West Coast Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries Management
Pacific salmon and steelhead are culturally, ecologically, and economically important to West Coast communities. Salmon fisheries are complex and require cooperation amongst many parties to ensure that the fisheries are managed sustainably.
Multiple factors—biological, political, economic, legal—are involved in the management of Pacific salmon and steelhead fisheries on the West Coast. Knowledge of the diverse life histories of Pacific salmon and steelhead assist in seasonal planning and management of these West Coast fisheries.
Management of salmon and steelhead fisheries relies on relationships between interest groups, laws, forums, treaties, and ecosystem interactions, and all play an essential role. Participants and communities collaborate and cooperate to meet goals for both salmon conservation and fish harvest in each West Coast fishery.
Salmon management also considers the larger ecosystem where fisheries occur, the relationship of salmon with other animals such as Southern Resident Killer Whales who prey on them, and effects from climate change on salmon habitat range. Currently, there are 28 populations of salmon and steelhead listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) across Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho.
The six individual pieces in the image above represent the many factors influencing salmon fishery management and their complex interactions. These include different forums, fishery areas, the salmon life cycle, and the interactions of salmon with their ecosystems, other species, and human-caused impacts. These are explored in more detail below. Each piece is important and is interconnected with the others to shape a management structure for all the Pacific salmon and steelhead fisheries on the West Coast, from Southeast Alaska to the Mexican border.
Learn more about West Coast Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries Management:
- Pacific Salmon Treaty and the Pacific Salmon Commission
- Columbia River and Snake River Fisheries
- Pacific Fishery Management Council
- Puget Sound Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries
- Ecosystem Interactions and Pacific Salmon
- Salmon Life Cycle and Seasonal Fishery Planning
- West Coast Salmon and Steelhead Fisheries Management Map
- Salmon Fisheries Management Glossary
Management of West Coast Pacific salmon and steelhead fisheries relies on the collaboration of fishers, communities, regionally-based forums, and other parties, which include the Pacific Salmon Commission, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the North of Falcon process, and the United States v. Oregon process. Salmon swim long distances and cross borders and boundaries, so many communities and groups participate in their management. These groups include the United States and Canadian governments, First Nations in British Columbia, American Indian Tribes in the United States, individual states and provinces, and recreational and commercial fishing groups from Alaska to California. NOAA Fisheries works with these groups to manage salmon and steelhead fisheries. In marine areas on the West Coast, five Pacific salmon species are managed: Chinook, chum, coho, sockeye, and pink salmon. In inland waters, fisheries are managed for all these types of salmon and steelhead.
Co-management of Fisheries
The foundation of West Coast Pacific salmon and steelhead fisheries management is to balance salmon conservation and fish harvest. Tribal fishing rights existed long before treaties with the U.S. Federal government. In the 1850s, tribes preserved their independent fishing rights by signing treaties with the U.S. Government. Since the 1970s, salmon and steelhead fisheries have been co-managed cooperatively between tribal governments and the States of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California. To make decisions, co-managers come together, communicate, listen, analyze the best scientific data available, and apply the information to meet the requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Pacific Salmon Treaty, and provide for the exercise of tribal fishing rights.
Participation from communities along the West Coast that represent commercial and recreational fishing interests and the public is also important to the management process. Tribal, state, and community representatives meet each year to plan fisheries through the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the North of Falcon process. The public also has opportunities to participate and provide input. Fishery management strategies are designed to allow change each year in response to the predicted number of salmon expected to return that year, environmental and ecosystem considerations, and the priorities of coastal communities. Co-management involves all representatives, can be seen as a continuous and collaborative process, and is built on working together towards conservation of salmon and steelhead fisheries and resilient coastal communities.
Learn more about organizations involved in salmon fisheries management:
- Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
- Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife
- Alaska Department of Fish and Game
- Canada Department of Fisheries and Ocean
Why is salmon fisheries management important?
Salmon are an iconic fish on the West Coast and an essential part of the West Coast marine ecosystem. They are a valuable food source to both humans and many other animals. Salmon transport nutrients and fertilize the ocean and rivers they return to, and all of us depend on healthy rivers and watersheds. They are economically, socially, and culturally significant to West Coast communities, especially tribal fishing communities. Salmon are one of the “First Foods” for tribes along the West Coast and are an important food source for tribal communities. Salmon play an essential role in tribal culture and spiritual ceremonies, with songs, artwork, and legends honoring the significance of salmon. Caring about salmon fishery management shows care for the areas and people that rely on salmon. The preservation and recovery of salmon habitats and freshwater rivers will help support and maintain the beneficial function of West Coast ecosystems. We all play a role in caring for salmon and their homes.
How can I get involved with salmon fisheries management?
Participation by the public is an important part of Pacific salmon and steelhead fisheries management (see links below). Some ways you can get involved include:
- Communicate with your area’s representative, Council members, advisory body members
- Join a group that represents your salmon fishery interests
- Attend meetings
- Provide written and verbal comments at public meetings on salmon management issues
- Serve on an advisory subpanel or team
- Learn about the different forums, laws, process, timelines, and context of decisions being made