Monitoring and Adaptive Management – Hood Canal Salmon Recovery Region

To ensure we are making progress in implementation of the summer chum salmon recovery plan and that we are effective with our actions, the Hood Canal Coordinating Council and its partners are implementing a detailed monitoring program with the resources available. It includes the following monitoring components:

  • Implementation – Were habitat actions and regulatory programs implemented as designed, and is the recovery plan being implemented in a manner appropriate to reach milestones?
  • Effectiveness – Did the habitat, hatchery, and harvest actions meet their objectives?
  • Status and Trends – Are the broad suites of activities improving habitat conditions and fish numbers over the long term?
  • Validation – Did our habitat actions meet the cause-and-effect assumptions of improving salmon productivity in freshwater environments?

Implementation monitoring, which tracks whether or not actions were implemented as planned, is achieved through 3-year work planning, documenting activities in the Habitat Work Schedule, and tracking outcomes in the context of goals (otherwise known as progress reporting). This component not only relays progress to everyone involved, but also allows for managing where the next 3 years of work should be focused. Hood Canal and the Eastern Straits of Juan de Fuca have documented significant progress in implementation.

Monitoring the effectiveness of habitat actions has been unfunded except at the statewide reach-scale through the state’s effectiveness monitoring program. That program has answered the easier questions, showing that fencing cows from streams allows trees to grow to shade streams and that upgrading culverts allow fish to pass through if the culverts meet statewide standards. More difficult actions that remain to be tested include more complex in-stream and floodplain restoration projects as well as regulatory programs such as a county’s Critical Areas Ordinance and Shoreline Master Program.

Effectiveness of hatchery and harvest actions have been monitored thoroughly by partners and both programs are meeting objectives. Tracking harvest impacts and success of recovery hatcheries is critical and should be maintained into the future.

Habitat status and trends monitoring, which is designed to answer questions about the overall condition of watersheds or the current size of salmon populations, is the least advanced monitoring component in Hood Canal. There is very limited ability to say with certainty that habitat conditions are improving or degrading when looking at habitat restoration projects compared to development. On the other hand, measuring the abundance, distribution, productivity, and diversity of salmon is a clear success story. The number of fish in all spawning subpopulations is measured directly each year, providing multiple decades of data. Monitoring the number of juvenile fish migrating to the ocean is difficult given summer chum salmon early life histories, but has improved in recent years.

Finally, validation monitoring is ongoing with an Intensively Monitored Watershed Program in the Kitsap streams of Little Anderson, Big Beef, Seabeck, and Stavis. The Intensively Monitored Watershed Program tests cause-and-effect relationships between habitat restoration and actual fish production. Coho salmon and steelhead have responded favorably to habitat improvements, while summer chum habitat work must progress further before conclusions can be drawn.