Executive Summary 14

Executive Summary

Salmon Continue to Struggle

Icon of fish jumping out of water

Salmon are important to the Pacific Northwest. They support the economy, provide food for orcas and other wildlife, and are intricately linked to the health and well-being of the region. Their fate is determined by society’s decisions about how to accommodate an increasing human population and its use of land and water. While there still are pathways where salmon and people can thrive in the Pacific Northwest, the options are narrowing quickly. To fully seize the moment and make real progress, Washingtonians must recalibrate their relationship with salmon and the environment. Reimagining a future with abundant salmon requires people to remove barriers, discard outdated preconceptions, listen to each other,
and elevate shared values.

Salmon continue to struggle in Washington. No salmon species have been removed from the federal Endangered Species Act list in Washington and most of the species on the list are in crisis or not keeping pace with recovery goals.

Salmon face many challenges: warming waters, streams drying up, vanishing floodplains, polluted water, and a gauntlet of predators. Yet, they persist. While remarkably resilient, salmon cannot adapt quickly enough to the changing world without bold intervention. If climate projections prove accurate and are not slowed, extinction, not recovery, is the likely outcome.

Salmon are important to the Pacific Northwest. Their fate is determined by society's decisions.

Fortunately, there are a few bright spots, including lower Columbia River coho, Hood Canal summer chum, and Snake River fall Chinook. These populations are either making progress or approaching recovery. The federal government has not listed more salmon under the Endangered Species Act even though threats such as climate change continue to build. Increased state and federal funding for salmon recovery supports changes to stormwater infrastructure, habitat protection and restoration, fish passage barrier removal, and climate resiliency.

In 2021, Governor Jay Inslee updated the statewide salmon recovery strategy. The new strategy highlights creating climate resiliency, increasing habitat protection and restoration, cleaning up polluted water, removing barriers to fish migration, addressing salmon predators and food supply shortages, and strengthening coordination, monitoring, and accountability across state agencies and programs. To implement this work, state agencies developed a biennial work plan outlining budget and policy priorities that align with regional recovery plans and known tribal priorities.

The road to salmon recovery spans decades. To reach the destination will require increased investments, a renewed dedication to environmental stewardship, and everyone working together.

Salmon continue to struggle in Washington. Most species are in crisis or not keeping pace with recovery goals.


Two fish swimming on river bottom


The video on the home page is by David HahnThe Coho are coming is part of a continuing video series on wild, native salmon in Washington’s Sol Duc River. Filmed in Barking Dog Hole on the Olympic Peninsula in summer 2016, the video originally was created for Forks Intermediate School’s sixth-grade science classes.

The photographs on this page are of Chinook (king) salmon and were taken by John R. McMillan, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC).


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