Frequently Asked Questions
- How is the Wild Salmon Center different from other salmon organizations?
- Who does the Wild Salmon Center work with?
- What is a "Salmon Protected Area," and how do you plan to create them?
- Can I have copies of documents listed in your publication list, or images from your photo library?
- Are you the group that runs fishing trips in Kamchatka?
- Why does the Wild Salmon Center dedicate so much effort to Russian salmon? I'm really concerned about salmon in Oregon and Washington?
- How can salmon be "endangered" when they're so easily available at the store?
- If I'm buying salmon at the store, what should I look for?
- What is the position of the Wild Salmon Center concerning hatcheries?
- What are the issues with farmed salmon?
- What can I do to help?
- If your question has not been answered on this page...
The Wild Salmon Center is the only truly international Pacific salmon organization, dedicated to working with partners to protect salmon, steelhead, char and trout stocks and their ecosystems across the entire Pacific Rim.
In Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, a wide variety of non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and government agencies are dedicated to salmon conservation issues. Most of these institutions attempt to reverse the declines in wild salmon abundance and diversity through a number of strategies, ranging from habitat restoration to policy reform to consumer advocacy about farmed and hatchery salmon. We are supportive of these efforts and recognize the leadership of these organizations that have taken on such roles.
However, we at the Wild Salmon Center are committed to identifying the last, best wild Pacific salmon populations, and devising strategies to protect them wherever they are. Because the overall status of salmon in the Pacific Northwest is so poor (due to habitat fragmentation, the loss of genetic diversity, and fishing pressures), we have been highly motivated to develop conservation strategies not only in Oregon and Washington, but across the Pacific Rim, in the Russian Far East and Kamchatka, where vast, unfragmented watersheds still teem with wild native salmon, trout, char and taimen. We recognize that this habitat is key to the long-term preservation of all Pacific salmon species, and a crucial laboratory for understanding how to rehabilitate salmon stocks in the United States and Canada. As part of our international leadership role, we chair the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Salmonid Specialist Group; host conferences bringing together scientists and managers from Russia, Canada, Japan and the United States; and are co-leading the State of the Salmon Program -- an effort to build the single most credible and comprehensive source of information and expertise on the state of Pacific salmon.
We have assembled a list of all the organizations we partner with, complete with links to their respective web sites .
A Salmon Protected Area (SPA) is a legally-protected, geographically-determined area encompassing a watershed and associated land, habitat for native salmon, trout or char. The area may be under federal, state/regional, or private ownership. In an SPA there is sufficient protected habitat to ensure the health of native salmon stocks. Land and water resources are managed primarily for wild salmon reproduction, and fish harvest programs emphasize native salmon conservation.
The Wild Salmon Center proposes the creation of a network of SPAs comprising basins and sub-basins across the Pacific Rim, from the Korean Peninsula to California. The objectives of the network are to ensure the survival of (a) native species, races and stocks of salmon, steelhead/trout, taimen and char characterizing the different bioregions of the North Pacific, (b) salmon-dependent aquatic and terrestrial food webs, and (c) human communities depending on salmon for economic and cultural needs.
Salmon Protected Area strategies vary with geographic and environmental constraints of particular regions. In a landscape which is fragmented on the basis of land ownership or jurisdiction, and disturbed by human habitation, agriculture or logging (i.e. Washington or Oregon), strategies will necessarily be different from strategies appropriate for an undisturbed watershed with a single controlling agency (i.e. certain regions in the Russian Far East). Regardless of the landscape, we propose a five-phase strategy for prioritizing and assessing basins, creating Salmon Protected Areas, and ensuring long-term management and monitoring of fisheries stocks. The strategy consists of:
- Phase 1: Watershed prioritization
- Phase 2: Biological and socioeconomic assessment
- Phase 3: Development of a site conservation strategy
- Phase 4: Salmon Protected Area designation
- Phase 5: Inventory, monitoring and research
Most of our in-house reports are available on our website, in either HTML or PDF formats. In the case of our series of Best Management Practice papers, we offer both English and Russian versions for download.
