Some Numbers are Falling, Others are Improving
What We Know About Fish Populations in the Middle Columbia River
In Washington, the middle Columbia River and its tributaries encompass 30 demographically-independent populations of salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. Of these, 20 populations of steelhead and bull trout are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The 14 populations of bull trout—all listed—show varying trends, with some populations declining while others are improving. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed a recovery plan but chose not to set abundance goals for bull trout populations.
Of the six populations of steelhead, five have sufficient data to determine population trends. Steelhead in the Yakima River basin have made a dramatic turnaround since the 1980s, when less than 500 returned in some years. Today steelhead runs of 5,000 to 7,000 fish are a regular occurrence, though recent runs have not been as strong.