Gary York

    I feel like the fellow who saw that fish staring him in the eye as a child.
    My first one caught off half Moon Bay in eighties looked like a trout (in the ocean) and my buddy and I could NOT believe how delicious same day caught King Salmon can be!
    That was all it took fo ra lifetime love of them.
    These beautiful creatures just get into our hearts and in our soul for a lot of us.
    Wild salmon we all know is about the best thing we can put in our bodies.
    Farmed salmon is well……toxic and a mistake.
    Please email and call your elected ones and tell them to save wild salmon of all species.

    All we can do is vote, call, email , send letters, tell friends to jump on board and sign petitions and thats all I ask.

  • Steve

    Thought the video was very interesting and informative. I live in Northwest Montana near the Flathead River which, years ago, used to accomidate large runs of , I think, Kokanee Salmon in the late fall. Now I can only tell my children about them. As far as I know, they are all but nonexistant. From what I understand their food chain was tampered with by the introduction of some kind of shrimp in Flathead Lake. I no longer see any Salmon in the Flathead River. Hopefully, at some point, some sort of reclaimation work could be done here to bring them back. It would truly be sad if they were gone forever.

  • Karina

    Very informative and interesting video! PBS has so many great films!

    It would be nice to see the dams on snake river taken down, or at least efforts where the dams were allowed to flow freely for a few months at a time scheduled to be done on a regular basis in coordination with salmon spawning. However if there is no productive reason for the presence of those dams, why keep them there and spend so much financially on artificially spawning salmon when the efforts are not working???

    I think this is yet a question of whether we are coming up with solutions that are efficiet and effective and spending money wisely vs throwing money at the problem……this pattern seems to be very common in societal policy including education, health care, etc….

  • JoAnne

    This was a propaganda “hit piece” aimed at persuading the public to support tearing down the Snake River Dams. Some dam removals have worked out well, but there can also be terrible consequences to dam removal–these were never mentioned–and tearing down a dam is no guarantee that salmon will return–the film made it sound like there is a guarantee. It was biased and misleading.

    Also, I am sure the film-makers used a local writer, a tour guide, and a part-time fisherman because they could never get a responsible biologist to say the things these guys said.

  • ari

    It was nice to see that there are solutions to the many problems we have created. Parents please!! Instead of letting your children sit on the computer all day and play with there phones, take them fishing, show them the outdoors! Teach them how this world works and they will learn a lesson more valuable and rewarding. Nature is a mirror, when we look at it we look at ourselves.

  • Bert Bowler

    The best available science -

    Western Division of American Fisheries Society Deems the Four Lower Snake River Dams a Threat to Wild Salmon and Steelhead Survival

    Portland, Ore. – Today, the Western Division of American Fisheries Society (WDAFS) announced that it has passed a resolution acknowledging that based on the best available science, the four lower Snake River dams and reservoirs present a significant threat to the continued existence of remaining wild fish populations. The threatened fish populations include wild salmon and steelhead, as well as Pacific lamprey and white sturgeon. It goes on to say that if society wishes to save and restore these imperiled species, “then a significant portion of the lower Snake River must be returned to a free-flowing condition by breaching the four lower Snake River dams[.]” The resolution passed with 86.4% approval. Full text of the resolution is available here.

    “This resolution simply tells it like it is from the science perspective: if we want to save Snake River salmon as habitats warm, we have to remove the four lower Snake River dams. There is just no evading that reality,” said Don Chapman, fisheries biologist, former fisheries professor, and consultant to industry, Native Americans, and management agencies.

    Said Doug DeHart, former Fisheries Chief at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and fisheries biologist, “WDAFS did a great job applying the best available science to a tough issue. Let’s hope these scientists’ call for a hard look at removal of the four lower Snake River dams is heeded by this Administration. The future of these fish depends on sound decisions informed by this kind of scientific perspective, but it is also crucial for the future our salmon fisheries up and down the West Coast, and the jobs and the communities those fish support.”

    The resolution follows previous WDAFS assessments in 2004 and 2009 of the federal Biological Opinion regarding Columbia and Snake River salmon policy. Those assessments also indicated that restoration of natural river conditions where the four lower Snake River dams occur has the highest likelihood of recovering wild salmon and steelhead.

    “I’m proud to be an AFS member today. To stand up against the political forces trying to silence the science on this issue isn’t easy; this call for dam removal and the previous thorough WDAFS critiques of the current plan show that the members of AFS have strong principles and integrity,” said Chapman.

    Established in 1870, the American Fisheries Society is the world’s oldest and largest organization of fisheries professionals. Its 3,500-member Western Division covers the 13 western states and British Columbia, including the entire Columbia Basin.

  • PamUK

    I understand we can receive PBS on TV via satellite in UK now but I am still not able to view your full episode videos on my computer. I would love to watch some of the wildlife ones online but all I get is “Not available”. My USA friends often recommend your nature programmes and it is really frustrating not to be able to view. Please can you give any advice???

  • Laura L.

    I’m a Marine Biology student and I can’t tell you how happy the end to this video makes me. More money needs to be used in the removal of dams!

  • Ron. Andersen

    Thanx to all the life loving people who made this showing possible. I am 76 yrs old, born on my aunt & uncles couch on 17th St,in 1935, and raised in downtown Vancouver Washington. Watched as a boy WW-2 as it happened thru the five movie house’s and their newsreels we had at that time period. Participated in the rationing efforts to help win the war, and fished the little lakes and streams with my two older brothers who eventually served in the U.S. Navy. Both our parents became citizens. Our dad came from Denmark when he was 17, and our mother came from Austria.
    All thru my life spent here in the Pacific Northwest I had not known the size and scope of what has been shown here on your wonderful programs. A very BIG and heartfelt thank you for what has been a labor of Love on your part for all life.