The availability of peer-reviewed journal articles from the Kamchatka Steelhead Project varies by publisher. All articles published in Voprosy Ikhtiologii are available in the translated version, Journal of Ichthyology, widely available in the United States and Canada by inter-library loan (ILL) at your local library. Articles from Doklady Akademii Nauk - Biological Sciences are also available by ILL, although on a more limited basis.
We encourage researchers to locate copies of articles at a university library or via ILL. If you have no success, please contact our archivist, and we will try to assist.
Our image library is maintained as a resource for salmon scientists and researchers. Due to technical constraints, we have taken our library offline, but we hope to offer an expanded and improved, searchable image archive in the future. Please contact our image archivist to request particular images from river systems in the United States or Russia.
Not anymore. For eight years (1994-2002) the Wild Salmon Center operated fishing expeditions on Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula in support of conservation and science goals, in cooperation with the Biology Department of Moscow State University. In 2003, these expeditions were transferred to a new, non-profit organization, Wild Salmon River Expeditions (WSRE). WSRE can be reached at 1-800-687-0411. Angling ecotourism operations are now operating on some of Kamchatka's most diverse and productive salmon, steelhead and trout rivers. The research and conservation elements of these expeditions remains a part of the Wild Salmon Center's Kamchatka Salmon Biodiversity Program.
The Wild Salmon Center is committed to identifying the last, best wild Pacific salmon populations, and devising strategies to protect them — wherever they are. Most salmon habitat in the Pacific Northwest is fragmented by farms, urbanization, forestry and hydroelectric dams, and salmon genetic diversity is being marginalized by hatcheries and the introduction of fish farms. For that reason, we are highly motivated to develop conservation strategies for the Russian Far East and Kamchatka, where vast, unfragmented watersheds still teem with wild native salmon, trout, char and taimen. We recognize that protecting this habitat is the key to the long-term preservation of Pacific salmon. Conservation programs have the highest probability of success in river basins where threats are fewest, and habitat restoration is much more expensive and uncertain than proactive efforts that prevent threats from becoming entrenched in the first place.
Our North America Programs including the North American Salmon Stronghold Partnership are dedicated to saving high diversity, productive salmon watersheds in the lower 48 states, Alaksa and Canada. We currently have active programs in the Olympic Peninsula and Washington Coast, John Day in Oregon, and Tillamook and the Oregon North Coast. We are supportive of efforts to restore habitat in fragmented salmon ecosystems throughout North America and we partner with other organizations that have taken leadership roles on restoration issues.
The federal ruling that wild salmon are endangered has caused confusion and misunderstandings. The question is a very difficult one, and requires a detailed answer.
A century of artificial propagation measures "hatcheries and fish farms" has created the false appearance of salmon abundance, as illustrated by cheap prices for wholesale and retail salmon on the docks, in the grocery store, and in restaurants. At the same time, habitat for wild salmon has been steadily degraded and lost across the North Pacific. Habitat loss is creeping northward from California to the Pacific Northwest to British Columbia, and from Japan and Korea toward the Russian Far East. Overharvest and billions of lost acres of habitat have degraded wild salmon populations seriously, yet the abundance of farmed and hatchery fish skews the prices and availability of the fish. Tidepool.org's Ed Hunt describes the discrepancy in "Salmon vs. Salmon", a vital introduction to this seemingly paradoxical situation.
Under the Endangered Species Act, many wild salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest have been deemed "endangered," meaning that their survival is in doubt and existing laws and initiatives have not provided sufficient protection. Following a series of rulings and legislative and administrative reviews, the federal government ruled that these populations mandated specific legal protection. The guidelines prevent "taking" wild salmon until such time as the populations have recovered significantly.
Consumers in stores and restaurants face a bewildering array of choices for salmon: wild troll-caught salmon, farmed Atlantic salmon from British Columbia or Chile, hatchery salmon caught by commercial or tribal fisherman ... the choices are very confusing! Generally speaking, consumers should look for fish that have clearly marked places of origin. The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch guide is an invaluable resource for sustainable seafood. If a salmon fillet is marketed as "fresh Atlantic salmon," you can be almost sure that it's from a fish farm — there are almost no legal commercial Atlantic fisheries.
