Puget Sound is home to 59 populations of Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout, all of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act. None are close to recovery. Puget Sound is also home to populations of chum, pink, sockeye, and coho salmon as well as southern resident orcas.
One of the greatest challenges is protecting critical salmon habitat from development while also respecting the needs of the more than 4 million people living in the Puget Sound region.
We know what needs to be done to protect and restore the environment that salmon and orcas depend upon, what we lack is the resources to get the job done. The investment so far has been a fraction of what is needed to reach recovery goals.
Progress and Challenges
- The projects in this region have been successful and are making progress in recovering salmon habitat.
- Floodplains and estuaries provide critical habitat for salmon. Since 2011, partners have improved 8,162 acres of floodplains, and between 2006 and 2019, restored tidal flooding to 3,430 acres of estuarine river delta wetlands. Learn more in the Puget Sound Partnership’s State of the Sound.
- Using the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration fund (PSAR), partners have restored and protected more than 3,200 acres of estuary habitat and 12,500 acres of watershed habitat, and opened more than 142 river miles to fish passage since 2007. These projects have created more than 3,400 jobs, leveraged $157 million in federal and other matching funds, and generated about $560 million in economic activity. While substantial, the funding (more than $250 million since 2007), is only about 15 percent of the total annual need for salmon recovery in Puget Sound. Many of the projects funded through PSAR provide multiple benefits for salmon, the ecosystem, and the surrounding communities where projects are implemented.
- The impacts of climate change and the effectiveness of actions to reduce these impacts need to be better understood and incorporated into recovery planning, Monitoring and reporting programs often are underfunded. but are essential when trying to interpret how well actions are working, what adjustments need to be made, and how climate change is affecting the outcomes.
- While the region is making progress protecting and restoring habitat, valuable habitat continues to be lost in many areas. In some watersheds, development is surpassing restoration. Success in recovering salmon runs will require both restoring degraded habitat and ramping up protection of functioning habitat. The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s State of Our Watersheds report provides information about habitat problems in Puget Sound.
- Puget Sound Chinook salmon populations are very small and far from reaching their abundance recovery goals.
Visit the Regional Recovery Organization's Web siteClick Here
About the Region
Among the largest estuaries in the United States, Puget Sound is deep and vast, a complex ecosystem encompassing mountains, farmlands, cities, rivers, forests, and wetlands. Humans have long relied on the Puget Sound watershed for healthy food and clean water. The tribes of western Washington are connected intimately to Puget Sound’s waters, land, and salmon, and are leaders in salmon and ecosystem recovery. Puget Sound supports a large part of our state’s economy and provides vital recreational, spiritual, and other benefits essential to the quality of life. But Puget Sound is in trouble. We must redouble our efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and land use that threaten salmon habitats as well as vulnerable communities. Restoring self-sustaining, harvestable salmon runs to the region protects humans, as well as fish, and honors tribal treaty rights.