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A rocky stream runs freely underneath a new bridge with a low guard rail. Tall trees on both banks are interspersed with blue plant guards marking new plants. Three buildings with peaked roofs are int he background among trees.

Barrier Removal Brings Coho Back to Streams

Coho salmon rely on streams and side channels for spawning and juvenile rearing before their migration to saltwater to feed, grow and mature. They typically spawn between the ages of three and four in their natal streams. Coho and other salmon are vulnerable to many stressors including blocked access to spawning grounds and habitat degradation caused by dams, culverts and past land use practices

One successful approach to restoring historic native coho and other salmon populations throughout the Pacific Northwest has included the removal of barriers to fish passage in conjunction with instream and riparian buffer habitat restoration.

One of fourteen Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups in Washington State, the nonprofit Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) in Bellingham, WA has successfully completed over 450 projects on salmon-bearing creeks in Whatcom County over its 30-year history. One of those is a channel modification and barrier removal project on a tributary of Goodwin Creek in the Sumas River watershed. Thanks to partnerships with three landowners and several state and federal agencies, a mile-long section of habitat has been reconnected with the native Pacific coho populations for the first time in over 30 years.

If You Rebuild It, They Will Come

Planning first began in 2015 to remove three fish passage barriers on private properties. “One of the great aspects about working on streams is the opportunity to get to know a diverse variety of landowners,” explains NSEA Project Manager Darrell Gray. “A project begins with a conversation about salmon, and grows over time to a variety of topics. Throughout the years, I have had the great pleasure of getting to know some amazing landowners. These three were particularly great to work with.”

Each of the three landowners came to the project with differing backgrounds, interests and needs. One 30-acre small business farm raises horses and cows. The second is an 80-acre farm and the third, owned by Rose Anne Featherston, is a 5-acre farm with a horse. 

“It was around 2014 that I contacted the Whatcom Conservation District about participating in their CREP program,” remembers Featherston of the stream that runs just meters behind her home. The CREP, or Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, is a county-based voluntary program that pays landowners to establish native tree and shrub buffers along fish-bearing streams and rivers. CREP removed about an acre of invasive blackberries and planted native plants. Native plant buffers protect water quality, develop root systems that stabilize stream banks, reduce erosion, create shade that lowers water temperature and leaf litter attracts macroinvertebrates that young salmon eat.

“When we discovered that my culvert was almost blocked, CREP connected me with NSEA.” Both Featherston and her neighbors had culverts that were too small. One culvert had a drop of more than six feet that prevented coho passage for more than three decades. But coho spotted north of the culvert were evidence that a restoration effort could be successful if done well.

The Restoration Approach

“After surveying the stream to develop project designs, it became apparent that all of the barriers should be removed at the same time to allow stored sediments behind each to move downstream, establishing a new stream gradient,” remembers Gray.

Landowners allowed NSEA teams to replace barrier culverts with two bridges and a 10’ diameter culvert as well as establish new native plantings to buffer the creek from adjacent agricultural activities.

Culvert before restoration: a wide pipe emerging from a steep hillside spilling water several feet into a stream below. A person in a blue jacket and grey hat stands to the side of the image behind branches of a tree.
Culvert site before restoration work (2016)
After restoration at the same site: a bridge with a low rail spans a v-shaped dip with a rocky stream running underneath.
Replacement bridge at the same site in 2017

Construction began in early September 2016 just in time for the fall rains and lasted more than three weeks. As the properties were all neighboring, NSEA was able to move equipment from one site to the next with the removal of a few fences. “This also allowed us to regrade the channel between sites to the anticipated new stream gradient,” explains Gray. “Large cobbles were added to the stream bed to maintain the new gradient and provide areas of slower moving water where salmon can rest.”

NSEA is required by permit to revegetate areas disturbed during instream projects. Work was completed by the NSEA team and native replantings were accomplished with help from six members of the Washington Conservation Corps(WCC), an AmeriCorps program administered by the Washington State Department of Ecology. They planted over 760 young native trees and shrubs across the three properties, including Western red cedar, Douglas fir, Pacific nine bark and black twinberry, all grown from bare-root stock in NSEA’s nursery.

Immediate Impact

“Within a few weeks of project completion, through my window I heard the first splashes of the salmon returning. It was amazing,” remembers Featherston who has since joined the NSEA Board of Directors to provide landowner perspective. “This year I’ve already seen opossum, eagles and coyotes feasting on salmon carcasses.” More than 40 species of vertebrates, including salmon, birds and mammals directly benefit from salmon runs by feasting on salmon, their eggs, carcasses or their young.

A coho salmon makes its way upstream in the restored area.

NSEA monitors their project sites—through spawner and vegetation surveys—for three to five years after completion to evaluate restoration efforts. In addition to counting live fish, NSEA counts dead fish and new and old redds (spawning nests), and records stream flow and visibility. Having been monitored 19 times since 2017, NSEA has now documented more than 230 adult salmon migrating upstream, many of which spawned within the project reach.

What Swims Ahead

This project demonstrates that removing barriers to fish passage, such as culverts and steep elevation changes, while improving native plant buffers along streams, can restore historic coho salmon runs in Pacific Northwest tributaries in just a few years.

“The great thing about NSEA is that they listen to landowners,” notes Featherston. “I’m impressed by how Darrell and NSEA never push landowners. They come up with creative solutions that meet the needs of diverse landowners and are gifted at striking that balance.”

This summer, NSEA will continue their instream and riparian restoration work further upstream to give these coho access to additional habitat further to the south.

“We have great appreciation for landowners like these that are curious, patient and accommodating participants,” adds Gray. “We hope this kind of work will help restore historic salmon populations and that these neighbors will enjoy the returning salmon for years to come.”

Celebrating 30 Years Restoring Sustainable Wild Salmon Runs in Whatcom County

“Seeing the coho and spring Chinook return to spawn in areas that we’ve cared for is just one of the things that makes all of this hard work feel more like a reward than an effort,” explains NSEA Executive Director Rachel Vasak. “It’s such a joy looking up at a tree we planted—once just a tiny seedling but now over 50-feet tall—or hearing community members describe the wonder they experienced as a child when they learned about salmon and habitat from NSEA over 20 years ago. Over our 30 years, we’ve completed over 450 restoration projects, educated more than 25,000 students about salmon and planted well over a hundred thousand trees in Whatcom County.”

