DRAFT Salmon Recovery 101 13

Salmon History and Timeline

History of Salmon and Recovery

From 6 million years ago to today: highlights and the evolution of the relationship between people and salmon.


6,000,000 years ago-First salmon present in the Pacific Northwest.

Pre-1800s to present-Indian tribes rely on salmon for food and culture.

The 1800s

1805-Lewis and Clark expedition notes abundance of salmon.

1829-Columbia River salmon trading established.

1866-Salmon canning industry born on Columbia River; Puget Sound soon follows.

1875-U.S. Commissioner of Fisheries identifies the three primary threats to salmon as overfishing, dams, and habitat degradation.

1877-First Columbia River fish hatchery built.

1879-Fish wheels (Ferris wheel-like devices, powered by currents, that scoop fish out of the water) first used on Columbia River. A single wheel could take as much as 70,000 pounds of fish a day.

1890-Washington Department of Fisheries created to regulate fishing.

1894-U.S. Commissioner of Fisheries’ issues report on decreases of salmon in the Columbia River.

1896-First Puget Sound fish hatchery built.

The 1900s

1917-Purse seines (a non-selective net) fisheries are prohibited.

1933-First Columbia River dam built at Rock Island.

1934-Washington State Legislature bans fish wheels.

1935-First year Washington keeps records on fisheries.

1974-Boldt decision gives treaty Indian tribes and non-tribal citizens equal share of fish.

Late 1980 to early 1990-Washington fish hatcheries producing more than 120 million fish annually.


  • Ocean and Puget Sound marine coho and Chinook fishing restrictions are underway to address coho population declines coast-wide.
  • The Washington Legislature creates regional fisheries enhancement groups.

1991-Federal government lists Snake River sockeye salmon as endangered.

1992-Federal government lists Snake River summer and fall Chinook salmon as threatened.


  • Wild Stock Restoration Initiative adopted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • The Columbia River hydropower biological opinion is issued by federal agencies.


  • The federal government adopts the Northwest Forest Plan.
  • A federal court rejects the 1993 Columbia River hydropower biological opinion.

1995-The federal government initiates overhaul of the way the federal power system is to be operated on the Columbia River.

1996-The Washington Department of Natural Resources adopts a Habitat Conservation Plan for 1.4 million acres of state-owned forestland.


  • Governor Gary Locke brings together the state agencies that most affect salmon management in a forum called the Joint Natural Resources Cabinet.
  • The federal government lists Snake River steelhead as threatened and upper Columbia steelhead as endangered.
  • The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife adopts the Wild Salmonid Policy.


  • The Legislature passes the State Salmon Recovery Act.
  • Governor Gary Locke and Canadian Fisheries and Ocean Minister David Anderson reach agreement to reduce fisheries.
  • The Legislature establishes the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office.
  • The Independent Science Panel is appointed by the Governor following recommendations by the American Fisheries Society.
  • The Legislature creates watershed planning units and salmon recovery lead entities.
  • The Forests and Fish Agreement is signed.
  • The Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board is established by the Legislature in Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Skamania, and Wahkiakum Counties.
  • The federal government lists lower Columbia River steelhead, and upper Columbia, northeast Washington, lower Columbia, and Snake River bull trout as threatened.


  • Governor Gary Locke and Canadian Fisheries and Ocean Minister David Anderson re-negotiate the landmark Pacific Salmon Treaty, providing a federal fund to pay for salmon restoration.
  • The Forests and Fish Agreement becomes state law.
  • The Legislature establishes the Salmon Recovery Funding Board.
  • The Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon: Extinction is Not an Option is completed.
  • Washington, Oregon, four Columbia River treaty Indian tribes, and the federal government sign the Columbia River Accord.
  • The federal government lists Puget Sound Chinook, Hood Canal summer chum, Washington coastal Lake Ozette sockeye, lower Columbia River Chinook, lower Columbia River chum, and middle Columbia River steelhead as threatened. In addition, upper Columbia spring Chinook is listed as endangered.
  • Endangered Species Act listings of Chinook, coho, chum, and steelhead stocks in Washington now cover more than 75 percent of the state.

