Reducing Threats to Salmon

Recovery programs in this region fully integrate all aspects of salmon recovery, including hatcheries, harvest, habitat, hydroelectric power, and ecological interactions. Actions, strategies, and measures are fully coordinated across multiple plans that identify more than 365 actions associated with more than 80 partner organizations. This integrated “all H” approach is implemented through a range of coordinated watershed management, salmon recovery, habitat restoration, and monitoring plans and programs.


To achieve recovery goals, robust habitat protection and restoration actions are required in high-priority streams. However, the lack of a comprehensive habitat monitoring program remains a key gap in the region’s ability to evaluate changes in habitat conditions and watershed health over time.

A recent evaluation of land-use programs by the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board highlights the need to better integrate recovery plan priorities into local, state, and federal land-use programs. Since this evaluation, the board has begun an evaluation of land cover and habitat changes across the region.

Hatcheries and Harvest

Hatchery and harvest programs play important roles in recovering salmon and steelhead trout to healthy, harvestable levels that sustain productive sport, commercial, and tribal fishing. About 94 percent of hatchery and harvest reform actions identified in the recovery plan and Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries Plan have been implemented. Fish responses to these actions vary and adaptive management is underway.

Hatchery-origin fish competing with natural-origin fish for spawning habitat have decreased in some watersheds, but recovery targets have not been reached by many populations. Abundant hatchery fish constrain recovery of species such as fall Chinook and coho salmon, especially in coastal watersheds. Measures designed to prevent hatchery fish from accessing natural-origin fish spawning grounds, such as mark-selective fisheries and fish weirs, have been partially successful but improvements are necessary to reach recovery goals.

Hatcheries continue to play an important role in chum salmon recovery and reintroduction of steelhead, coho and Chinook salmon into blocked habitats. Because benefits of hatchery and harvest reform actions may take many generations of fish to be realized, sustained implementation, monitoring, and adaptive management is needed.


Recovery of spring Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and steelhead trout will require successful reintroduction of populations upstream of the Lewis River and Cowlitz River dams. Reestablishing populations above the dams has been hampered by challenges collecting migrating juvenile fish in some reservoirs and delays in reintroducing adults to other reservoirs. Recent improvements in capture of juvenile fish are increasing the prospects for recovery but targets set in federal licenses have not yet been met. Mitigation funds are being used to restore habitat conditions while reintroduction programs are being improved.

Ecological Interactions

Sea lions eating salmon in the Columbia River continues to limit recovery but significant progress has been made by federal and state recovery partners through changes to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. A recent report shows that the number of sea lions at Bonneville Dam has declined in recent years: 264 animals were observed in 2015 while 80 on average were observed in the past few years.

Cormorants, terns, and gulls continue to eat young migrating salmon and steelhead in the estuary. While relocation and reductions in the number of birds have meant fewer salmon have been eaten, cormorants targeting juvenile fish remain a concern, especially for Chinook salmon.

Background: Salmon recovery in Washington is driven by regional salmon recovery plans. The recovery plans provide the actions and rationale for where to invest and when. Each region reports on the actions implemented related to what is recommended in the regional recovery plan. The information about recovery plan implementation is grounded in the regional organizations’ extensive knowledge of recovery issues and recovery progress.