NSEA is poised to continue this important work in the decades to come. In 2021 alone, NSEA will remove 13 fish passage barriers, improving access to over 20 miles of upstream habitat, as well as install 17 large woody debris structures and over 21,000 native plants along 7,900 feet of stream channel.

Learn more at www.n-sea.org!


Darrell Gray, NSEA Project Manager, has been with NSEA for more than 25 years. He leads NSEA’s instream and restoration projects with designs, permits and implementations.

Amy Johnson is NSEA’s Advancement Manager in charge of communications and development, supporting education, restoration, and stewardship of Pacific salmon in Whatcom County.

Lorraine Wilde is Owner and Lead Strategist at Wilde World Communications. She has published more than 250 articles and blogs, helping small businesses and organizations spread positive messages, champion social justice and protect the environment.

Super Salmon Education Resources

Long Live the Kings is investing in the future of salmon and steelhead in the Pacific Northwest.  In order for young people to champion this cause for decades to come, we need to give them the opportunity to learn about their own environments, feel connected, and be empowered to take action. Thanks to a grant from Boeing and support from partners like NOAA, we’ve been able to revamp our classroom materials to provide educators free resources for remote and in-person learning environments. Hear more about the material and other salmon education resources below. 

Survive the Sound in the Classroom 

Our educational program designed to accompany the Survive the Sound migration provides free resources for teachers to do with their classes either online or in the physical classroom. There are six activities mostly suited for 2nd-6th grade, but which can be adapted to any grade K-12. The activities discuss the salmon life cycle, watersheds, Steelhead anatomy, and more! These place-based lessons can be taught anytime, but are especially relevant during the weeks leading up to, during, and after the migration in early May. 

Survive the Sound in the Classroom lessons are connected to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and can be incorporated into Amplify units as well as Washington State’s Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum, Since Time Immemorial. This program is also researched based, using data from real juvenile steelhead on their way out to the Puget Sound. It is a great resource to include in your STEM or Social Studies units. From math activities to engineering design problems to discussing the human impact on the watershed, Survive the Sound in the Classroom is a great tool to connect abstract concepts to a tangible, meaningful subject- salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound.

Survive the Sound can be taught virtually or in person, with digital lessons suitable for google classrooms and Seesaw lessons as well as PDFs to print and distribute to students. The lessons can be flexible to your current scheduling whether you only have time for 5 minutes a day or 45. During the migration, students can also journal along and form hypotheses about what their fish might be experiencing.  

To learn more about Survive the Sound in the Classroom, please check out this educator training video:

Since Time Immemorial

Since Time Immemorial (STI) is Washington State’s tribal sovereignty curriculum for social studies. Salmon science and Survive the Sound’s activities can be easily woven into STI’s units, especially the Elementary pathways: “Honoring the Salmon” and “Salmon Homecoming” as well as the Middle School pathways: “River of Kings” and “Fish Wars”. As you think about what elements of salmon education you want to bring into your classroom or program, check out these videos from local PNW tribal members:   

  • Combining graphic art and storytelling, Roger Fernandez of the Clallum Tribe tells the traditional story of the Salmon Boy. Listen to a short story with a valuable lesson about our connection to the environment while also learning about Coast Salish art.  
  • I am salmon”, a video about the 5 pacific salmon narrated by a tribal member. This video discusses the life cycle, diet, and environmental needs of salmon from a native perspective. 
  • Billy Frank Jr. narrates “sčədadxʷ (salmon)”, a short video describing the importance of salmon to the Nisqually and other tribes. This beautifully animated video explores the past, present, and future of salmon heath. 

Salmon in Schools

Many Conservation Districts and local government organizations such as Seattle Public Utilities offer programs for teachers to raise salmon in their classrooms and release them in the Spring. This is a great way for students to see fish grow up from eggs to fry and get to know them close and personal. These are a few resources you can find your local Salmon in Schools program:

Visit your local hatchery

In-person or virtual field trips to a hatchery are a great way to incorporate experiential learning about salmon needs, life cycle, and anatomy. There are many hatcheries that provide educational opportunities including:

Please send us your experiences with Salmon Education in your classroom! sts@lltk.org

Students and the Public Race to Recover Salmon in Virtual Fish Tracking Game

For immediate release: 4/20/2021 – Seattle, WA

Survive the Sound invites everyone to compete with friends and learn about salmon and steelhead – a salmonid and Washington’s State fish – by picking a young steelhead, joining a team, and tracking it as it migrates through Puget Sound to the Pacific Ocean. Competition to build the largest team heats up in the second half of April, and participants receive daily updates on fish progress during the migration from May 3-7.

Seattle – Five years ago, salmon recovery nonprofit Long Live the Kings (LLTK) developed Survive the Sound as a free, interactive, and virtual game to engage and educate the public about salmon and steelhead – Washington’s State Fish –  and contribute to their recovery. Today, the game soars to new heights through integration of a full-suite salmon science curriculum into virtual and in-person classrooms.

“With students around the state having to learn remotely this year due to the pandemic, Survive the Sound provides a connection to our environment and learning opportunity using real data for fish trying to swim from their native rivers to the Pacific Ocean.”
– Jacques White, Executive Director Long Live the Kings

Survive the Sound is the first of its kind to gamify real data, obtained from acoustic transmitters implanted in out-migrating fish by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The data is part of LLTK’s greater research initiatives, to track steelhead migrations from natal streams to the Pacific Ocean.

From now until May 2nd, Survive the Sound participants pick from 48 funny fish avatars, build a team, and invite friends, family, coworkers, and classmates to race. Beginning on May 3rd, participants watch on an interactive map as their fish embarks on a harrowing journey – avoiding predators, fighting disease, and navigating obstacles – on their way to the Pacific Ocean.

Daily updates will alert participants whether their fish has survived another day or perished to one of many challenges along their migration route. Gratification is awarded to participants who chose a surviving fish, and the team with the most surviving fish wins. In this way, participants are motivated to build the largest team of fish to have the best odds of having the most surviving fish on their team. Throughout the Survive the Sound experience, participants will learn about salmon and steelhead, the challenges they face in the Salish Sea, what is being done to recover imperiled populations, and ways to take action in their daily lives.

