Puget Sound Chinook Conservation and Rebuilding Scoping Document

Executive Summary

Chinook Salmon are the king of the Pacific salmon. Prized for their large size and strength, flavor and nutritional value, they are an icon of Pacific Northwest culture. The largest of the Pacific salmon, they were once common throughout the Puget Sound region, with as many as 690,000 returning from early summer through late fall. Dwindling returns, habitat degradation, historically high fishery harvest rates, and other factors resulted in the listing of Puget Sound Chinook salmon as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1999. Despite the ESA-listing and the subsequent development of a recovery plan, the status of Puget Sound Chinook Salmon is of increasing concern. The 2020 State of Salmon report categorized Puget Sound Chinook Salmon as “In Crisis” due to the gap between the number of spawners and recovery goals, the slow progress in closing that gap, and the limited likelihood of progress in the near future.

“Puget Sound Chinook Salmon are in trouble, but recovery is still possible—if we take bold and meaningful action now.”

Kelly Susewind, Director

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is now investing staff and resources in an expanded effort to conserve and rebuild Puget Sound Chinook Salmon runs. These efforts include support for improvements in habitat protection to ensure that Chinook Salmon have the clean, productive, pollutant-free river and estuarine waters essential for their survival. We are working with our recovery partners to increase funding for habitat restoration and minimize impediments to accelerated implementation of habitat restoration projects. We are also working with the tribal co-managers to develop and submit to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) a long-term fishery plan.

In this document we have compiled and summarized information that we believe will help inform our efforts to conserve and rebuild Puget Sound Chinook Salmon runs and develop the long-term fishery plan. We have focused on habitat protection and restoration because of its fundamental importance to the rebuilding of Puget Sound Chinook Salmon runs. Habitat degradation and climate change are the most important factors reducing the productivity and survival of Puget Sound Chinook Salmon. We have also included substantial information on fisheries because of the current effort to develop a long-term fishery management plan. Although we recognize the importance of hatchery programs, much of the essential information for that topic was presented and discussed during the recently completed, extensive public process that resulted in adoption by the Fish and Wildlife Commission of a new policy regarding hatchery programs.

We are asking for your assistance to review this document and provide your suggestions and comments on the following: 

  1. Are we missing important information? If so, what additional information would be important to include, and where might we find that information? 
  2. Are there errors in the information that we have summarized? If so, please identify those errors and the source of more accurate information.
  3. Are there new approaches to the management of recreational and nontreaty commercial fisheries that WDFW should consider as we develop and implement the long-term fishery plan?

We look forward to receiving your comments, updating the document, and using this information to help us develop and implement with our partners improved strategies to conserve and rebuild Puget Sound Chinook Salmon runs.