The 2000s


  • Congress creates a federal hatchery reform initiative and establishes an independent Hatchery Scientific Review Group.
  • The National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service re-issue biological opinions for Federal Columbia River Power System operations.
  • The first State Agencies’ Action Plan for the Statewide Strategy, a biennial implementation plan for the statewide strategy, is published.
  • The state’s performance management system-Salmon Recovery Scorecard-is published.
  • The first State of Salmon in Watersheds report is published.


  • The Legislature mandates development of a comprehensive monitoring strategy and action plan for watershed health with a focus on salmon recovery.
  • Treaty Indian tribes in western Washington sue Washington State for its failure to correct fish-blocking culverts, saying it damaged their treaty rights to fish.
  • The 2001-2003 State Agency Action Plan, and the 1999-2001 Action Plan Accomplishments are released.
  • The Washington Comprehensive Monitoring Strategy and Action Plan for Watershed Health and Salmon Recovery is developed for consideration by the Governor and Legislature.


  • Regional salmon recovery organizations receive funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to develop salmon recovery plans for listed salmon. These groups, working closely with local citizens, are the only organizations developing recovery plans for the purposes of the Endangered Species Act.
  • A federal judge hands back the 2000 Biological Opinion on operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System for salmon and steelhead to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) to resolve deficiencies.
  • The Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office produces the 2003-2005 State Agency Action Plan, the third biennial implementation plan for the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon.


  • The Governor signs Executive Order 04-03, creating the Governor’s Forum on Monitoring Salmon Recovery and Watershed Health. This order establishes a coordinating body for monitoring salmon recovery and watershed health.
  • All Washington subbasins submit their draft fish and wildlife subbasin plans to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on time. Collectively, the plans represent the largest compilation of data on fish, other wildlife, and environmental conditions ever in the Columbia River basin.
  • The federal government issues a draft hatchery policy, indicating how hatchery fish will be considered in salmon recovery, and revises its status reviews for listed fish in Washington. It proposes to down list upper Columbia steelhead from endangered to threatened and list lower Columbia coho for the first time as threatened.
  • The Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board completes the first regional salmon recovery plan in Washington.


  • Draft recovery plans are completed and delivered to NOAA-Fisheries for Puget Sound, Hood Canal, middle Columbia River, upper Columbia River, and Snake River regions.
  • NOAA-Fisheries lists lower Columbia coho as a threatened species, and down-lists upper Columbia steelhead from endangered to threatened.


  • NOAA-Fisheries adopts the lower Columbia recovery plan.
  • NOAA-Fisheries places notices in the federal register of intent to adopt interim recovery plans from all Washington salmon recovery regional organizations.
  • A Habitat Conservation Plan for 1.6 million acres of forested state trust lands-mostly in western Washington-in the range of the northern spotted owl is adopted by the federal government. This 70-year management plan is an agreement between the Washington Department of Natural Resources and federal agencies under the Endangered Species Act to guarantee that habitat commitments are met, while not penalizing the occasional incidental “take” of a federally listed animal or its habitat.


  • NOAA-Fisheries lists Puget Sound steelhead as threatened.
  • Governor Christine Gregoire signs into law a measure she requested to protect and restore Puget Sound. The bill creates the Puget Sound Partnership to oversee restoration by 2020. The bill also makes the partnership the regional organization for salmon recovery.
  • NOAA-Fisheries adopts the final upper Columbia salmon recovery plan for Chinook and steelhead.


  • New Pacific Coast-wide agreement on fishing arrangements under the Pacific Salmon Treaty will result in increased returns of Chinook salmon to Washington waters. The 10-year agreement guides fishery management plans for Chinook, coho, chum, and some pink and sockeye populations from 2009-2018 in Canada, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.
  • NOAA-Fisheries issues a biological opinion for operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System. Although subject to legal challenge, the opinion includes significant commitments to increase survival at the federal dams and to improve tributary and estuary habitats.
  • The Washington Coast Sustainable Salmon Partnership is formed to help address salmon recovery and preservation in the Washington Coast Salmon Recovery Region.
  • A proposed recovery plan for middle Columbia River steelhead is released by NOAA-Fisheries. This plan incorporates the recovery plan-with significant updates already adopted by the federal agency and Washington State for steelhead within Washington.


