Puget Sound Chum Salmon
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Puget Sound Chum Salmon
Summer Chum Recovery
Planning Update
Chum salmon
Hood Canal and Strait of Juan de Fuca
Salmon Co-managers
The Point-No-Point Treaty Tribes including:
the Skokomish Tribe, the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe; and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Goal of the Plan
To protect, restore and enhance the productivity, production and diversity of Hood Canal chum salmon and their ecosystems to provide surplus production sufficient to allow future directed and incidental harvest of summer chum salmon.

Summer Chum Salmon Recovery Plan

The summer chum salmon runs in the streams of the Hood Canal and Strait of Juan de Fuca region are the earliest returning chum salmon stocks in the region. These stocks typically return from the ocean from mid-August through October to spawn predominately in September and October. They also are genetically distinct from the fall and winter timed chum salmon. In the 1980s, the summer chum stocks experienced a severe drop in abundance, with returns declining from tens of thousands to an all time low of less than 800 spawners in 1990.

In response to the alarming decline, the state and tribal co-managers implemented actions in 1992 to reduce the impacts of local fisheries on summer chum salmon, and, together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and citizen groups, initiated hatchery supplementation programs on two summer chum stocks. In March of 1999, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed the summer chum originating from Hood Canal and the Strait of Juan de Fuca as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Restoration actions have been expanded since 1992 and have resulted in a comprehensive recovery plan titled the Summer Chum Salmon Conservation Initiative. The recovery plan applies to all summer-timed chum salmon returning to streams in Hood Canal and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, including streams that may no longer support summer chum. This plan has been prepared by the Washington Department of Fish and Wild life (WDFW) and the Point No Point Treaty (PNPT) Tribes in cooperation with the USFWS and NMFS.

Current Status of Summer Chum Salmon

For the recovery plan, the most recent information on historical and current summer chum salmon distribution and on the genetic profiles of the populations has been reviewed. This analysis has resulted in an updated list of 16 summer chum stocks, which form the basic population units used throughout the recovery plan. Six current summer chum stocks have been identified in Hood Canal: Quilcene, Dosewallips, Duckabush, Hamma Hamma, Lilliwaup, and Union. Six additional stocks are identified as recent extinctions: Skokomish, Finch, Tahuya, Dewatto, Anderson, and Big Beef. In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, three currently existing stocks have been identified: Snow/Salmon, Jimmycomelately, and Dungeness. Chimacum is noted as a recent stock extinction.

A separate procedure has been used to estimate extinction risk based on the numbers of spawners representing each summer chum stock. This assessment identifies two stocks that are currently rated as having a high risk of extinction, Lilliwaup and Jimmycomelately. A moderate risk of extinction rating is assigned to the Hamma Hamma and Union stocks, and Dungeness is rated of special concern because of the lack of information on the numbers of fish. The remaining summer chum stocks currently are rated at low risk of extinction.

Focusing on the Problem

Factors with the potential for region-wide impacts on summer chum salmon are examined to identify those that have changed in concert with the recent summer chum salmon decline. Potential limiting factors that are considered include: climate and stream flows; ecological interactions with fish, birds, and marine mammals; cumulative habitat loss; and harvest impacts.

In Hood Canal streams, the continuous and cumulative reduction in habitat productivity and capacity has influenced summer chum salmon by lowering survival rates and population resiliency, and reducing potential population size. Net fisheries in Hood Canal, when combined with harvests in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, began to catch a high percentage of returning summer chum salmon in 1980, contributing to low escapements through the 1980s. At the same time, oceanic climate changes influenced regional weather patterns, resulting in unfavorable stream flows during the winter egg incubation season. Fall spawning flows dropped substantially in 1986 (also likely climate related), contributing to the poor status of these stocks. The current low production of Hood Canal summer chum salmon appears to be the result of the combined effects of lower survivals caused by habitat degradation, climate change, increases in harvest, and the impacts associated with the releases of hatchery salmon and trout.

The pattern of decline of summer chum salmon in Strait of Juan de Fuca streams is similar to the Hood Canal experience, however, the drop in escapements occurred ten years later, in 1989. The combined effects of reductions in habitat quality, stream flows, and fishery harvests have resulted in low summer chum salmon production in the Strait of Juan de Fuca region.

