The greatest concentration of stronghold rivers in Washington
Spanning nearly four million acres, Washington’s coastal rivers produce the most abundant and diverse wild Pacific salmon populations remaining south of Canada. Healthy temperate rainforests in Washington, fed by spawning salmon and rich rainfall, support up to 500 tons of living organisms per acre. The number of adult salmon, however, has been severely reduced and scientists estimate run sizes are less than ten percent of historic levels due to a legacy of excessive habitat damage, overfishing, and harmful hatchery practices.
The coast is a prime opportunity to invest in salmon strongholds – before they become endangered.
Building a coalition
Since 2006, Wild Salmon Center has been working with a diverse coalition on the Washington Coast to create the first unified salmon conservation plan for the region. Participants include the fishing and timber industries, tribes, state agencies, watershed councils, local governments, and conservation partners. Now 44 members strong, the Washington Coast Sustainable Salmon Partnership’s balanced strategy for maintaining healthy salmon strongholds while supporting human needs — “Protect the Best, Restore the Rest” — has been adopted by the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office.
In 2015, the coast received more than $11 million in new state funding for coastal watershed restoration, part of the larger Washington Coast Restoration Initiative and a down payment on long term coastal restoration.
Wild salmon sanctuaries
We focus on the identification and designation of Wild Salmonid Management Zones – reservoirs of wild genetic diversity that are critical to the long-term protection of wild salmon and steelhead populations. In 2012, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife established the state’s first Wild Salmonid Management Zone on the Sol Duc, ending hatchery steelhead releases on this famed Washington Coast river.
The Washington Coast Sustainable Salmon Plan supports establishing additional sanctuaries on the coast. WSC is working with local tribes and the state to identify the next candidates.
Connecting fish to cold water
Coastal salmon strongholds like the Hoh, Queets, and Quillayute rivers have the greatest likelihood of providing strong runs of wild salmon and steelhead into the future. But even these strongholds face challenges. Many streams are blocked by culverts and roads that prevent fish passage. Also, Washington’s human population is projected to double in the next 50 years, and increased urban and industrial development will inevitably follow.
Our future efforts will focus on connecting fish to cold, clean water to ensure coastal salmon populations stay healthy in the face of climate change and development.