Key Terms

Key Terms

Salmon Recovery Glossary

Many words used to describe salmon habitat, biology, and the structure of salmon recovery may be confusing. This section defines terms to improve the reader’s understanding.


Abundance refers to the number of adult fish returning to spawn (either total number of fish spawning naturally or number of wild-born fish spawning naturally). This is one key piece of information that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses to evaluate salmon recovery status.

Adaptive management

Adaptive management is a method of decision-making in the face of uncertainty. A plan for monitoring, evaluation, and feedback is incorporated into an overall implementation plan so that the results of actions can become feedback on design and implementation of future actions.

Anadromous fish

Species that are hatched in freshwater, migrate to and mature in saltwater, and return to freshwater to spawn.


The practice of protecting shorelines from erosion using physical structures, such as concrete bulkheads or large boulders.


Salmon recovery in Washington State is managed cooperatively in a unique government-to-government relationship. One government is the State of Washington. The other governments are Indian tribes whose rights were established in treaties signed with the federal government in the 1850s. In those treaties, the tribes agreed to allow the peaceful settlement of much of western Washington and provided the land to do so, while retaining their rights to fish, gather shellfish, hunt, and exercise other sovereign rights. A 1974 federal court case (U.S. v. Washington, decided by U.S. District Court Judge George Boldt) re-affirmed tribes’ rights to harvest salmon and steelhead and established them as co-managers of Washington fisheries.

Conservation district

Washington conservation districts help people take care of everything they can see outside their windows—from farms, to forests, to urban yards, to rivers, lakes, and coastline. For more than 75 years, they have served as trusted, non-regulatory local partners helping people care for natural resources. Every one of Washington’s 39 counties is represented by at least one conservation district, and their staff stand ready to help. Districts offer a range of voluntary services including assistance with erosion control, habitat restoration, manure management, wildfire prevention and mitigation, stormwater management, forest plans, irrigation efficiency, noxious weed control, fish barrier removals, livestock stream crossings, and more.


This is the distribution of fish among and within habitats they use throughout their lives. Habitat is needed for all life stages in a distribution that reduces risk of death from catastrophic events, but close enough to allow fish to connect with one another.


This is variation and includes such things as genetics, life histories, physical traits of the fish (size, age, timing of the runs, migration patterns), and influences of hatchery fish. Further reductions in natural diversity need to be avoided so that fish can survive short- and long-term changes in the environment.


Washington State Department of Natural Resources

Effectiveness monitoring

Monitoring is set up to test cause-and-effect hypotheses about recovery actions: Did the restoration achieve its direct effect or goal? For example, did fencing along a riverbank to exclude livestock result in recovery of bank vegetation?

Endangered species

A species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.


The U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 is a key legislation for both domestic and international conservation. The act aims to provide a framework to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.


A semi-enclosed coastal body of water that has a free connection with the open sea and where freshwater derived from land drainage (usually mouths of rivers) is mixed with seawater; often subject to tides and cyclic changes in salinity.

Fish-in/fish-out monitoring

Counting and tracking of adult salmon coming in to spawn (fish in) and the number of juvenile or young fish headed out to sea (fish out). Measuring this transition shows the extent that freshwater habitat and marine habitat affect the salmon numbers overall.

Fish passage barrier

A barrier that prevents salmon from reaching spawning habitat. Examples include inadequate culverts beneath road crossings and deteriorated fish ladders at dams.

Four Hs

The four Hs—habitat, harvest, hatcheries, and hydropower—are key elements affecting salmon. They provide a framework for statewide recovery plans and actions.

Growth Management Act

Passed by the Washington Legislature in 1990, the Growth Management Act was enacted in response to rapid population growth and concerns about suburban sprawl, environmental protection, quality of life, and related issues. It requires the fastest growing counties, and the cities within them, to plan extensively around a dozen state goals including concentrating urban growth, transportation, and property rights. The Act is codified in many chapters but primarily in Chapter 36.70A Revised Code of Washington.


Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office


The place, including physical and biotic conditions, where a plant or animal usually occurs.

Salmon Recovery Portal

The Salmon Recovery Portal is the mapping and project tracking tool that allows salmon recovery lead entities to share habitat protection and restoration projects with funders and the public. It helps lead entities relate proposed, current, and past project achievements to salmon recovery goals.


