Changes in the Marine Environment May Be Affecting Salmon and Steelhead Survival
There is increasing evidence that changes in the Salish Sea marine environment may be significantly affecting the overall survival of salmon. The smolt-to-adult survival (largely, the period when they are in the marine environment) for many stocks of coho and Chinook, which typically enter the Salish Sea from mid-spring through early summer and can utilize the Salish Sea for a significant period of time, has declined, in some cases to less than one tenth of the levels that existed in the 1970s and 80s.
The Puget Sound steelhead population has also declined significantly, with evidence that mortality in the Salish Sea marine environment is playing a role. Conversely, many pink and some chum salmon populations, which enter the Salish Sea in late winter to early spring, are thriving and sockeye populations have been highly variable, perplexing scientists who work to predict their return for harvest management.
Identifying the Causes of Salmon Decline in the Salish Sea
Long Live the Kings (LLTK) and project partner Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) of Canada are working with scientists, managers and funders from the public and private sectors to facilitate the development of a joint US/Canada research program, utilizing intellectual and capital resources from both countries to evaluate the causes of weak salmon and steelhead survival in the Salish Sea marine environment. Through the development of a comprehensive, ecosystem-based research framework, coordinated data collection, and improved information sharing, the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project will help managers better understand the critical relationship between salmon and the marine environment.
Outcomes will be instrumental in informing and prioritizing hatchery, harvest, habitat and ecosystem management decisions to increase sustainable fishing opportunities and advance the recovery of ESA-listed salmon, steelhead and southern resident killer whales.
An International Research Partnership
LLTK, in partnership with PSF, are facilitating the development of the transboundary research effort, creating funding mechanisms in the US and Canada to support the needed research, managing the collaborative research activities, establishing and maintaining outreach and communications for the project, and helping translate the research results into management actions.
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