With support from Boeing in 2021, LLTK designed a full-suite education toolkit to accompany the Survive the Sound game. Classroom materials, video lessons, an activity journal, STEM learning opportunities, and teacher trainings to support in-person and virtual salmon science learning are available for free to anyone at SurvivetheSound.org/classroom. LLTK seeks to reinvigorate state-wide salmon science curriculums and establish a large constituency of vocal salmon advocates through Survive the Sound.

“My first and second grade students really enjoyed following the steelhead in Survive the Sound. Students were invested and en­gaged. They wanted to know more.”
– Susan Foley, Elementary School Teacher

The game is free to play, but participants may donate to support LLTK, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has been working to restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years.

How Survive the Sound Works

Each year, wild steelhead are caught as they make their way downriver from their natal streams. LLTK and partners implant the fish with tracking devices as part of their larger research efforts to understand juvenile salmonid survival in the Salish Sea. Each tag emits a unique acoustic ping heard by receivers placed underwater throughout Puget Sound. This tracking data can supply locations and sometimes depth and temperature. The steelhead in Survive the Sound represent real fish that were tracked in the past and scientists at LLTK pick a representative sample of 48 fish to include each year.

This work is part of the larger LLTK efforts. The Hood Canal Bridge Assessment and the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, an international US/Canada effort to determine why certain species of salmon and steelhead are dying in the combined marine waters of Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia.

Why it Matters

Currently, only about 15% of wild steelhead survive their trek through the marine environment of Puget Sound. They’re now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Unless we can better understand the reasons for steelhead’s decline in Puget Sound and mitigate the threats they face, there is serious concern that steelhead may slip into extinction.

Survive the Sound provides scientists with important new data about steelhead’s lifecycle, gives the public an opportunity to engage with wild steelhead in a fun and interactive way, and raises essential funds for Long Live the Kings’ salmon and steelhead recovery projects.

To learn more, visit www.survivethesound.org.

Survive the Sound is possible thanks to the following sponsors:
Anchor QEA, The Boeing Company, Chinook Book, Environmental Science Associates, Foundry 10, Hancock Forest Management, Herrera Environmental Consultants, MiiR, Montana Banana, Nisqually Indian Tribe, Pike Place Chowder, Pike Place Fish, Puget Sound Steel, Q13 Fox, Seattle Public Utilities, Stalcup Family Team, Tacoma Public Utilities, The Tulalip Tribes, & Vulcan

For more information contact:
Lucas Hall, Long Live the Kings, lhall@lltk.org, (206) 382-9555 Ext. 30


Survive the Sound has 48 fishy characters each representing data from real fish. Participants pick one, join a team, and track it’s journey during a 5-day migration (May 3-7).
Students at Cascadia Elementary learn about the Salish Sea Marine Survival project.
Federal Way students play the Steelhead Survival Game, one of the many classroom activities available to participating educators.
Susan Foley, elementary teacher, and LLTK’s Lucas Hall teaching students at University Child Development School about Survive the Sound and the science behind the game.

Alert: Hood Canal Bridge Fish Passage Funding at Risk

Every year we wait to act, more steelhead will die at the Hood Canal Bridge.

LLTK and our partners have spent the last three years hard at work finding solutions to this challenge, resulting in actionable findings that we can now use to improve fish passage at this recovery bottleneck. Late last year, Governor Inslee proposed $3.618 million to support fish passage at the Hood Canal Bridge. Now, as the State Legislature is drafting the budget for the next two years, this funding is at risk. We are finally at the point of being able to do something about the 50% mortality rate of juvenile steelhead at the bridge, but without this funding we can’t move forward.

Your state legislators have been instrumental in securing funding for this work and we are grateful for their support, but this is a tough budget year. To secure this critical funding, legislators need to know that they have your support. Funding will install and test fish guidance structures at the bridge to help juvenile fish avoid predators, and it will answer an important question that is concerning many: is the bridge also impacting returning adult salmon?

If you would like to help us avoid more steelhead death at the bridge, please contact your legislator today and ask them to fully fund fish passage at the Hood Canal Bridge! Below, you’ll find suggested text for an email and you can find your legislator HERE.

Dear Senator/Representative <last name>,

I am writing to thank you for supporting fish passage research and action at the Hood Canal Bridge and to encourage you to fully fund ($3.618 million) this shovel-ready project, the next phase of fish passage work at the Hood Canal Bridge.

Steelhead are Washington’s State Fish and listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Up to HALF of the juvenile steelhead that make it to the bridge will not survive past it. This recovery bottleneck is unacceptable and must be addressed without delay. At the Ballard Locks, Washingtonians waited too long to act and now steelhead are virtually extinct from that watershed. We cannot let this happen in Hood Canal, an area prized for its beauty and bountiful natural resources. This project will create jobs and save fish!

Please fully fund Hood Canal Bridge fish passage.


<your name>

<your address, this is important so the legislator knows what district you are from>

Survive the Sound Watershed Tours – 2021

Survive the Sound 2021 has 48 juvenile steelhead leaving the Duwamish, Skokomish, and Nisqually rivers. Each one of these rivers systems presents different challenges for these young fish and these issues are often related to habitat and human development in the watershed. Take a glimpse at the three rivers below.

The Duwamish River begins at the Green River in the Central Cascades Mountains and runs through the ancestral lands of the Duwamish People. Since the area’s industrialization, the lower Duwamish has become one of the most polluted rivers in the United States, it’s estuary is almost non-existent, and there is some disease in the system. Fortunately, the efforts from many organizations, businesses, and partnerships have made some progress on improving the area, but there is still much more work to be done. As you watch the tour, keep an eye out for Kellogg Island. This section of the Duwamish river has remained untouched over decades of development and remains a glimpse of historic estuary habitat. Get a glimpse of the lower watershed by watching the video below.

The Skokomish River flows from the Olympic Mountains to the south end of Hood Canal, a fjord. The Skokomish Indian Tribe has lived in this area since time immemorial. Human use of this area is primarily for forestry and farming and estuary restoration efforts have been significant. Once salmonids exit the river, they must travel north and navigate around the Hood Canal floating bridge. View the lower Skokomish River through Hood Canal in the video below.