  • Mark

    ‘Technical Difficulties’. You all bunch of Union thug crooks. We’ve been paying for this series for decades with taxes and donations and now you play tricks to keep them off the internet. Crooks.

  • Mark

    It finally worked. That was awesome. My 5 and 6 year old boys just received a great introduction into the delicacy and complexity of life, and the power of nature to thrive when we reject confidence in our own understanding and consider instead the bounty that nature is able to provide in the presence of humility, care, respect and honor of the natural world.

  • mark

    the only solution i can see which is way too late to save salmon is removal of the dams… but with the electricity issues how would that lost electricty be replaced if that were to happen? coal fired? wind power? …both are a joke compared to the electricity dams create. the solution I can`t get around is nuclear. so before harping about hydroelectrity dam removal we need to figure out how to replace the clean renewable source of power. think nuke….

  • qaisar

    Video not available in my region (uk) due to rights restrictions. Is it posted somewhere else so I can watch it?

  • paul howell

    We must not forget the huge impact of clearcutting our forests on salmon. Dams are just part of the demise of our salmon population.

  • Jade

    Leave the damn salmon alone. im so tired of hearing that were spending so much money on ridiculous things. Why not use that money for other important factors? schools, removal of dams, etc…

  • chuck y

    As a child in the 1970’s I fished the Salmon River I think there may be a picture of me still on the wall in riggings Id. That is if the restaurant and bar is still there. I had a dream as a child to move to the mouth of the Columbia River and I full filled that dream. I have fished this river all my life; I have seen a great loss over the year’s scenes the 1970’s. This makes me very sad that as humans we don’t think if anything but our self’s in this world today. The wildlife on the rivers in the north west needs our help we may make a video or two but this is not going to bring them back to the upper rivers without the help of each and every one of us you may not even think about this but we have developed new way of making power we need jobs so let remove some of the dams or build ladders so the fish can have a chance to come back,and mke power that don’t hurt the wild life. I love to fish and hunt and if there nothing to fish and hunt for. The history of the northwest as we know it is also going to die.

  • fultonk

    I’m sorry, qaisar. Unfortunately, our full episodes are restricted to the U.S. & Territories.

  • Carol B

    I couldn’t help but think that if these rivers were allowed to run free without the dams and diversions they would nourish us all. More Americans would have access to this fish that most nutrition experts think is one of the best things we can eat. And the whole Northwest ecosystem would benefit.

    Maybe it’s unrealistic, but I wish we could remove all of those dams.

  • Tabetha Muggeo

    Thanks Leslie for reading and for sharing your experience here…

  • Helen

    lets go steelheads bum bum bum lets go steelheads bum bum bum! yay!!!!!

    ok that was fun ^.^

    ( i used the thing that the idaho steelheads use for ther hoky games )

  • A Green Road

    Great movie, well worth watching.

    A few people may be tempted to think that nuclear may be the answer after tearing down dams.

    For more information about all things nuclear, go to and click on pages, then click on nuclear issues.

    If you become informed, this option will make no more sense.

    Click on pages, and then green energy, and you will find out what our sustainable choices are, for seven future generations.

  • gina

    i am glad to see this is airing again. i would like to see how it ties in with the policy of killing bonneville sea lions.
    @bert bowler- good news, and startlingly so, about the idaho rivers. we need to let our rivers flow mostly free again– to restore habitats and get the water cycle working properly again… smaller hydroelectric power plants, smaller lakes, smaller dams– of course a lot of people and their things would have to relocate. (whole cities, shrug!) it could be a period of human industry as magnificent (!) as they say the building of the great dams was.

  • eastsilver

    Don’t even try to outsmart our mother nature! It has the best to offer. Our puny effort of saving nature is downright ludicrous to say the least. The best thing that I can do is to stay out of nature’s way.

  • workingmom

    Thanks so much for producing this show. The magnitude of what humans have done to the salmon population and the misguided and ridiculous efforts to save them now are just astounding. Watching this, I actually laughed out loud in disgust multiple times at the “down stream” effects of dams, hatcheries, paying to transport fish from one part of the river to another, just to have birds pick them over because they’ve been taught to swim close to the surface, to paying fisherman a boundy for pike, to dredging creating a new island and home for more birds to pick over the salmon, to killing the sealions … honestly, it was like watching keystone cops trying to fix and control the problem we created, only the laughter is heartbreaking and disgusting. thank goodness someone woke up and those dams are coming down and letting the salmon live their natural life. man alive – when will we learn not to mess with mother nature.

  • Melissa

    A fantastic video. Truly an eye-opener to say the least. I agree this is something that everyone should see! Amazing the way we try to apply band-aid over band-ais to fix the problems caused by our “technological advancements.” In the end, nature will prevail!

  • J. Craigmyle

    for anyone who cannot view this, make sure you have adobe flash player in the browser you are using to try and view it

  • Robert Mittendorf

    You don’t RUN a gauntlet.

    You THROW DOWN a gauntlet.

    You run a GANTLET.

  • S Davidson

    All you liberals that want to take down the dams.
    You would destroy the economy of the Snake River Basin, plus all who depend on it.
    Why don’t you quit eating salmon?
    How about taking out all the Walruses down stream that sit on the bank next to the dam and eat the salmon (thousands of them).
    As to electric power – hydroelectric is clean, safe, and inexpensive. Go live in a cave with no light, heat. Don’t forget you might harm the forest by having a fire.
    Things become extinct – they have for eons, and human beings are not exempt.

  • Cheng

    Why don’t you guys just catch all of the running salmon from the bottom of the river and bring them to their home by the airplane or whatever that could transport them as quick as possible to their home; so the salmon doesn’t have to run through all of those obstacles.

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