In most of Washington State salmon recovery goals are not
Of the 33 genetically distinct populations of salmon and
steelhead found within the borders of the state, 15 are listed as threatened or
endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act and seven of those
populations are not making progress or are declining relative to recovery
goals, according to an annual report from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s salmon
“State of Salmon in Watersheds,” released this month,
outlines Washington’s progress in listed salmon and steelhead recovery efforts.
The report concludes that continued investment at the state, federal and local
levels is required if some of the most threatened and endangered species are to
The full report can be found at
http://stateofsalmon.wa.gov/governors-report-2016/. An accompanying interactive
website is at http://stateofsalmon.wa.gov/. According to a press release from
the governor’s office, the website provides live data from around the state and
offers interactive maps to help visitors learn about salmon recovery efforts in
“Washington State has been investing in salmon recovery for
nearly two decades, and we are seeing some results,” Inslee said. “But we still
have many challenges ahead, such as population growth and climate change.
Salmon are a crucial component of our economy. Families depend on them for food
and jobs. They are crucial to our identity as Washingtonians. We can’t give up
on salmon recovery until they are taken off the endangered species list. Salmon
are ours to save.”
Some of the more dire findings from the report are:
--Of the 15 listed species, seven are not making progress or
are declining, six are showing signs of progress but still below recovery goals
approved by NOAA Fisheries. Just two are approaching recovery goals.
The Governor’s 2015 report also showed two species
approaching recovery goals, four below recovery standards but showing
improvement, four showing consistently low numbers and four exhibiting
decreasing abundance trends.
(See CBB, February 27, 2015, “New Report Documents
Washington State’s Salmon Recovery Efforts,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433284.aspx)
The 2016 report says:
--Commercial and recreational harvests have declined
significantly because of fewer fish and limits on how many fish can be caught
to protect the wild components of fish runs. Harvest of coho salmon has fallen
from a high of nearly 3 million in 1976 to fewer than 600,000 in 2014,
according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Chinook salmon
harvests are also dropping: about 970,000 chinook were caught in 1973 compared
to 316,000 in 2014, the report says.
--In addition, the newly created Fish Barrier Removal Board
is far from meeting its goals. Despite two decades of investments, about 35,000
to 45,000 barriers to fish passage remain.
-- Puget Sound chinook, Puget Sound steelhead and upper
Columbia River spring chinook are not only below recovery goals, they are
actually getting worse.
-- Of those not making progress, but also not losing, are
upper Columbia River steelhead, lower Columbia River chum salmon, lower
Columbia River fall chinook and lower Columbia River spring chinook.
-- Species showing signs of progress are middle Columbia
River steelhead, Lake Ozette sockeye salmon, lower Columbia River coho, lower
Columbia River steelhead, Snake River spring and summer chinook and Snake River
-- Hood Canal summer chum and Snake River fall chinook are
approaching their recovery goals.
There is some good news, especially in habitat restoration
and hatchery reform, according to the report.
--For the first time, more permits were obtained in 2014 to
remove shoreline beach walls and bulkheads than there was to build new ones in
Puget Sound. Softer, more natural shorelines help increase food and shelter for
salmon, the report says.
--Hatcheries are operated in more fish-friendly ways.
Hatcheries operated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife release
millions of fish annually for harvest by recreational, commercial and tribal
fishers. Hatchery fish compete with wild salmon for resources.
Today’s hatcheries operate to ensure they don’t harm wild
salmon and steelhead, the report says. Some 88 percent of the state’s hatchery
programs meet scientific recommendations to ensure conservation of wild salmon
and steelhead, compared with only 18 percent of hatcheries meeting those
recommendations in 1998.
--Although the Fish Barrier Removal Board has a daunting
task still in front of it, some 6,500 barriers to fish passage have been
corrected with fish-friendly culverts and bridges in Washington streams since
2000. That opened up about 6,400 miles of habitat to salmon.
--Restoration projects have improved salmon habitat along
more than 800 miles of shoreline and more than 4,400 acres of estuary. The
state itself has spent nearly $884,000 on salmon recovery since 1997.
One example is a Tulalip Tribes project that restored tidal
flow to 350 acres on the Snohomish River, providing unrestricted fish access to
16 miles of upstream spawning and rearing habitat. Another example is a WDFW project
that is setting back a mile-long coastal dike to restore the natural tidal flow
of Skagit Bay to 131 acres.
”We have nearly 20 years of effort by thousands of
Washingtonians statewide to recover salmon,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director
of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which is home to the Governor’s
Salmon Recovery Office. “We know how to recover salmon, and we have the people
in place to do the work, but the challenges – climate change, poorly managed
development and lack of data and funding – are accelerating. Salmon are in
trouble, and we need to increase our efforts and investments.
“When we fix our rivers and watersheds, we not only help
salmon, we help ourselves,” Cottingham said, pointing to the benefits of
restoration in local communities. “We get cleaner air and water, less flood
damage, more opportunities for recreation and other natural resource-based
industries and communities that are more resilient in the face of warming
temperatures, drought, forest fires and sea level rise.”
The report’s recommendations for what needs to be changed to
improve salmon recovery includes better integrating harvest, hatchery,
hydropower and habitat actions; fully funding regional recovery organizations
and increasing state agency resources to meet salmon recovery commitments;
restoring access to spawning and rearing habitat; and increasing monitoring of
fish and habitat to fill in data gaps.
“It took more than 150 years to bring salmon to the brink of
extinction; it may take just as long to bring them all the way back,”
Cottingham said. “But every bit of progress we make today delivers long-lasting
benefits for all. Now is the time to reinvest and recommit to salmon recovery
in our state.”