There have been a number of factors that are positive for summer chum salmon recovery. One is the successful reduction in harvests within Hood Canal fishing areas, averaging less than 2% of the runs during the 1993-1997 seasons. Successful supplementation projects are increasing the numbers of returning summer chum adults to two streams, and are providing eggs for reintroducing summer chum to two other streams. There have also been meaningful changes in the production of hatchery fish in the region, designed to reduce negative interactions with summer chum juveniles. The combined effects of these changes have contributed to some higher summer chum escapements in recent years. However, additional measures, particularly with respect to habitat protection and restoration, are required for successful recovery of summer chum salmon.

Fixing the Problem

The plan also evaluates factors for decline for summer chum salmon at the levels of watershed, fishing area, and stock, and provides specific strategies for recovery. Five elements are included: Artificial Production, Ecological Interactions, Habitat, Harvest Management, and Program Integration and Adaptive Management.

Artificial Production - Artificial production techniques are directed at only those existing populations identified as at risk of extinction in this plan, and also are to be used to reestablish selected populations that no long exist. The plan's objectives in developing supplementation and reintroduction projects are: 1) to rebuild summer chum populations at risk of extinction, 2) to restore summer chum to streams where a spawning population no longer exists, 3) to maintain or increase summer chum populations for use as broodstock donors for streams where summer chum have been lost, and 4) to avoid and reduce the risk of negative genetic and ecological effects.

The primary benefit of supplementation to natural populations is the reduction of extinction risk, while major potential hazards include hatchery failure, ecological effects from predation or competition, disease transfer, or genetic effects. Operational criteria are provided that describe how to supplement and reintroduce summer chum while minimizing the risks of hazards. Monitoring and evaluation are recognized as essential to the successful use of artificial production and will be used to measure the effects of supplementation and reintroduction on the natural summer chum populations.

To achieve benefits and avoid hazards, a selection process has been applied to the existing and recently extinct stocks to identify candidates for supplementation and reintroduction. The existing projects that are recommended to continue include supplementation for Big Quilcene, Lilliwaup, Salmon, and Hamma Hamma stocks, and reintroduction at Big Beef and Chimacum. A new project on Jimmycomelately Creek is also recommended. The Tahuya, Dewatto and Union rivers have been identified as candidates for future projects.

Ecological Interactions - There are complex sets of interactions that occur between organisms that share an ecosystem, and summer chum salmon can be affected in both positive and negative ways. The plan only addresses those negative competition and predation impacts that have been identified as a factor for decline that potentially has contributed to the summer chum decline (hatchery salmon and trout), or possibly may impact recovery (marine mammal predation).

The potential effects on summer chum salmon caused by existing hatchery production of salmon and trout are assessed based on specific criteria that define conditions for high, moderate, and low risk of impacts from hatchery operations, predation, competition, behavioral modification, and fish disease transfer. Measures for risk aversion are identified to reduce all moderate and high risks of hatchery programs to low risks. The co-managers are currently implementing the hatchery risk aversion and monitoring and evaluation measures recommended in this section of the plan. If further study shows substantial predation on critical summer chum stocks by harbor seals and California sea lions, mitigative measures may be applied to control the predation.

Habitat - This section of the plan describes the association between summer chum life stages and their habitats, in the streams and estuaries of Hood Canal and eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca. Habitat factors (stream flow, temperature, water quality, sediment, channel complexity, streamside forest condition, fish passage, and delta area condition) have been rated by their degree of degradation in individual watersheds. Several key habitat factors are degraded in nearly all watersheds:

  • Forest conditions along streams are dominated by small trees and deciduous species, and forest corridors are frequently too narrow to provide quality habitat for summer chum.
  • In most watersheds stream-side development, water withdrawal, and channel manipulations (removal of large wood, dredging, bank armoring) have severely damaged instream habitat.
  • Habitat is degraded in the diked portions of stream channels which are not allowed to meander naturally within the floodplain.
  • Most tidal areas adjacent to steam mouths have been developed for human use, which has resulted in loss or degradation of summer chum rearing habitat.

Protection and restoration strategies are recommended for the protection and reestablishment of natural watershed, estuarine, and nearshore processes that are critical to the maintenance of summer chum habitat. The plan provides guidance to focus local recovery activities on the key limiting factors in individual watersheds, to help prioritize restoration funding and make the most efficient use of limited resources. Both protection and restoration measures will have to be fully integrated into a coordinated recovery strategy involving landowners, community groups, the tribes, and government agencies.

