Skagit Salmon

Natalie Holt, Ad Manager

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Salmon in the Pacific Northwest are facing a huge genetic crisis. People living here are facing the same amount of devastation. From polluted waters to over-fishing, the salmon population has reached an all time low. From the late 1880’s through the early 1920’s as much as 11 million kilograms of Chinook salmon  were harvested each year. That number has dropped about 2 million kilograms per year today.

Some populations of Chinook salmon are listed as endangered, while others are listed as threatened. Regardless they are facing an exponential population decline. Populations of Chinook  salmon are endangered in the Columbia River tributaries and California breeding sites, as well as threatened in a range of rivers and streams throughout Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. The state of Washington is facing this issue head-on, attempting to tackle the overall decline of salmon.

Washington salmon regulations are some of the most complex fishing regulations in the world. The Department of Fish and Wildlife attempted to do its best to protect the salmon with simple regulations while providing the most fishing opportunities as possible. However, multiple issues have made simple regulations a thing of the past. These regulations differ between different motives or occupations. If you are a commercial fisherman there are different regulations than if you fish recreational.

In the Pacific Northwest fishing is huge in communities. However, the population decline is beginning to have negative impacts on these communities as well. Salmon are an iconic species of the Salish Sea. They play a critical role in supporting and maintaining ecological health, and in the social fabric of First Nations and tribal culture. Strong commercial and recreational salmon fisheries also make salmon and important economic engine for the region. Taking this into account, the decline in Chinook salmon is economically threatening as well as regionally threatening.The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) states, “the steep in Chinook salmon is associated with three major factors, habitat change, harvest rates, and hatchery influence. Additional factors increasingly recognized as contributing to declining salmon populations include climate change, ocean conditions, and marine mammal interactions.”

At attempts to prevent additional damage to the salmon population the EPA released the Pacific Salmon Treaty in 1985. Later in 2009, a fund was established to lessen the impacts of harvest reductions, support the coded wire tag program (For salmon identification), improve analytical models, and implement individual stock-based management fisheries.

Not only is the EPA taking action, but community members are as well. Actions like keeping litter out of streams, protecting natural shorelines, wetlands, and floodplains, along with volunteering at a local watershed, are all ways the communities in the Pacific Northwest have come together to fight this epidemic.

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Skagit Salmon