Salmon are in trouble

We measure salmon recovery in several ways—the number of fish that return to the spawning grounds, the available level of tribal, sport, and commercial harvest, and the health of our rivers, streams, and forests. These data best indicate salmon health when evaluated at watershed and regional scales against specific goals for each species.

In most of the state, salmon are below the abundance recovery goals set in the federally approved recovery plans.

Washington state salmon recovery status chart 2016 - desktop

Washington state salmon recovery status chart 2016 - mobile

The chart shows broad trends in abundance for fish listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. “Abundance” represents the number of fish returning to spawn (either total number of fish spawning naturally, or number of wild-born fish spawning naturally). The type of abundance data available and used for evaluation depends on several factors, including the ability to distinguish between hatchery-origin and natural-origin fish on spawning grounds. In most cases, the fish that are counted towards recovery goals are wild-born (natural-origin) spawners.

Abundance is one key piece of information the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses to evaluate salmon recovery status. Additional attributes for evaluating population status that are not shown in this report include productivity, life history, genetic diversity, and the spatial structure of the populations (i.e. where and when the fish migrate and spawn). NOAA also considers threats and factors affecting the health of listed fish populations including habitat, harvest, hydro-power impacts.

Data Sources: this is a non-statistical evaluation of adult abundance trends for wild fish and is based on data provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Tribes.

* Recovery goals for Puget Sound steelhead are under development.

Salmon Fishing Opportunities are Declining

Harvest in Washington state, for commercial, tribal, and sport fishers, has sharply decreased since the early 1970s. Many factors have reduced salmon populations, including natural phenomena such as ocean conditions, floods, drought, and predators. Human factors reducing salmon numbers include development of land and water resources: timber harvest, agriculture practices, urbanization, water diversion, hydro power, over-fishing, and hatchery practices.

This chart illustrates historic and recent catch numbers based on sport catch record cards and commercial landings. The fish caught are hatchery and wild coho and Chinook salmon in both marine and freshwater. Tribal catch is not included here.

Commercial and recreational Catch (Non-tribal)

Trouble in the Puget Sound Region

As in other regions of the state, Puget Sound is losing habitat faster than it can be restored. This region has the largest and most rapid population growth in Washington, and is predicted to increase in population faster than before. Puget Sound Treaty Tribes have identified several major habitat problems in the region, including:

  • Shoreline armoring
  • Water quality
  • Stormwater
  • In-stream flows
  • Impervious surfaces
  • Loss of forest cover
  • Fish passage barriers
  • Development in floodplains and estuaries

There is a clear need for increased habitat protection for salmon in Puget Sound. The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s State of Our Watersheds report details habitat problems in Puget Sound.