Harvest Management - The plan's harvest strategies are designed to assist in the restoration of self-sustaining summer chum populations. The plan establishes an annual fishing regime (called the Base Conservation Regime) for Canadian and Washington fisheries which is designed to minimize incidental impacts to summer chum salmon, while providing opportunity for fisheries conducted for other species. This management strategy is expected to result in, on the average, a 10.9% total annual harvest of Hood Canal stocks, and an 8.8% total annual harvest of Strait of Juan de Fuca stocks. Many of the harvest restrictions incorporated in the Base Conservation Regime have been initiated in recent years.

Standards will be used to assure that: 1) there is a high level of compliance with regulations adopted consistent with the plan; 2) exploitation rates are met within any year, and at the time of plan review they are within the expected range and not clustered toward the extremes of the range; and 3) efforts are made to ensure that annual run size forecasts are as precise and accurate as possible. If the standards are not met, the co-managers will investigate any harvest management measures that will help to restore stocks to non-critical status.

Specific, integrated monitoring programs will be established to improve stock assessment methodologies as well as effectiveness of harvest management actions. The collection of spawner counts and numbers harvested is a stable and continuing core element of the monitoring program and current levels are believed to provide sufficient protection for summer chum populations. Information gained from suggested additional monitoring activities would improve management, and funding support will be sought for them.

Program Integration and Adaptive Management - The Summer Chum Salmon Conservation Initiative is intended to be an integrated plan, with each element contributing in concert with the other elements, leading to a successful outcome in restoring summer chum populations. Progress toward recovery of abundance, escapement, and overall survival levels will be measured by the performance of returning, natural-origin summer chum salmon.

Annually, the plan is assessed for compliance with the specific plan provisions and to determine if any stock falls below critical run size or spawner thresholds. If and when one or more stocks fall below the thresholds or there is failure in compliance with plan provisions, the co-managers will first identify and implement any emergency actions that should be taken, then will assess the problem and recommend solutions. Results will be presented in annual plan progress reports. Every five years, plan reviews will assess whether progress toward recovery is being achieved and whether the results of monitoring and evaluation studies indicate a need to revise assumptions and/or strategies and actions.

Plan Implementation

The fishery's co-managers, WDFW and PNPT Tribes, are committed to carrying out those provisions of the plan for which they have the authority (measures addressing harvest management, artificial production and ecological interactions). However, particularly with respect to summer chum habitat, the plan is only the first step in a larger planning effort that must continue if recovery of the summer chum is to succeed. The support of counties and other agencies, landowners, private nonprofit organizations, volunteer groups, and local citizens is important if these efforts are to succeed.

The following outcomes from implementation of the initiative are expected. No further extinctions will occur. Re-introductions of summer chum to currently unpopulated streams will occur through time. The past negative consequences resulting from hatchery fish interactions will be largely eliminated. The impacts of incidental fishery harvests on summer chum stocks will be minimized. Habitat, both freshwater and estuarine, will be returned to a more productive state. Annual monitoring, evaluation, and adaptive management will assure that recovery objectives are achieved. Ultimately, the combined effects of these actions is expected to recover summer chum salmon.

Puget Sound Chum Salmon Summer Chum Recovery Planning Update

Section 4(f) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires development of a recovery plan for species listed as threatened or endangered under the act. In 2002, the Hood Canal Coordinating Council (HCCC) took the lead in development of the Hood Canal and Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca Summer Chum Salmon Recovery Plan (SRP).

The HCCC submitted its locally developed recovery plan for the Hood Canal summer chum ESU to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) on November 15, 2005. The HCCC SRP incorporated the previous recovery planning work developed by the co-managers in the Summer Chum Salmon Conservation Initiative (SCSCI), and coordinated with local county staffs and Boards of County Commissioners in Kitsap, Mason, Jefferson and Clallam County to develop a strategic approach to protecting and restoring summer chum habitat. While the SCSCI concentrated on measures addressing harvest, hatchery, and ecological interaction factors, a key premise of the SCSCI is that “commensurate, timely improvements in the condition of habitat critical for summer chum salmon survival are necessary to recovery listed populations to healthy levels”. The HCCC SRP focused on the specific habitat factors which must also be addressed if Hood Canal summer chum salmon are to recover.

When entities such as the HCCC develop plans intended to provide for ESA recovery, NMFS writes a “supplement” which summarizes the plan and notes any necessary additions or qualifications. The supplement then becomes part of the ESA recovery plan for the ESU. On May 24, 2007, NMFS announced that it was formally adopting a recovery plan for Hood Canal summer chum salmon consisting of the HCCC plan and the NMFS supplement to that plan.

The HCCC plan, the NMFS supplement, and other information on salmon recovery planning can be found on the HCCC and NMFS website links below.