governors report page 4

the approach works

Seventeen years into the regional recovery efforts, we know that what we are doing works. We have learned how to create the conditions that lead to salmon survival: restored fish passage, healthy habitat, and hatchery- and harvest-management decisions that work in harmony with habitat recovery.

In two areas, salmon are close to recovery.

  • Hood Canal—Summer Chum are on the rebound and are approaching recovery goals.
  • Snake River—Fishing for fall Chinook in the Snake River, in the southeast corner of the state, is once again a reality.
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But the challenges are outpacing progress

Despite some successes, salmon are still in trouble.

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Climate Change

Scientists predict that average annual temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are expected to increase between 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. Warmer air temperatures translate to warmer water temperatures. Salmon need cool clean water to survive. the effects from climate change include:

  • Shrinking snowpack
  • Wetter springs and winters
  • Drier summers and falls
  • Floods and forest fires
  • Unfavorable ocean conditions for marine survival

Salmon need cool, clean water to survive. Major landscape alterations and climate change create environments that increase predators of salmon such as sea lions, birds, and other fish.

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Poorly managed development

Since 1999, when the statewide recovery strategy was adopted, the human population in Washington has increases 24 percent. By year 2040, the number of Washingtonians is estimated to increase by another 25 percent. This growing human population with its associated demands on resources is exerting serious pressure on an already compromised ecosystem, including:

  • Development that results in habitat loss
  • Water diversion and withdrawal for human and agricultural use
  • Poor water quality in area streams resulting from increased development
  • Forest and agricultural practices
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Data Gaps

Although scientific monitoring and evaluation of our recovery investments was written into our recovery plans from the beginning, it’s never been fully funded. It’s never been more important than now.

On this website we show some of the data we have by region, but still lack the comprehensive statewide information needed to fully inform salmon recovery.

Note: For more information about how we monitor water quality, fish abundance, and other factors, explore this website. To learn more about the SRFB monitoring programs, visit the Habitat Work Schedule

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Funding not keeping pace

Eroding federal, state, and local budgets limit our ability to fully implement the recovery plans. Without full funding, the recovery of organizations lack the capacity to address the the multiple issues that impact salmon recovery, and agencies are not able to meet their commitments. State programs that support salmon recovery must be restored and enhanced. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget has been cut by 40 percent during the past decade; its work integrating hatchery and harvest reforms with habitat recovery is essential. The Department of Ecology has lost funding to implement watershed management plans and to maintain stream gauges to measure flows. Adequate funding must be supplied to the natural resource agencies that support salmon recovery.

A closer look at fish-in and fish-out monitoring

Fish-in and fish-out monitoring is the counting and tracking of adult salmon coming in to spawn (fish-in) and the number of juvenile or young fish headed to sea (fish-out). Measuring this transition tells us the extent that freshwater habitat and marine habitat affect the salmon numbers overall. This is a critical step to getting to recovery because it helps to identify key limiting factors or survival bottlenecks.

Due to limited resources, fish-in and fish-out monitoring is done only in select watersheds. in general, Chinook salmon are easier to monitor than steelhead. For example, in Puget Sound all of the major watersheds have some level of monitoring for Chinook. By comparison, only one major watershed in Puget Sound has good estimates for wild steelhead.

To get recovery, we need additional effort and funding, especially for ESA populations of salmon.

Fisherman on the middle Columbia River

Time to step up and make good on our investments

Salmon recovery works, but its not moving fast enough to meet the accelerating challenges. Washington State’s salmon recovery infrastructure has proven successes, and it is a critical part of meeting the challenges ahead. But without reinvestment and strong habitat protection, it won’t work. We don’t need a new strategy or plan, but rather a renewed commitment to the effort begun almost two decades ago: extinction is not an option. To continue our sport, tribal, and commercial fisheries and meet the challenges ahead to protect habitat, all of the salmon recovery interests must work together. No one state agency, organization, or local strategy can recover salmon alone—we must work together.

The path forward

It took more than 150 years to bring salmon to the brink of extinction; it may take just as long to bring them all the way back. But every inch we earn delivers benefits for all. Now is the time to reinvest and recommit to salmon recovery in our state.


While progress has been made in each of these areas, they are not being adequately integrated. We must address threats to salmon throughout their life cycle. There is no single action that will recover salmon. Harvest management can help ensure that enough natural-origin fish are returning to their natal streams. Hatchery reform can ensure that fish reaching the spawning grounds are well adapted to conditions resulting in greater spawning success. It also will preserve the genetic integrity and enhance survival of wild fish by preventing too many hatchery fish from overwhelming the spawning grounds. Hydropower system management ensures that the life cycle needs of salmon are addressed. Habitat protection and restoration can help ensure that returning fish will find sufficient spawning habitat and that their offspring will have the rearing habitat they need to improve their survival in migrating to the ocean. One of the key elements of the Statewide Strategy is habitat protection. Laws that protect salmon habitat must be enforced at the local level. More progress will occur when each of the “Hs” works in concert with the others.

The integration must occur at all scales and must involve tribes in full co-management of the resource.


Regional recovery organizations have never been funded to capacity so that they could fully lead implementation of recovery plans through a well-coordinated and integrated all-H approach. Habitat recovery, so critical to salmon survival, is an obvious need, yet the regional organizations must staff up to continue this work and meet other recovery needs.


Many state agencies have committed to actions in the regional recovery plans, yet they have not all met their commitments, in part due to tight budgets. If salmon recovery in our state is to succeed, these agencies must be funded so they can keep their commitments and support the regional organizations in recovery efforts.


Removing barriers to fish passage is one of the most effective ways to increase salmon production in fresh water. The recently established Fish Barrier Removal Board is charged with coordinating removal of failing culverts, bridges, and other impediments blocking salmon access to prime spawning and rearing habitat. Carrying out the board’s statewide program will open miles of habitat and connect previous investments


Salmon, habitat, and water quality data are the foundation for understanding where we are and how far we still have to go. To know whether we are recovering salmon, we need adequate data to determine:

  • Productivity, abundance, spatial distribution, genetics, and life history and diversity of salmon populations
  • Watershed and stream health to find out if habitat conditions on which fish depend are getting better or worse
  • Relative effectiveness of projects and programs.


The Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office (GSRO) plans to hold an annual statewide salmon policy forum for regional organizations, state agencies, and the Governor’s Office to understand each other’s priorities, align budgets, and test innovations. The Salmon Recovery Funding Board and GSRO will continue to support opportunities for the broader salmon recovery network to build relationships among partners, aid direct communication, and provide a venue for member organizations to coordinate and collaborate on salmon recovery issues.


According to a study prepared by TCW Economics, recreational anglers in Washington State spent an estimated $904.8 million in 2006 on fishing-related equipment and trip related items. This provides an economic boost to rural economies and enriches the Northwest way of life.

Five happy fishers holding their salmon catch