The Nisqually River starts at the southern slope of Mt. Rainier and flows into South Puget Sound. The Nisqually Indian Tribe has stewarded this area long before the colonization of North America and the Tribe continues to care for this land. Over 900 acres of Nisqually estuary habitat has been restored and remains protected as the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. However, Interstate 5 runs through the area posing a threat to natural habitat and creating a barrier to recovery and predators have taken advantage of some bottlenecks in the estuary. ​View the lower Nisqually through the estuary in the video below.


Thank you to LightHawk and their pilots for this beautiful aerial footage.

Ten Things YOU can do to Help Save Salmon

The movement to save salmon is built on many fronts. From cutting edge computer modeling with artificial intelligence to a 20-minute lesson in a 3rd grade classroom, we need progress in all areas to rebuild salmon populations for the next generation. Here are 10 things YOU can do to help save salmon and steelhead.


  1. Learn about Salmon. Salmon conservation and recovery requires us to deal with long standing problems, but new problems and solutions are regularly identified. Subscribing to the Long Live the Kings email list is an easy way to be updated on some of the latest salmon news. We send our quarterly e-news, Fishues, as well as special messages. Sign up at the bottom of this page. For students and educators, please visit our classroom page for lesson plans, videos, and more resources about salmon.


  1. Dispose of your waste properly. It’s tempting to save some time and throw everything into one garage bin, but those few seconds saved can results in environmental damage that is very difficult to undo. Get it right the first time, especially with pharmaceuticals and hazardous waste. Each city or county will have its own guidance on waste disposal, but for King County residents, follow instructions here. And, don’t forget to pick up your pet waste!


  1. Don’t drip and drive. Leaking fluids from a car or truck is often washed into our rivers, streams, and in front of our ocean beaches. These chemicals are toxic to wildlife and extremely difficult and expensive to remove from the water. Get your vehicle running right and help save salmon by following the tips here.


  1. Be RainWise. Water from storms can wash pollutants into lakes, creek, and Puget Sound. RainWise is a rebate program that helps eligible property owners manage stormwater by installing rain gardens and/or cisterns on private property. This prevents flooding, adds attractive landscaping, and can provide water for summer irrigation. If you don’t have space for a rain garden, consider adding native plants to your yard. Native plants are naturally adapted to your local climate, weather, soil types, and rainfall so they don’t need extra watering, fertilizers, or pesticides. Like a rain garden, native plants help absorb rain, hold soil, and trap runoff.


  1. Tell them how much you care. Every year, only a small fraction of the proposed habitat restoration and environmental monitoring projects are funded. Your elected officials care about salmon, steelhead, and the environment, but they are faced with hard decisions about what to do with limited funds. They need your support to create the laws and devote the funding necessary to save our salmon. Find and contact your legislators here.


  1. Understand tribal treaty rights. Since time immemorial, tribes have stewarded the Salish Sea and continue to today. Treaties guarantee tribes the rights to some natural resources, and as these resources have declined, tribes have used these rights to protect resources. Understanding this history will make you a more powerful salmon conservation advocate.


  1. Support businesses who support salmon conservation. When possible, we encourage you to purchase products and services from LLTK partners and business that support environmental conservation. View our partners here and learn more about Salmon-Safe products and services here.


  1. Buy a fishing license. We know, this one sounds counterintuitive, but sustainable fishing is critical salmon recovery. Fishing provides an opportunity to learn about the environment and build a deeper connection with this amazing resource. Between 2015 and 2017, licensing revenue contributed $12.1 million to healthy habitat. Find more info on fishing licenses here.


  1. Volunteer. Long Live the Kings and others have opportunities to volunteer your time to help save salmon. Planting trees and removing invasive species is a popular way to volunteer, but few people realize that your professional skill might be much more valuable. Graphic designs, advertisers, construction workers, web developers, and many others have service they can donate to fundraisers or provide directly to organization in-kind. Sign up to volunteer here.


  1. Donate. Your donations help Long Live the Kings launch new projects, take bold action, grow the movement to save salmon, and much more. We cannot thank our donors enough for what they have helped us accomplish. Join them here.


Are there more ways to save salmon? ABSOLUTLEY! Share your ideas below.

Web Developers Code for Salmon

In 2018, we were looking for a partner to revamp the website for our education and outreach campaign, Survive the Sound (STS). Like most nonprofits, we had a shoestring budget, limited staff time, and needed more than a web developer, but a true partner that would be able to understand our goals and bring together a unique website on a tight timeline. Enter Montana Banana, the exact collaborator we were hoping for. Their team was excited about the mission and delivered in a big way, helping us bring salmon education and awareness to thousands of new people. We are lucky to have so many expert partners that help us move salmon and steelhead recovery forward and we’re glad to count Montana Banana among them.

Montana Banana describes themselves as, “a team of mature experienced computer geeks with an orientation towards online marketing and solving business problems.” We can’t think of a better way to explain them. Plus, many of them are local to Seattle, so they already knew how important salmon were to Puget Sound and had a deep appreciation for the environment that supports these beautiful fish. Their genuine interest in LLTK’s work showed through as they dug deeper to understand more about the problems facing salmon. Consequently, their growing knowledge of our mission resulted in a smooth and successful web development process, benefiting our STS racers each year.

One of the greatest testaments to their company values is that they have done much of their work for LLTK pro bono. Their CEO and Founder, Stewart McCollough, simply said, “I just can’t take any more money away from the fish.” Everyone can find a place in salmon recovery work, and Montana Banana found theirs by doing what they do best, designing a great website and giving the generous gift of expertise.

In addition to the STS website, they’ve done the websites for our 2020 Annual Report and recent Strategic Plan, and we can’t wait for our next project together. If you have a need for  “experienced geeks”, give us a shout – we’d be happy to chat about our experience and connect you with their team. We often talk about supporting business that do good, and this team is no exception. When you support businesses that support salmon recovery, you help build a community of people and businesses that are jointly invested in environmental stewardship.

