The Project

Something is definitely going on in the (Salish Sea) marine environment that is negatively affecting salmon, steelhead and forage fish; things are changing and we need to understand how and why.

Mike Grayum, Director, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project represents years of international collaborative research aimed at understanding a key question for Pacific Northwest salmon recovery: what is limiting the survival of juvenile salmon and steelhead in the Salish Sea? Since 2013, over 60 partner organizations and 200 scientists in the U.S. and Canada have contributed to the project, the largest and most important research of its kind in the shared waters of British Columbia and Washington State. This massive effort, coordinated by project leads Long Live the Kings and the Pacific Salmon Foundation, has developed the first comprehensive knowledge base of the environmental factors impacting salmon survival as they enter marine waters.

The findings, summarized in the 2021 Synthesis Report, paint a complex picture of the interrelated factors at play in this critical early stage of the salmon life cycle. The body of evidence points to changes in the food web – both the availability of food for salmon, and the increasing impacts of salmon predators – as the largest contributors to declining marine survival, with habitat loss, pollution, and disease also affecting local populations. As partners continue to pursue further research to refine our understanding of these issues, the final results of the Marine Survival Project are already informing management decisions and providing new strategies to stop the slide toward extinction, recover salmon, and ensure a future for sustainable fisheries.

Two fishing boats are docked in a harbor with rolling hills and a blue sky with puffy white clouds in the background. Recovering Chinook, coho and steelhead in Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia will have a tremendous economic up-side for recreational, commercial, and tribal fisheries and related industries such as tourism.
The black back and dorsal fin of an orca whale emerge from calm blue water flecked with rain. A blue hilly coastline is in the background. Salmon serve as a key indicator of the condition of the Salish Sea. Addressing what’s causing salmon declines will also influence challenges facing other species (i.e. killer whales) and move us toward a healthier and more productive environment for our region’s people.
Photo of a Coast Salish carving in grey, weathered wood, showing the stylized head and torso of a person wearing a rounded hat.Salmon are iconic in the Pacific Northwest and have significance across ethnic and cultural lines. Their health preserves tribal and First Nations treaty obligations and sustains a sense of place for the people of the Washington State and British Columbia.


What is the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project? – Dr. Dick Beamish explains