The Wild Salmon Center is dedicated to protecting wild Pacific salmon, steelhead, char and trout stocks and their ecosystems. We recognize that some fragmented ecosystems may depend on hatchery broodstocks to maintain commercial and recreational fisheries, but we view this as an incomplete solution. Hatcheries should be regarded as a last resort, and a partial aid in the rehabilitation of fish stocks that have declined due to overharvest and loss of habitat. The primary mandate of fisheries managers should be the protection or restoration of existing, healthy populations of wild, native fish.
The Wild Salmon Center is concerned about the future genetic and ecological interactions between hatchery and wild salmon populations that can occur without carefully planned, sized and evaluated hatchery programs that have appropriate and precautionary management strategies to reduce known risks. A hatchery reform effort has become established in the Pacific Northwest to identify and implement these types of practical management strategies. For resources on these topics:
- The Pacific Northwest Hatchery Reform Project
- NOAA information aboutdifferences in hatchery and wild fish: "Ecological and Behavioral Impacts of Artifical Propagation Strategies on Abundance of Wild Salmon Populations"
- The Native Fish Society bibliography on interactions between hatchery-spawned and wild fish populations.
Farmed salmon now accounts for 80% of all salmon sold in the United States. Yet few consumers are aware of the negative environmental, health, and social costs of farmed salmon. Fortunately, this is beginning to change.
Environmental Costs: Salmon are farmed in net pens, usually in estuaries that historically were home to native wild salmon runs. In British Columbia, Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) are farmed in rivers that still hold wild Pacific runs. When the nets rip, the Atlantic salmon escapees may colonize and crowd out the native wild populations. Additionally, farmed salmon require enormous amounts of feed (made of harvested ocean fish), which escapes from net pens along with the fishes' own excrement, polluting estuarine environments. Each net pen can produce two metric tons of waste, equivalent to the waste output of a small city! Net pen salmon are also hosts for disease and parasites like sea lice, which attack wild salmon during their migrations. To confront the sea lice, salmon farmers use antibiotics and pesticides, which flow into the ecosystem as well.
Unlike other farmed fish — catfish, tilapia — farmed salmon are highly migratory. Given the chance, they will escape and colonize regions to which they are not native. For example, escaped Chilean farmed salmon are ascending the Andean mountain rivers to colonize Argentina, displacing native wild fish! The same things have happened wherever salmon have been farmed: Maine, British Columbia, New Zealand ... it's no wonder that Alaska has wisely banned net pen salmon farms!
Health Costs: Many consumers eat salmon for its health benefits. But farmed salmon carries trace elements of the pesticides and antibiotics, and has ten times as many PCBs as wild salmon. According to a New York Times article ("Farmed Salmon Looking Less Rosy") farmed salmon are also twice as high in fat, and may contain fewer beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than wild salmon. Most startling to many consumers is the fact that farmed salmon have to be fed dyes to achieve the rich, red color associated with wild salmon! Otherwise the fish's flesh would be a dull grey. As a result of lawsuits filed in 2003, most American supermarkets now notify their customers that farmed salmon contain the dyes canthaxanthin or astaxanthin, derived from petroleum by-products. It is not known whether consuming these dyes contributes to any increased health risks.
You can support the work of the Wild Salmon Center by volunteering, educating yourself and others about salmon issues, and contributing funds to our work. The more educated and motivated our communities are, the better the chances are for wild salmon, trout, steelhead and char. We have opportunities for volunteers to assist with our text and image archives, in research projects, and in other ways. Please contact us if you would like to help.
Supporters of our work can make secure, tax-deductible donations online or contribute through a personal check or donations of stock, real estate or wire transfers.
To keep our supporters and friends informed of our work, the Wild Salmon Center offers a free bimonthly e-newsletter. Subscribe now.
Finally, we encourage you to sign on to the Wild Salmon Center Statement of Principles of salmon conservation. Add your signature by sending an email to
Email us at with your question if it has not been answered on this page. We will get back to you as soon as we are able. Thank you!