To this day, we still have no idea why they picked the name “Montana Banana” and we’re fine with that.

Hatcheries and Wild Fish

Long Live the Kings (LLTK) has a dual mission, restore wild salmon and steelhead and support sustainable fishing in the Pacific Northwest. As such, we recognize the important role of hatcheries in mitigating for degraded freshwater habitat and providing opportunities for our fellow community members who have the rights, needs, and passion for fishing.

At the same time, we are aware of the potential and ongoing negative impacts of hatcheries, the fact hatchery fish require quality habitat too, and the importance of producing the right kind of hatchery fish that can match or adapt to environmental conditions as they change. Therefore, we are wary of the perspective that a simple across the board production increase in our existing hatchery programs is a fix to our low salmon abundance. Without a supportive ecosystem or diverse hatchery populations, more juvenile hatchery fish released may not equate to more salmon returning to our waters as adults. Further, even if increased hatchery production provides short-term gains, if done improperly, its impacts could leave people, salmon, whales and our shared ecosystem worse off in the long run.

Our ultimate goal will always be sustainable wild salmon runs, but this will take decades of work and deeper investments—especially in our most heavily urbanized or damaged areas—and strong attention to impacts of a changing climate. In the meantime, hatcheries remain a necessary tool that must be continually honed in response to new science.

The divide between people who are “pro” and “anti” hatchery is growing, and LLTK is labeled as either depending on who you ask. This polarization is unfortunate because, like many things, progress towards abundant salmon runs will be won through evaluation, understanding, common sense, compromise, and relentless improvement… not by picking sides.

We would like to take this opportunity to share our thoughts about hatcheries based on our 30+ years of history with them, and some of the issues that are intertwined with hatchery management.  We offer these insights in hopes that those with management authority will consider them and take the necessary steps to assure we have salmon and steelhead for this and future generations.

LLTK has a history with hatcheries.

In the 1980s, LLTK’s first project was to transform a traditional hatchery on the Wishkah River near Grays Harbor into a workshop with multiple fish-rearing strategies targeting wild fish recovery. Since then, we have been involved with assessing, operating, and experimenting with hatcheries and transforming their management.

Glenwood Springs
A rearing pond at Glenwood Springs on Orcas Island.

We currently manage two hatcheries. Our Glenwood Springs facility on Orcas Island is focused on supplementing Chinook salmon in the San Juans and the Strait of Georgia for harvest by humans and orca whales. Here, we are conducting experiments to improve the effectiveness of hatchery production, with a goal of higher survival rates at sea and larger returning fish. We also support a kokanee fishery in Cascade Lake and rear kokanee from Lake Sammamish for a wild population recovery program[1].

The second hatchery in Lilliwaup on Hood Canal is focused on rebuilding salmon and steelhead populations at severe risk of extinction. Our work here contributes to recovery efforts that include improved hatchery management, habitat restoration, and controlled harvest, with the combined goal[2] of ultimately removing these populations from federal endangered species listings and restoring them to harvestable levels. This facility has shown success working with steelhead, Chinook, and summer chum. In fact, Hood Canal summer chum recovery has been so successful, it is one of only two salmon populations in Washington trending towards delisting under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In addition to operating these hatcheries, from the late 1990s through 2010, LLTK facilitated Hatchery Reform, a bipartisan Congressional effort to help align hatchery production with wild fish recovery. The objective was to reduce risks hatcheries pose to wild fish while balancing the need to satisfy tribal treaty rights and commercial and recreational harvest goals. The Hatchery Scientific Review Group (HSRG) – an independent panel of academic, federal, tribal and state scientists– was formed and charged with reviewing all hatchery programs in Puget Sound and Coastal Washington. The panel then provided recommendations to state, tribal and federal managers for creating sustainable harvest and conservation goals for salmon populations and managing natural and hatchery production toward meeting those goals. They also provided guidance on how to monitor, evaluate, and adaptively manage hatchery programs in accordance with the best available science.

Fish measurement
A sampled young salmonid is measured during monitoring work.

The HSRG recommendations included promoting adaptation of natural and hatchery populations to local conditions, minimizing adverse genetic interactions and competition between hatchery- and natural-origin fish, minimizing the effects of hatchery facilities on the surrounding ecosystem, and maximizing the survival of hatchery fish.[3] On-the-ground, these recommendations were tailored to the specific watershed in which a hatchery operates.

Hatchery Reform was a fundamental shift from viewing a hatchery as an isolated fish production factory to hatcheries as an integrated part of Northwest salmon ecosystems. Some of the recommended actions for improving hatcheries have not been fully implemented, limiting the effectiveness of Hatchery Reform. Additionally, gauging the success of Hatchery Reform is a long-term effort across multiple generations of salmon, complicated by a changing physical environment, climate and aquatic ecosystem. Therefore, we believe tribal, state and federal managers should continue to focus on implementing the principles and recommendations of Hatchery Reform while simultaneously evaluating and adjusting these actions to manage our hatcheries in the context of performance, new science, climate change, laws and treaties, and societal goals related to hatchery and wild fish populations.

LLTK is very concerned with the future of both hatchery and wild fish in the Pacific Northwest

Severe declines in US and Canadian Chinook fisheries and survival of hatchery and wild fish in the ocean started well before cost-driven and ESA-related reductions in hatchery production in Washington State. Something in the marine environment changed drastically starting in the late 1970s, and the impacts continue to affect both hatchery and wild salmon.[4] Now environmental conditions in freshwater and marine environments are becoming less favorable and reliable for salmon production, complicating management in Washington State and across the entire Pacific Northwest.

The number of hatchery Chinook salmon released into Puget Sound has been reduced since the 1980s. But because the marine survival of Chinook, coho, and steelhead from the Salish Sea (Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia) has dropped significantly over the last forty years, we are not convinced that simply increasing hatchery production will result in a commensurate increase in the number of returning adult salmon. In fact, “business as usual” hatchery practices may become increasingly less effective as we face new environmental challenges.

