In most of the state, salmon numbers are below recovery goals

The statewide picture for salmon is clear. Challenges are outpacing solutions making salmon recovery efforts as vital now as they were 20 years ago. While some species such as Hood Canal summer chum and Snake River fall Chinook are demonstrating large successes and continue to push towards recovery, other species, such as Puget Sound Chinook and upper Columbia River spring Chinook are falling further behind.

Progress in some sectors, such as hatcheries, harvest, and nearshore restoration, are being offset with challenges in other sectors such as general habitat loss, disease, predation, and invasive species. In addition, warming oceans, changing stream environments, shifting food webs, and other issues associated with climate change are playing a greater role.

Since 2016, Snake River spring and summer Chinook appear to be declining, so these species shifted to the lower “Not Making Progress” categorization. For lower Columbia River coho, limited data before 2010 and marine survival rate decreases in recent years make progress difficult to assess and led to assigning coho to the “Not Making Progress” category.


Progress toward recovery

Washington state salmon recovery status chart 2016 - mobile

*Recovery goals for Puget Sound steelhead are under development. Draft recovery goals are available for public review at NOAA’s Web site.

One important way to measure the health of salmon species is by counting the number of adult fish that return from the ocean to spawn in their native rivers. the chart above is a non-statistical evaluation of natural origin (wild) fish that returned to spawn.In addition to the number of fish, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) evaluates attributes that are not shown in this report such as productivity, life history, genetic diversity, and the spatial structure (where and when the fish migrate and spawn) of the populations. NOAA also considers threats and factors affecting the health of listed fish including habitat, harvest, and hydropower impacts.

Data Sources: The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Indian tribes.

Challenging times for bull trout

Bull trout were listed as threatened in 1998 and a five-state recovery plan was completed in 2015. Bull trout rely on cold, pristine headwater streams for spawning and rearing, and migrate extensively. This has left them extremely vulnerable to both habitat degradation and climate change. In many areas of the state, we lack basic information about the distribution, abundance, and population trends. In other areas, data shows a mix of trends, from moderate increases in strongholds to the collapse of some local populations.

Fishing opportunities

Salmon fishing in Washington has decreased dramatically since the early 1970s, affecting treaty tribes, recreational anglers, and the commercial fishing industry. The drop in fishing is the direct result of the long-term decline in salmon caused by a variety of factors, such as habitat loss, dams, hatcheries, over fishing, predation, and invasive species, all exacerbated by climate change.

Fishing in Washington State relies heavily on salmon produced in hatcheries. The Department of Fish and Wildlife and treaty Indian tribes mark hatchery fish by clipping off adipose fins so hatchery fish can be easily identified by recreational anglers. Generally, anglers are allowed to keep marked hatchery salmon but must release wild fish. Marked fish provide important information about ocean survival rates and migration patterns. Marking hatchery fish is believed to have reduced-but not eliminated-sport harvest impacts to wild salmon. However, harvest remains constrained because of too few wild salmon. Salmon recovery cannot be achieved by changes to hatcheries and fishing regulations alone, but will require more improvements to salmon habitat. Both wild and hatchery salmon depend on good habitat for their survival.

Fewer salmon and fewer and shorter fishing seasons are hard on all fishing communities–tribal, commercial, and recreational. Fewer salmon also hurts our economies, cultures, and our way of life in the Pacific Northwest as well as disrupting other wildlife that depend on salmon.

Data Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Data is for hatchery and wild coho and Chinook salmon caught (tribal and non-tribal) in the state’s rivers and the ocean as reflected on sport catch record cards and commercial landings.