Recommendations toward reducing juvenile salmon and steelhead mortality

Guided by the findings of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, we recommend that critical research to address key questions about the0 impacts to salmon marine survival continues, and that we begin testing management actions now in response to what we’ve learned to date. Time is of the essence. Long Live the Kings, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and our partners have already begun efforts to help our young salmon and steelhead. In addition to the recommendations below that should be addressed at the regional scale, a local guidance report presents recommended strategies and actions to guide salmon recovery work at the watershed or site scale.  Priority recommendations include:

Protect and restore estuary and nearshore habitat for young salmon and their prey.

  • In Canada, PSF is supporting coastal planning and soft shoreline initiatives, along with efforts to assess and restore kelp and eelgrass to withstand warming ocean temperatures.
  • In the US, LLTK has helped increase emphasis on estuary and nearshore restoration in recovery plans and funding initiatives for Chinook and Southern Resident orca.

Recover herring populations, focusing on abundance and diversity.

Build resilience in salmon by protecting and increasing their diversity, helping reduce competition, disease, predation, and mismatches with prey. LLTK is increasing emphasis on protecting wild salmon diversity in recovery plans and their strategic plan. PSF, LLTK and tribal, state and federal partners are testing new hatchery rearing and release strategies that promote greater diversity in juvenile Chinook migration timing.

Assess strategies to reduce seal predation such as eliminating salmon and steelhead migration barriers that facilitate predation, removing or obstructing artificial haulouts, using predator deterrents and restoring habitat that provides protection for salmon.

  • In Puget Sound, LLTK is working with nonprofit Oceans Initiative, and tribal, federal, and state partners to test a new acoustic deterrent to reduce seal predation at salmon migration pinch points like narrow estuaries and the Ballard Locks.
  • LLTK and partners are also installing a mechanism to help young steelhead navigate past the Hood Canal Bridge, a migration barrier that currently results in nearly 50% mortality from seals and other predators that forage there.
  • PSF is developing a project targeting the removal of log booms, used as seal haulouts, in the Strait of Georgia.
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and University of Washington scientists are working to identify seal foraging hotspots to gain insight as to where predation may impact salmon the greatest.

Identify toxic contaminant hotspots and sources and work to reduce them. LLTK, tribal, state and local partners are focusing on ways to reduce the amount of flame retardants (PBDEs) entering the Snohomish estuary from a wastewater treatment plant. Here, wild Chinook are heavily impacted. State and tribal partners are also investigating the sources of PBDEs on the Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers.

Optimize the health and survival of hatchery-reared salmon. PSF, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other partners of the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative have developed a salmon FIT Chip, a new genomic technology for rapidly assessing the health and physiology of young salmon to make real-time management decisions.

Protect and manage river flows. Studies in British Columbia’s Cowichan watershed showed more salmon were eaten by predators when river flows were low. With climate change, low flows are expected to become more common in rivers throughout the Salish Sea. Management strategies can help keep enough cool water in rivers to reduce stress and predation for salmon at the start of their migration.

Improve forecasts of adult salmon returns and guide other ecosystem recovery actions. Leverage the ecosystem data and models established via the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project.

Establish a formal transboundary research structure to continue funding and facilitating these essential collaborative ecosystem science partnerships. One of the most important aspects of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project was the broad coalition of professional and community researchers it established. We must maintain this style of science to continue to evolve our relationship with our precious Salish Sea ecosystem.

Continue critical science.

  • Assess juvenile Chinook and Coho growth and bottlenecks to survival, especially through winter periods which are not currently well-understood.
  • Maintain and expand international ecosystem monitoring of salmon, forage fish, plankton and ocean conditions.
  • Continue to test innovative research techniques and strategies.

How you can help

  • Support ongoing research and recovery actions by making a financial contribution: Donate online at in Canada and in the U.S.
  • Let local and regional leaders know that investing in salmon recovery is vital for a healthy, prosperous, and sustainable Salish Sea.
  • Volunteer with a habitat-restoration project, join a community science team, and choose salmon-safe products for your home and yard.
  • Join the conversation by sharing our story with friends and family. Follow Long Live the Kings and the Pacific Salmon Foundation online as we continue to learn and apply new science for salmon recovery.