The Salish Sea marine environment has changed in fundamental ways, and our salmon and steelhead populations may not be keeping up. Through the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, LLTK and our US and Canadian partners have worked together to investigate the changes and what we might be able to do about it. Factors affecting food supply–like climate change–and predation appear to be the most critical impacts to juvenile salmon and steelhead across Salish Sea populations, while impacts such as nearshore and estuary habitat loss, contaminants, and disease also impact specific populations in some areas. A thorough report of these results will soon be available at www.marinesurvivalproject.com. We already have begun working with our partners to test solutions to many of these problems.

Salmon eggs added to an incubator.

LLTK also strongly believes that there needs to be an initiative to not only protect but to increase the diversity of our salmon and steelhead, both hatchery and wild populations, to have an abundant resource now and into the future. About 40% of the wild Puget Sound Chinook populations have gone extinct, a large portion of which were earlier returning spring Chinook.[5] Today, fewer than 10% of Puget Sound Chinook return in the spring.[6]  Habitat loss and hatcheries have also affected the genetic and life history diversity of remaining Puget Sound Chinook populations, making them more homogenous. [7]  These impacts have removed the diversity that had developed to survive changes in climate and physical conditions over millennia.  Luckily, studies show there are still significant remnants of genetic diversity in our naturally spawning populations.[8]  There is also emerging evidence that genes that control size, return timing, and other characteristics that were historically more variable are conserved in hatchery (and presumably wild) salmon, and that it may be possible to express these characteristics again through experimentation and natural processes.[9]

Releases of juvenile Chinook from hatcheries have become less variable as well: since the 1970s, hatchery release windows have narrowed. Now, most Chinook are released into the Salish Sea around the third week of May. This differs substantially from wild Chinook which typically have prolonged, bi-modal outmigration periods with peaks in February-March and May-June.[10]

Lower life-history variability and loss of genetic diversity, including the change in balance of early and late adult return timing in our aggregate Chinook population (hatchery and wild, combined), may be setting these fish up for reduced success as climate and conditions change rapidly in the region. These environmental changes impact some areas and times of the year more than others. Diversity in salmon populations and variability in outmigration timing may spread our odds of success so that if one group of fish struggles, there are still others to meet our societal and environmental needs. In addition, other species in the ecosystem rely on salmon as prey throughout the year, such as our endangered Southern resident orcas. Can hatchery operations be modified to support these needs?

Hatcheries need to be the best they’ve ever been.

Chinook Spawning
Chinook salmon captured for spawning.

LLTK understands that approximately 80% of the Chinook that return to Washington State are currently hatchery-origin[11]. Given that we must balance the reality of extensive habit loss with our need to meet fisheries obligations, tribal treaty rights, and orca recovery goals, it is likely that hatcheries will continue to be a dominant form of salmon production in the Northwest.

This does not mean we should simply increase hatchery production to counter habitat loss. Instead, for the sake of the environment, and our tax dollars and fishing license fees, the quality of hatchery production is of utmost importance. We need to continuously experiment based on our understanding of salmon and how they respond to their ecosystem.  U.S. and Canadian scientists and hatchery managers are working to test hatchery practices that may improve marine survival and increase the size of fish that return to our waters as adults– both widely acknowledged problems. Trial efforts to restore lost diversity in wild populations are also showing promise, for example, re-introducing spring Chinook in the North Fork of the Skokomish River[12]. These sorts of efforts need to be supported and expanded.

If used properly–with appropriate production goals, a focus on factors affecting productivity, and well-managed risks–hatcheries can better and sustainably meet harvest needs and conservation objectives in the face of significant and ongoing habitat constraints. Continual updates and improvements to operations based on new science, refined standards, and an appreciation for new environmental realities like climate change should be a consistent part of good management. Success will require increased investment in our hatchery programs, effective and adequate monitoring (which is chronically underfunded), mutual trust and cooperation, and patience.

Opinions on hatcheries aside, we should all be working towards better habitat.

Shoreline armoring
A shoreline armored with old tires in the lower Duwamish River.

All salmon, hatchery and wild alike, need healthy habitat and clean, cold water. Increased focus is needed on habitat recovery and removing barriers to fish migration. These actions are critically important, but tragically underfunded. Conservative estimates suggest that only 20-25% of habitat actions needed to recover salmon and provide sustainable fisheries are funded. At this pace, we are hopeless to keep up with our rate of land development or even rebound from current impacts in the face of a changing climate.

Understanding that we will never have the funding to do everything immediately, we must prioritize strategically. Because our Chinook migrate from Puget Sound up the coast, the success of fisheries from Oregon to Alaska are related to protections for a few very weak wild Chinook populations in Puget Sound. Habitat recovery priorities should in part be guided by the specific recovery needs for these salmon populations. And finally, we must do much better at protecting the existing habitat we have, and that means fundamentally rethinking our relationship to the landscape, better prioritizing the needs of salmon, and being willing to make tough choices.

The bottom line.

LLTK recognizes and accepts the central role of hatcheries in supporting fishing opportunities here in Washington State, now and in the future. We recognize the intense problems for fishing communities associated with reduced returns of salmon and steelhead to Northwest rivers. We recognize that ESA listings for southern resident orcas and salmon make managing fisheries more difficult. But these challenges can be met. They must be.

As the world changes around us, wild and hatchery populations that may have been successful and able to support abundant fisheries in 1960 are proving to be less successful in 2020. We are convinced that just doing more of the same thing won’t yield the results we seek. Attempting to manage hatcheries in ways that ignore fundamental changes to the environment, new scientific findings, or competing priorities isn’t productive. We need more salmon diversity, critical analysis including effective monitoring, and determination to relentlessly improve on what we are doing today.

LLTK is advancing science and implementing solutions while we work to build a coalition of interested people and organizations to directly address these challenges based on science, rights, economics, and goals that leave our grandchildren with a better environment and more fishing opportunities.


[1] This program is supported by King County Natural Resources and the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group.

[2] Partners in this effort include Hood Canal Coordinating Council and their member organizations, Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, NOAA, WDFW, and others.

[3] See www.hatcheryreform.us for more information. In 2006, the HSRG went on to evaluate all hatchery programs in the Columbia River basin and many in California, facilitated by another party. LLTK continued working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to develop their own Hatchery Reform recommendations for their Northwest salmon and steelhead programs until 2010.

[4] See Long Live the Kings’ Salish Sea Marine Survival Project for more information. www.marinesurvivalproject.com.

