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Salmon Fishing has Decreased

Salmon fishing in Washington has decreased dramatically since the early 1970s (by about 50 percent for Chinook and 80 percent for coho salmon, both wild and hatchery), affecting tribal fishing, tribal treaty obligations, recreational anglers, and commercial fishing businesses.

While important during the initial federal listings, today harvest in Washington has been curtailed significantly and is not a primary factor limiting salmon recovery. Fishing in Washington State is highly managed and relies primarily on hatcheries. More than 80 percent of the salmon caught in the ocean and rivers comes from hatcheries. In addition, a significant portion of the overall harvest of salmon originating from Washington occurs in Canada and Alaska.

Protection and restoration of habitat, addressing predation, and mitigating the impacts from climate change must be pursued to fully benefit from the restrictions that have been applied to fishing for recovery.

Line graph showing decreasing salmon harvest over time


Chart Data Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Data is for hatchery and wild coho, chum, and Chinook salmon caught (tribal and non-tribal) in the state’s rivers and the ocean as reflected on sport catch record cards and commercial landings.

Washington State and treaty Indian tribes in Washington co-manage fisheries to provide harvest opportunities for salmon and steelhead. Harvest focuses on hatchery and healthy, natural-origin fish. As a fish population increases or decreases, harvest managers adjust the amount of catch, matching fishing to fish availability.

The co-managers, in cooperation with federal agencies and other states, set fishing seasons. Harvest management seeks to achieve population-specific conservation goals for Endangered Species Act-listed fish. Caps on harvest-related impacts are intended to provide additional protection. This means that the maximum fish harvest in an area is set by the “weakest link” present in that area.