Tribes partner in marine survival research

Source: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Treaty Indian tribes have invested millions of dollars in hatchery programs and habitat restoration, but poor marine survival continues to stand in the way of salmon recovery.

Marine survival rates for many stocks of chinook, coho and steelhead that migrate through the Salish Sea are less than one-tenth of what they were 30 years ago.

“We have a solid understanding of the factors that affect salmon survival in fresh water,” said Terry Williams, commissioner of fisheries and natural resources for the Tulalip Tribes. “To improve ocean survival, we need a more complete understanding of the effects of the marine environment on salmon and steelhead.”

The Tulalip, Lummi, Nisqually and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes are among the partners in the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, which also brings together state and federal agencies from the United States and Canada, educational institutions and salmon recovery groups. The Salish Sea is the name designated to the network of waterways between the southwestern tip of British Columbia and northwest Washington. It includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Strait of Georgia, the waters around the San Juan and Gulf islands, as well as Puget Sound.

Led by the non-profit Long Live the Kings and the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the project is coordinating and standardizing data collection to improve the sharing of information and help managers better understand the relationship between salmon and the marine environment.

The project is entering a five-year period of intensive research, after which the results will be converted into conclusions and management actions.

“A new collaborative approach is being taken,” Williams said. “The question is, what do we do with the information we have and how do we make predictions?”

For more information, visit the Long Live the Kings website.