A new report from the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office shows that many salmon populations still are teetering on the brink of extinction and without drastic changes to how Washington addresses climate change and population growth, may not survive.
The report, titled State of Salmon in Watersheds, shows that 10 of the 14 species of salmon and steelhead in Washington listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act are not making progress. Of those, five are in crisis.
“We have come a long way in addressing the factors killing salmon,” said Erik Neatherlin, the executive coordinator of the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office. “Some salmon populations are strong and nearing recovery. Unfortunately, many challenges are outpacing restoration efforts, holding back recovery of the majority of salmon.”
The report noted that the predicament of salmon is expected to worsen as the climate warms and mountain glaciers, which feed cold, clean water to salmon-bearing streams in the summer, continue to disappear. In addition, Washington’s human population is expected to grow from 7.6 million today to 9 million people by 2040, adding the equivalent of three more Seattles to the state.
“More people mean more demand for water and for land along waterways, both of which conflict with what salmon need,” Neatherlin said. “It’s important to remember that Washingtonians rely heavily on salmon to support jobs in the fishing and tourism industries, as a food source, for traditional tribal culture and for recreation. In addition, salmon are key indicators of the health of our environment. Washingtonians know that what is good for salmon is good for people. We are at a crossroads, and as we look forward, we need to come together to find solutions that work for salmon and people. We need to shift our thinking. Just as we develop long-range plans for roads, powerlines, development and other infrastructure, we need to begin to do the same for salmon if we want them to be around in the future.”
The report and accompanying website recommend a suite of actions geared toward reducing the many factors that kill salmon. Following are a few of the report’s recommendations:
The report also highlights the accomplishments made in the past 20 years, including the following:
“Since our restoration efforts got underway, we have prevented more salmon from being listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. None have been added since 2007,” Neatherlin noted. “We are making progress. However, we still are losing more ground than we’re gaining. We must come together, and we must step up our actions. We know what needs to be done and we have the people in place to do the work, we now just need to make saving salmon a priority across Washington and provide the funding and resources to get it done. We must save salmon.”