Harvest is the capture and killing of salmon for human consumption. Harvest occurs through tribal, non-tribal, and recreational fishing.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, in cooperation with tribal co-managers, federal agencies, and other states, sets rates for harvest and conservation of salmon and steelhead populations. These rates are specific to each fish population and limit the impact on each population. Harvest management strategies have focused on achieving sustainable fishing opportunities while meeting population-specific conservation objectives.

Hatchery fish

Fish bred and reared in hatcheries. Like streams, hatcheries provide the necessary conditions for young salmon to live, including reliable food, water, space, and shelter.

High-level indicator

High-level indicators are simple, brief, and clear ways to track progress of salmon recovery. Information from these indicators is used to communicate results of actions and adjust recovery plan implementation.


A variable used to forecast the value or change in the value of another variable.

In-stream flow

Identifies a specific stream flow level, measured in cubic feet per second, at a specific location in a stream. The weather causes natural flow variations throughout the year, so an in-stream flow is a range, usually changing month-to-month.

Lead entity

Lead entities are local, watershed-based organizations that develop local salmon habitat recovery strategies and then recruit organizations to do habitat protection and restoration projects that will implement the strategies. Lead entities perform an essential role in salmon recovery in Washington State.

Limiting factor

Physical, biological, or chemical features (e.g., inadequate spawning habitat, high water temperature, insufficient prey) experienced by fish that result in reductions in viable salmonid population parameters (abundance, productivity, spatial structure, and diversity). Key limiting factors are those with the greatest impacts on a population’s ability to reach a desired status.


A metric is something that quantifies a characteristic of a situation or process; for example, the number of natural-origin salmon returning to spawn to a specific location is a metric for population abundance.


The near-shore includes shallow saltwater, wetlands, estuaries, beaches, and bluffs. Near-shore plants provide important food and refuge for young salmon as they migrate from rivers to the sea.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


The average number of surviving offspring per parent. Productivity is used as an indicator of a population’s ability to sustain itself or its ability to rebound from low numbers. The terms “population growth rate” and “population productivity” are interchangeable when referring to measures of population production over an entire life cycle. Can be expressed as the number of recruits (adults) per spawner or the number of smolts per spawner.


Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office

Recovery plan

A plan that is developed by state, tribal, regional, or local planning entities to address recovery of a species. These plans were developed by a number of entities throughout the region to address the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as state, tribal, and local mandates and recovery needs. The Act requires that recovery plans, to the extent practicable, incorporate (1) objective, measurable criteria that, when met, would result in a determination that the species is no longer threatened or endangered; (2) site-specific management actions that may be necessary to achieve the plan’s goals; and (3) estimates of the time required and costs to implement recovery actions.


A nest constructed by female salmonids in streambed gravels where eggs are fertilized and deposited.

Regional Salmon Recovery Organizations

The federal Endangered Species Act requires the federal government to develop recovery plans for salmon determined to be at risk of extinction. In Washington State, seven regional organizations formed to develop recovery plans and coordinate implementation. Regional organizations are made up of local, state, and federal agencies; tribes; residents; and others interested in salmon recovery.

Riparian areas

Riparian areas are shorelines, streambanks, wetlands, and floodplains next to bodies of water that support and protect the health of the water.


Fish of the family Salmonidae, including salmon, trout, chars, grayling, and whitefish. In general usage, the term usually refers to salmon and steelhead trout.

Shoreline Management Act

Washington’s Shoreline Management Act was passed by the state Legislature in 1971 and adopted by voters in 1972. The overarching goal of the Act is “to prevent the inherent harm in an uncoordinated and piecemeal development of the state’s shorelines.”

Threatened species

A species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.


An area of land that drains into a single outlet and is separated from other drainage basins by a divide.

Watershed Planning Act

Passed by the Washington Legislature in 1998, the Act sets the framework for developing and implementing local solutions to water supply issues in partnership with the State of Washington. The law enables residents to assess the status of water resources in their watersheds and determine how to manage them. The plans must balance competing resource demands. They also must assess water supply and use within the watershed and recommend long-term strategies to provide enough water for fish and out-of-stream needs.


Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife

Wild stock

A fish population or fish stock that is sustained by natural spawning and rearing in the natural habitat regardless of origin.


Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA). Formalized under Washington Administrative Code 173-500-040 and authorized under the Water Resources Act of 1971 (Revised Code of Washington 90.54), WRIAs are administrative and planning boundaries. The original boundary agreements and judgments were reached jointly by Washington’s natural resource agencies (Ecology, Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife) in 1970 and now are developed and managed by the Department of Ecology.

Charting a Course to Recovery

How We Measure

Banner photograph by John McMillan, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center