Regional salmon recovery efforts began in 1998. Today, efforts focus on implementation, monitoring, and adaptive management. A progress report assessed salmon and steelhead status for the first time since 2010: only 30 percent of 72 populations have improved viability since 1998.
Hatcheries and harvest are monitored under the 2017 Lower Columbia Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries Plan. Although goals for reducing harvest have been met for all stocks, it is unclear if opportunities for fish to reach spawning grounds are being maximized, and hatchery impacts for Chinook and coho salmon remain high. Fall Chinook are especially affected: only 3 of 15 populations have achieved hatchery goals.
Land-use regulation is poorly tracked and enforced. A recent assessment found regulators primarily track number and expediency of permits issued rather than impacts to habitat, despite no-net-loss mandates.
About the Region
The lower Columbia region extends from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Little White Salmon River in the Columbia River gorge. The Columbia River spans six states and is the largest salmon-producing river in the lower 48 states. An average of 2 million salmon return each year, down from 16 million historically.
All Columbia and Snake River fish migrate to and from the ocean via the lower Columbia River and rely on it for rearing. Oregon and Washington share a recovery plan for the fish born in the lower Columbia River.
For thousands of years, salmon and steelhead have shaped the lives of native peoples who have lived or fished in the lower Columbia.