Role in Recovery
Conservation and Sustainable Opportunities
Salmon fishing has played an important role in the economy and culture of the Pacific Northwest
for centuries. Today, salmon fisheries contribute approximately $175 million per year to Washington's
economy, provide recreational opportunities for more than 150,000 anglers and sustain timeless tribal
To preserve this legacy, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has worked with tribal
co-managers and NOAA Fisheries to develop an integrated harvest-management system that supports
sustainable fisheries while protecting weak salmon populations.
A milestone in that effort was the development of "mark-selective" fisheries in the late 1990s,
when WDFW began to restrict the catch to hatchery-reared salmon in specific areas. By mass-marking
hatchery salmon before their release, WDFW made them readily identifiable on the fishing grounds.
This strategy has allowed fisheries to continue even in areas where wild salmon populations have
been listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). In those areas, the
inadvertent "take" of any listed fish is closely monitored to ensure compliance with strict
federal conservation standards.
These conservation measures have brought significant changes to Washington's salmon fisheries,
reducing the annual catch in many areas - particularly Puget Sound. At the same time, they
have also preserved fishing opportunities throughout the state and the resources that make
It is estimated that recreational fishers spent $904 million in Washington in 2006 pursuing
species such as salmon, steelhead, trout, crab, and clams, with tourists to Washington State
contributing over $65 million of those expenditures.
(Compiled by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
Hatchery salmon and steelhead form the backbone of our fisheries with over 75% and 90% of the
salmon harvested in Puget Sound and the Columbia River, respectively being hatchery
origin, while over 90% of the steelhead harvested across the state are hatchery origin.
Local personal income generated from Puget Sound hatchery production: $11.4 million annually
in commercial fisheries and $18.4 million in sport fisheries.
Local personal income from coastal hatchery production: $1.5 million annually in commercial
fisheries and $7.6 million in sport fisheries.
Local personal income from Lower Columbia River hatchery production: at $1.5 million annually
in commercial fisheries and $27.9 million in sport fisheries.
Collectively, local personal income from these three regions: $14.4 million in commercial
fisheries and $53.9 million in sport fisheries.
Washington's salmon and steelhead fisheries are managed cooperatively in a unique
One government is the state of Washington. The other governments are Indian tribes
whose rights were established in treaties signed with the federal government in the
1850s. In those treaties, the tribes agreed to allow the peaceful settlement
of much of western Washington, and provided the land to do so, in exchange for
their continued right to fish, gather shellfish, hunt and exercise other
A 1974 federal (U.S. v. Washington) court case (decided by U.S. District Court Judge
George Boldt) re-affirmed the tribe's rights to harvest salmon and steelhead and
established them as co-managers of Washington fisheries.
For more information how WDFW and Tribal Nations work together please go here >>
WDFW Harvest Priorities
Fishery management must change to protect and restore wild salmon and steelhead. Future
fishing opportunities will increasingly depend on our ability to focus fisheries on
hatchery-produced fish while meeting or exceeding ESA, recovery, or conservation goals
for wild salmon and steelhead.
- Expand selective fisheries to increase opportunities for recreational and
commercial fishing on hatchery fish and reduce the harvest of wild salmon
- Develop alternative commercial fishing gear to enable the selective harvest of
hatchery fish while protecting wild fish
- Improve fishery monitoring to assure that impacts to wild fish are accurately assessed
- Ensure compliance with fishing regulations
- Clearly identify fishery management objectives, review the status of wild salmon
and steelhead, and adjust harvest rates to better protect at-risk stocks