[5] NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NWFSC-78 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service Independent Populations of Chinook Salmon in Puget Sound July 2006

[6] Losee et al. 2019. Changing salmon: An analysis of body mass, abundance, survival, and productivity trends across 45 years in Puget Sound. Fish and Fisheries 00: 1-18.

[7] Ruckelshaus, M.H., K.P. Currens, W.H. Graeber, R.R. Fuerstenberg, K. Rawson, N.J. Sands, and J.B. Scott. 2006. Independent populations of Chinook salmon in Puget Sound. U.S. Dept. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-NWFSC-78, 125 p.

[8] Ibid.

[9] McKinney et al. 2020. A mobile sex-determining region, male-specific haplotypes, and rearing

environment influence age at maturity in Chinook salmon. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.23.056093

[10] Nelson BW, AP Shelton, JH Anderson, MJ Ford, and EJ Ward. 2019. Ecological implications of changing hatchery practices for Chinook salmon in the Salish Sea. Ecosphere. 10(11):e02922.

[11] https://www.fws.gov/salmonofthewest/wild.htm

[12] This project is made possible by the Skokomish Tribe and Tacoma Public Utilities.

Post updated on March 24, 2021

Salmon for the Holidays… or Anyday!

In partnership with PCC Community Markets and Hama Hama Oysters, LLTK  hosted a webinar on December 16th where we stepped into the culinary world of salmon. In this webinar, we discussed salmon sustainability with Aimee Simpson, Director of Advocacy & Product Sustainability at PCC, and hear more about preparing salmon from Sara Harvey, the Culinary Operations & Saloon Manager at Hama Hama Oysters. Learn more about PCC’s sustainability program here and see Sara’s entire meal recipe below. Watch the webinar below.

Meal Overview

1. 2 hours before dinner – soak the cedar board, preheat the oven to 400
2. Make the mostarda (see below) – set that to the side
3. Since you’ve opened the bottle of wine for the mostarda, pour yourself a glass
4. 1 hour before dinner – Boil the potatoes
5. Clean the greens
6. Get the salmon set up on the board
7. 30 minutes out – throw the potatoes in the oven
8. Start sautéing the greens
9. When the potatoes are almost done (about 15 minutes), throw the salmon in
10. The greens should be done by now
11. Pull the potatoes out
12. Pull the salmon out (about 10 minutes)
13. You definitely need another glass of wine at this point
14. Dinner is ready


Cedar Plank Salmon

– cedar plank
– salmon filet (find your nearest PCC here)
– salt
– fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, fresh bay – what are you using in the mostarda?)
– olive oil

1. Soak the cedar board for an hour in cold, clean water – pat dry with a towel
2. Clean the fish – leaving the skin on, and removing the pinbones
3. Lay herbs down on the cedar board, lay the salmon skin side down over the
4. Salt the fish lightly, and drizzle olive oil over the top
5. Roast at 400 for about 10 minutes, or until the salmon starts to show little beads
of white on the edges, and the fattest part of the fish is warm in the center
(cooked to medium)
6. Remove from the oven leaving on the cedar board, and lay a few lemon rings on
top of the fish while it rests


Blackberry Mostarda

Option A – Make this sexy, more complicated Blackberry Mostarda

– about a quart of mixed berries – fresh or frozen
– a half cup of shallot, minced
– a cup of sugar – we like brown, any will work (try piloncillo, coconut, or palm)
– a cup of honey (or maple syrup)
– one half cup mustard seeds
– one quarter cup of whole grain mustard
– two tablespoons of dijon mustard
– a pinch of red chili flake
– a cup vinegar – raw apple cider is great, red or white wine will totally work – stay
away from balsamic or distilled
– a cup of red wine (tip: if you wouldn’t drink it, today – don’t cook with it)
– a generous tablespoon of chopped winter herbs – sage, thyme, rosemary all work
(though not necessarily together for this one)
– salt to taste, add towards the end

1. Add sugar, honey, vinegar, and wine to a medium sized heavy bottom pot – bring
to a gentle simmer
2. Add the mustard seeds, and cook for 5 minutes to soften them
3. Fold in the mustards, the shallot, and the chili flake
4. Fold in the berries and cook gently until the fruit begins to break up (not mushing
completely) – about 15 minutes over low heat
5. Remove from heat, mix gently, season with salt – and cool to room temperature

Option B – Throw plain blackberries on top of the cooked salmon and drizzle with a little
balsamic vinegar – *chef kiss*


Braised Winter Greens

– one bunch kale (for 2 people)
– three garlic cloves, large, chopped
– a large shallot or a small sweet onion, sliced thin
– one ounce olive oil (that’s two tablespoons if you’re playing along)
– one quarter cup chicken stock
– one tablespoon fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar
– salt to taste

1. Clean the kale by stripping the leaves off the stem, and tearing roughly
2. Wash and shake dry, don’t stress it too much
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, add the garlic and onion and
cook until browning and fragrant
4. Add the rinsed & torn kale, the pan will make all kinds of exciting sounds as the
residual water meets the oil, and creates steam – this will help wilt the greens
without overcooking them
5. Using a pair of tongs, toss the kale around until it starts to darken and stops
taking up so much room in the pan
6. Add the lemon juice or vinegar
7. Add the chicken stock
8. Cook until liquid is mostly gone and the greens are tender – cover if necessary or
add more chicken stock / water if you need.
9. Add a knob of butter at the end if you’re feeling decadent
10. Salt to taste


Smashed Taters

– A couple pounds of fingerling potatoes – little reds, or baby yellows would work
– Bay leaf, thyme, garlic – for the blanch pot
– Olive Oil
– Flake Salt

1. Put the potatoes, whole, in the pot
2. Fill it up with cold water
3. Add some sprigs of thyme, bay leaf, a couple garlic cloves – if nothing else, add a
generous amount of salt, the water should taste like the ocean
4. Bring the pot up to a boil, and gently simmer until the biggest potato in the pot is
fork tender
5. Drain and DO NOT RINSE – pick the herbs and garlic out and toss them
6. Leave them in the colander for a while – let them steam out – this is critical
7. While the potatoes are steaming in the sink, preheat your oven to 400
8. With a wooden spoon or your hands if you have no pain receptors, gently
sploosh the potatoes, so they smash down without breaking up totally – like a ball
of cookie dough at grandma’s house.
9. Generously oil a pan with cooking quality olive oil (not extra virgin – the smoke
point on that stuff is too low for what we’re about to do)
10. Put the smashed potatoes in the pan – drizzle more olive oil over the top – I
recommend about a half cup of oil total and toss them around to make sure it’s
evenly dispersed. **This is where you really need to look at yourself and ask how much of a
good thing is too much today, because you can add practically as much
fat as you like, with the result varying from nice roasted potatoes with a
little olive oil on them, to practically confited tender sodden nuggets of
flaky starchy fatty goodness with crispy skins peeling back and curling in
the oven’s heat . You drive this bus.