  • The Forum on Monitoring Salmon Recovery and Watershed Health is disbanded.
  • The federal government, along with many local partners, began its largest dam removal project in United States history – the demolition of two dams that block the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula. The project is expected to open more than 70 miles of habitat to salmon and restore the river’s salmon populations from 3,000 to more than 300,000. (Dam removal was completed in 2014, and salmon are returning to the opened habitat.)
  • Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in Klickitat and Skamania Counties is removed, opening 33 miles of new spawning and rearing grounds for steelhead and 14 miles for salmon in the White Salmon River basin.


  • New fishing rules for lower Columbia River Chinook were adopted that should increase the number of these wild fish reaching spawning grounds.
  • New commercial fishing gear alternatives, which will allow continued harvest of hatchery Chinook while reducing impacts on natural-origin Chinook, are being tested and showing promising results. The final year of the study is 2013.
  • Puget Sound Partnership issued an updated Action Agenda, including an integrated approach to salmon recovery.
  • The first version of the State of Salmon in Watersheds Web site is produced with interactive data.


  • NOAA-Fisheries adopts the first bi-state recovery plan for portions of the lower Columbia River in Oregon, Washington, and the estuary.
  • A permanent injunction was issued in favor of the treaty Indian tribes in the culvert case.
  • The Washington Coast Sustainable Salmon Plan is completed, and the Coast Salmon Foundation is established (originally called the Washington Coast Sustainable Salmon Foundation).


  • The Washington State Legislature created the Fish Barrier Removal Board to coordinate the removal of barriers that block salmon access to prime spawning and rearing habitat on state, local, tribal, and private lands to ensure the corrections are strategic and better coordinated.
  • The Salmon Recovery Network is formed. The network is focused on improving communication among salmon recovery partners and refining the staffing and project funding needs. The group’s charter includes having members speak with a unified voice to build public and financial support for protecting and recovering salmon in Washington State.
  • The passing of legendary salmon recovery champion and tribal treaty rights activist, Billy Frank Jr.

2015-The Legislature created the Washington Coast Resiliency and Restoration Initiative, which provides funding and technical assistance to communities along Washington’s coast to correct fish passage barriers and complete 22 restoration projects.


  • The Fish Barrier Removal Board was renamed to the Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board in honor of Mr. Abbot, a long-time salmon recovery champion and executive coordinator of the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office, who passed away.
  • The Salmon Recovery Funding Board’s Monitoring Panel is formed.

2017-The Washington Recreation and Conservation Office conducts a “Lean” study to look at improving and streamlining the processes for recruiting, vetting, and presenting projects to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board.


  • Following the western Washington treaty Indian tribes’ 2001 lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling requiring four state agencies to correct barriers at an estimated cost exceeding $3.6 billion.
  • Governor Jay Inslee created the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force to identify, prioritize, and support a long-term action plan to recover southern resident orcas. The plan was to identify actions needed to make significant progress in addressing the availability of salmon as food among addressing other threats.
  • The Pacific Salmon Treaty is renegotiated.


  • Salmon Strategy Update Gets Underway: The Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office is tasked by the Legislature to update the state’s 20-year-old Statewide Salmon Strategy, Extinction is Not an Option.
  • The passing of salmon recovery champion William D. Ruckelshaus, former chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council.
  • The Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force recommendations leads to bills passed by the Legislature. One bill allows the Department of Fish and Wildlife to enforce the hydraulics code with civil penalties (instead of solely relying on criminal enforcement) when someone violates the code and damages fish habitat.


  • The Washington Recreation and Conservation Office received $11 million in Pacific Salmon Treaty funding for the conservation of orcas. The funding is dedicated to pre-approved habitat and hatchery projects aimed at increasing the abundance and productivity of Chinook, which orcas eat.
  • The Tulalip Tribes removed the Pilchuck River Diversion Dam, improving fish access to 37 miles of high-quality habitat above the dam and restoring natural river processes. Once the dam was removed, many more salmon than normal were spotted above the location of the removed dam.
  • The Nooksack River diversion dam removal opens 16 miles of river habitat for salmon.