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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.
- File:RCO 2015 salmon recovery network.pdf provides a promotional Washington State-centric view of the salmon recovery system.
The Mandate for Action
- Regional Fishery Enhancement Groups - back in 1990, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was authorized to fund statewide regional groups to support community-based restoration and protection using revenue from fish license sales.
- RCW 77.85 State Salmon Recovery Act of 1999 established the Salmon Recovery Funding Board
- Endangered Species Act is the federal law that identifies species at risk of extinction. Puget Sound Chinook salmon, Hood Canal summer chum salmon, and steelhead trout have been "listed" under ESA by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, and Bulltrout listed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
- The Puget Sound Initiative of 2007, which created the Puget Sound Partnership which replaced the Puget Sound Action Team, and absorbed the functions of The Shared Strategy for Puget Sound (the intergovernmental effort that developed the Puget Sound salmon recovery plan. The Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration program was created to accelerate salmon recovery, and placed the resources of the EPA National Estuary Program, under the same roof.
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.
- Salmon Recovery Funding Board - a Washington State board of agency and watershed representatives staffed by RCO that allocates state and federal funds to project lists developed annually by Lead Entities. Their federal funds are from PCSRF (below) and compliment biennial state capital funds.
- Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund - a federal appropriation to NOAA west coast region, distributed among northwest states and tribes through an annual competition The RCO on behalf of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board has consistently secured a large portion of PCSRF funds for Washington State, that are then co-mingled with state funding.
- Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program - a state appropriation to RCO managed by WDFW specifically directed towards beaches, embayments and river deltas. The program was developed as part of the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project.
- Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration - a state capital appropriation for Puget Sound recovery that augments salmon money in Puget Sound, funds large capital project requests through a regional competition, and provides additional funding for Lead Entities.
- Floodplains by Design - a new state capital appropriation through WDOE that funds projects that enhances flood hazard management while recovering fisheries.
- A range of Water quality and quantity funding sources using both state and federal capital are directed through WDOE.
- NOAA Community-based Restoration Program holds a national competition for one to three year cooperative agreements.
- USFWS Coastal Wetland Program funds restoration that frequently overlaps with salmonid priorities.
- NRCS funds water quality and salmon habitat efforts through its Regional Conservation Partners Program.
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.
- Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council
- Puget Sound Lead Entities
- Puget Sound Watershed Leads
- Ecosystem Recovery Coordinators
- Recovery Implementation Technical Team
Science and Adaptation
- The Encyclopedia of Puget Sound has begun a literature review and synthesis of fishery management.
- Chinook Monitoring and Adaptive Management
- Intensively Monitored Watersheds
- Fish In/Fish Out Monitoring is the ongoing observation of spawners and redds in fall, and out-migrating parr in spring that provide basic data on salmon abundance and how the use the watershed.
- The SRFB has project implementation monitoring and a science panel that oversees programmatic monitoring.
- ESRP/Regional Feasibility and Pre-design
- Salish Sea Marine Survival Project is an ongoing international, multi-agency effort to explore causes of high salmon mortality outside of rivers but before the ocean.
- Large projects of regional interest
- Blackmore 2009 describes barriers to capital project implementation in salmon recovery.