SEATTLE, Wash. — Leaders on salmon research and recovery from the U. S. and Canada came together in Seattle Wednesday to announce a new project.
It’s called the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project and it’s meant to address a major question: Why aren’t salmon and steelhead in Washington and Canadian waters recovering, despite the millions of dollars that have been spent on research and habitat restoration?
“We have a fairly clear idea of what salmon need and what they’re doing in the freshwater environment. We know considerably less about the marine systems,” said Jacques White, executive director of Long Live The Kings. The Seattle-based non-profit is coordinating the effort along with the Pacific Salmon Foundation in B.C.
White says the project will focus on answering questions about what’s happening to salmon and steelhead when they leave the freshwater rivers and enter Washington’s Puget Sound and British Columbia’s Georgia Strait.
“There will be an increased effort to track fish, an increased effort to track their food and an increased effort to look at how that relates to physical parameters in the environment,” he told a small gathering at the Seattle Aquarium.
It’s a $20 million project. They money will be split between salmon managers and researchers in British Columbia and Washington.
The Canadians plan to raise their part of the project through revenues from recreational fishing licenses and through private foundation support.
Washington state has appropriated $800,000 for the project but future funding sources are unclear at this point.
“We have made drastic reductions in harvest in both state and tribal fisheries over the past two decades and despite those reductions in harvest our wild populations of salmon and steelhead in Puget Sound have continued to decline,” said Phil Anderson, head of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We have to figure out what the cause is of the high mortality rates of our juvenile salmon that are entering Puget Sound and the balance of the Salish Sea or our investments in the rest of these areas will not bring the kind of results we are looking for,” Anderson said.
The marine survival for many stocks of chinook, coho and steelhead that migrate through the Salish Sea is now less than one-tenth of what it was 30 years ago.
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