Strong Population Numbers Dominate, Yet…
Washington’s coastal rivers enjoy some of the strongest salmon, steelhead trout, and bull trout populations in the state. However, the number of fish returning to spawn is far below potential. Based on historical records, steelhead runs are just 55 percent of their 1950s levels and chum, once the most abundant salmon in Willapa Bay, return at a fraction of historical levels.
Lake Ozette sockeye and bull trout are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Lake Ozette sockeye average less than 25 percent of their recovery goal. No recovery goals have been set for bull trout.
Recent trends of the region’s 117 non-listed populations are mixed. Since the 1980s, spring Chinook salmon and steelhead trout have declined in number. Coho salmon fluctuate widely in response to ocean conditions such as the 2014-2016 marine heat wave. Fall Chinook and chum salmon returns show no recent trend.
A rigorous status and trends evaluation is overdue for non-listed populations in the coast region. There has been no formal evaluation since 2002 despite notable changes in the number of fish and environmental conditions.