Puget Sound salmon recovery work is the cornerstone of broader Puget Sound recovery efforts, and abundant wild Chinook salmon populations are vital to this effort. The largest of the salmon species, Chinook salmon are a favorite food of orcas, depend on the most at-risk salmon habitats, are highly prized by anglers and commercial fishermen, and are an important cultural and economic resource for tribes. A variety of pressures–including urbanization and population growth, agriculture, dams, stormwater pollution, harvest, and hatcheries–have reduced Puget Sound Chinook populations to one-third of their early-1900s numbers. Without a significant reversal in this trend, along with increased habitat protection efforts, Puget Sound Chinook are unlikely to recover.
Many of our restoration actions in Puget Sound have been effective, despite the fact that the region is not seeing significant progress in increasing abundance of Chinook salmon. We know what is needed to restore salmon populations in Puget Sound, but many of the same challenges persist that were noted when the Puget Sound salmon recovery plan was developed in 2005. In addition, increased awareness of emerging challenges–including climate change, balancing the needs of a growing human population, and early marine survival–also require consideration and integration into recovery efforts.
Recovering the health of Puget Sound and listed species depends on a continued collaborative effort between state and federal agencies, tribal governments, local governments, business and environmental groups, and many others. Such a complex and huge undertaking demands thoughtful and evolving strategic approaches that align diverse efforts across the region, leverage limited resources to maximize gains, and push for an infusion of additional resources and collaboration to continue to protect and restore these critical habitats for salmon.