Salmon Recovery

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The recovery of Pacific Salmon is a focus of ecosystem management in the Salish Sea. While these species thrived in the Pacific Northwest for thousands of years, after the colonization and annexation of the northwest from Indian Nations, industrial fishing and canning dramatically reduced many of these populations. A combination of four factors are credited with the continued decimation of salmonids: over harvest, hydropower development, hatchery operations, and degradation of habitat. Together, harvest, hydro, hatchery and habitat are known as the "Four H's".

Following harvest restrictions and The Boldt Decision which reaffirmed the rights of Tribal Nations, the fisheries of Washington state have been co-managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Tribal Governments represented by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. The National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has authority over off-shore fisheries, international fishing treaty negotiations, and when a species is listed under the Endangered Species Act as "threatened or endangered" (Sometimes referred to as "T&E species"). NMFS (often shortened to "Nymphs") also has advisory authority over all fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act

There are now four salmonid stocks listed as "threatened" in the Salish Sea: Puget Sound Chinook, Hood Canal Summer Chum, Puget Sound Steelhead, and bulltrout. Following both state and federal legislation, a complex institutional network has emerged to attempt the restoration of salmonid fisheries. This system is poorly understood by even those who are participating in its work.

The Mandate for Action

Recovery Planning

Upon "listing" a species under the ESA, NOAA or USFWS are required to complete a recovery plan. In Puget Sound, each watershed completed their own work, starting roughly with listing, and culminating in NOAA approval of the 2007 Chinook recovery plan. The Chinook plan has a regional plan, with individual chapters for each watershed. Puget Sound Watershed Leads are responsible for each chapter, and the Puget Sound Partnership continues the work started by the now disbanded Shared Strategy for Puget Sound, an umbrella organization to faciliate the salmon recovery planning process. Hood Canal summer chum planning was completed separately under the Hood Canal Coordinating Council.

  • Limiting Factors Analysis - The Conservation Commission completed a series of analyses of habitat conditions in each WRIA. These documents provide a stream, by stream analysis of habitat conditions. The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound has assembled these documents.
  • Puget Sound Chinook Recovery Plan - was developed under the supervision of the Salmon Recovery Council and conditionally approved by NOAA in 2007 in response to the listing of Puget Sound Chinook as threatened under ESA. A Watershed Lead was identified for each of 22 distinct sub-populations (associated with one, or a couple of large river basins). The Watershed Leads greatly overlap the Lead Entities established under the State Salmon Recovery Act, except where Lead Entities as not associated with a Chinook Natal Population.
  • Puget Sound Steelhead Recovery Planning - planning for recovery of Puget Sound Steelhead is ongoing as of 2015. NOAA site. A significant collaborative effort called the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project is exploring sources of steelhead mortality that may be aggrevated by food web disruptions.
  • Status Review - Every 5 years NOAA or USFWS is obligated to review the status of listed species. NOAA published a report in 2017 describing the listing status of Chinook and Hood Canal Summer Chum salmon and steelhead trout. (File:NOAA 2017 Puget Sound ESA status salmonids.pdf)

Capital Project Funds and Other Resource Flows

Several large appropriations in state and federal capital budgets are directed towards the recovery of salmon. Projects developed to restore salmon populations may provide other functions like improving water quality and so entrain other resources. Federal funds are annual, while state capital funds are primarily biennial. There is a Water and Salmon Grant Program Coordination effort to better coordinate state funding, and where possible align it with federal sources.

Harvest Management

Still identifying the primary sources of data to describe harvest management. This section is poorly cited. THe Encyclopedia of Puget Sound] has a initial synthesis of harvest management.

  • The current hypothesis that guides harvest management is that in endangered populations poor habitat conditions reduce recruitment to the point where population is declining regardless of harvest rate. Cessation of harvest would thus result in a increase in time until exterpation of a sub-population, but not change the trend.
  • The vast majority of harvest is conducted on a ocean mixed fishery, where "take" of endangered fish is monitored and constrained but not prohibited.
  • The Ricker Curve describes replacement rate as being dependent on population level.

Coordinating Workgroups

Science and Adaptation

Emerging Trends

  • Large projects of regional interest
  • Blackmore 2009 describes barriers to capital project implementation in salmon recovery.