New device may keep seals away from the Ballard Locks, giving migrating salmon a better chance at survival

For Immediate Release: 8/26/20 – Seattle, WA 


A group of partners working to improve salmon stocks have deployed a newly developed device on the west side of the Ballard Locks that uses underwater sound to keep harbor seals away from this salmon migration bottleneck. If effective, the device may help salmon populations in jeopardy by reducing predation without harming marine mammals.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oceans Initiative, with support from Long Live the Kings, University of St Andrews, Genuswave, Puget Sound Partnership, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, and other partner organizations have deployed a Targeted Acoustic Startle Technology (TAST) on the west side of the Ballard (Hiram M. Chittenden) Locks. The TAST is intended to keep harbor seals away from the fish ladder allowing salmon to reach the Lake Washington Ship Canal from Puget Sound. Seals and sea lions are known to linger at this migration bottleneck and consume large numbers of salmon returning to the spawning grounds. If successful, the device may help recover dwindling salmon runs, without harming marine mammals.

“We are always looking for new innovations to help the environment,” said USACE spokesperson Dallas Edwards. “We are excited to see the results of this study.”

Every salmon and steelhead originating from the Sammamish or Cedar river must pass through the Ballard Locks twice during its life, once as a young smolt and again as an adult. With limited routes to get through the locks, salmon are funneled through a small area. This makes an easy meal for some marine mammals that use this human-made obstacle to their advantage.

Over the past 50 years, observers have also seen a spike in marine mammals near the locks, compounding the significant habitat declines over the past century across the watershed. This combination of factors has led to the lowest returns of salmon and steelhead in history, resulting in fishery closures and populations on the edge of extinction.

During the summer and fall salmon migration, the area is being monitored by scientists from Oceans Initiative, a Seattle-based marine conservation research nonprofit. The scientists are observing marine mammal behavior when the device is on and comparing that with their behavior when the device is off.

“Everyone at Oceans Initiative is excited to see whether this benign use of acoustic technology can protect endangered salmon, without harming seals,” said Laura Bogaard, who is leading data collection at the Locks. “During the first week of observing with the TAST on, it feels like  the seals have shifted away from the fish ladder compared to observation days when the TAST was off. We are keen to see if this observation is also reflected in our data when it comes time for analysis.”

If the device is effective at reducing the presence of marine mammals at the Locks, it may then be deployed at other locations in Puget Sound, giving resource managers a sorely needed tool to prevent marine mammals from consuming large numbers of salmon and steelhead at migration bottlenecks.

Designed at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, the TAST uses sound to startle animals and induce a flight response, causing the animal to leave the area, with the intention of training the animals to keep away altogether. It produces short sounds that are unexpected and startling, but does not lead to hearing damage, as is often the case for other acoustic methods. This helps to maintain its effectiveness much better over time. Recently, a Scotland-based company, Genuswave, brought the device to market after a number of peer-reviewed articles showed positive results.

Prof Vincent Janik, the Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute and one of the developers of the system remarked: “My colleague Thomas Goetz and I came across this very specific acoustic method after testing many commercially available devices and generally aversive sounds on seals. The reactions in our tests were in stark contrast to the habituation we saw in response to all other sounds. Seals avoided the area of exposure more and more over time, even when freely available food was presented next to the device.”

The TAST deployed at the locks is a marked improvement over similar devices used in the past. Some other devices using noise to deter marine mammals have seen very limited success and rely on high-volume sounds that risk damaging the hearing of marine mammals. The TAST being deployed at the Locks emits sound at volumes that do not harm seals or sea lions, and at frequencies outside the hearing range of salmon and other marine mammals, such as orca whales.

Marine mammals are notorious for eating fish at the Locks thanks to Herschel, an 800-pound sea lion that, with other sea lions, was a significant factor contributing to the decline of the nearly extinct steelhead population in the watershed. Almost every strategy available, including other acoustic devices, has been used to separate marine mammals from salmon at the Locks, but none have proven successful. While Herschel hasn’t returned to the locks since the 1980s, other sea lions appear annually, and smaller harbor seals are now seen camping in the fish ladder to intercept returning fish.

If the Locks are reopened this summer to the thousands of tourists who visit each year, they may be able to see the device in action or see scientists observing marine mammals in the area. Operation of the device should not affect visitors to the locks.

The effort to deploy and evaluate the TAST at the locks is made possible through a grant from the Puget Sound Partnership to build on the findings from the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, an international research effort led by the salmon recovery nonprofit, Long Live the Kings and their Canadian co-leaders, the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Other partners have invested time to make this effort possible including, NOAA Fisheries and the Suquamish Tribe.



Laura Bogaard, Oceans Initiative, lowering the underwater speaker into the water near the ballard locks.


Harbor seal with salmon at the Ballard Locks.


Harbor seal with salmon at the Ballard Locks.


Harbor seal with salmon at the Ballard Locks.


Harbor seal with salmon at the Ballard Locks.


Genuswave Targeted Acoustic Startle Technology (TAST). 



Laura Bogaard, Oceans Initiative, laura@oceansinitiative.org, (206) 334-4743

ALT: Rob Williams, Oceans Initiative, rob@oceansinitiative.org


Lucas Hall, Long Live the Kings, lhall@lltk.org, (206) 382-9555 Ext. 30


Prof Vincent Janik, University of St Andrews, vj@st-andrews.ac.uk, +44 1334 467214