Fish in the family Salmonidae (salmon, trout, and charr) are unique in their cultural, economic and ecological role in Puget Sound. Because they utilize a very wide range of aquatic habitat types throughout their life history, they play potentially integral roles in the upland freshwater, nearshore and pelagic marine ecosystems and food webs of Puget Sound. They also provide key trophic links between habitats through their migratory behavior. While there is much variation in the behavior and ecology within and among the different salmonid species in Puget Sound, they typically use freshwater habitats to spawn, after which juveniles emerge and eventually migrate to nearshore estuaries or directly to marine pelagic habitats. The watersheds and nearshore habitats of Puget Sound currently support 8 species of salmon, trout, and charr (NOAA 2007), four of which are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These are Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), chum salmon (O. keta), bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) and steelhead (O. mykiss).
Puget Sound salmon:
Puget Sound trout
Puget Sound charr
In recent decades, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to restore habitat for Puget Sound salmon. In this article, we look at how scientists are gauging their progress. Are environmental conditions improving or getting worse? The answer may depend on where you look and who you ask.
A biennial report produced by the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office provides stories and data about salmon, habitat, and salmon recovery in Washington, including Puget Sound.
A 2017 report from the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program presents an overview of selected recent monitoring and research activities focused on toxic contaminants in the Salish Sea.
The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) is an independent program established by state and federal statute to monitor environmental conditions in Puget Sound.
A new approach to flood control is taking hold across Puget Sound. Rivers, scientists say, can be contained by setting them free. Conservationists hope this is good news for salmon recovery.
As threatened Chinook populations in Puget Sound continue to lose ground, the state is looking to new strategies to reverse the trend. In the Skagit watershed, the scientists — and the fish — are among those leading the way.
A new study shows that increased populations of seals and sea lions are eating far more of Puget Sound’s threatened chinook than previously known, potentially hampering recovery efforts for both salmon and endangered killer whales.
The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program released its fifth annual Marine Waters Overview this week. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2015 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds, fish and marine mammals.
New techniques for studying orcas have been credited with breakthroughs in reproductive and developmental research. Drones and hormone-sniffing dogs are helping scientists connect declines in food supply with low birth rates and poor health. Update: The research described in this 2016 article has now been published in the 6/29/17 issue of the journal PLOS ONE.
New, smaller acoustic tags will allow scientists to track steelhead migrations in Puget Sound in ways that were once impossible. Will they provide answers to the mysterious decline of these now-threatened fish?
The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project has mobilized dozens of organizations in the U.S. and Canada to find an answer to one of the region's greatest mysteries. What is killing so many young salmon before they can return home to spawn? A series of talks at the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference brought together some of the latest research.
Many of Puget Sound's chinook salmon spend their entire lives in local waters and don't migrate to the open ocean. These fish tend to collect more contaminants in their bodies because of the sound's relatively high levels of pollution.
A 2015 report from Snohomish County, King County and the Tulalip Tribes outlines protection strategies for salmon and salmon habitat within the Snohomish Basin.
Researchers are proposing a shift in thinking about how some of the region’s most damaging pollutants enter Puget Sound species like herring, salmon and orcas.
A 2016 paper in Environmental Pollution identifies dozens of pharmaceuticals and other compounds that are accumulating in Puget Sound fish such as salmon.
Food webs are natural interconnections of food chains and depict what-eats-what in an ecological community. While Puget Sound represents a specific food web, the organisms that reside within that web often travel outside the region. In this way, one community's food web can be drastically affected by a change in a neighboring ecosystem.
Decaying organic matter plays an important role in marine ecosystems.
For close to 100 years, Seattle's Ballard Locks has been one of the region's busiest waterways, drawing major boat traffic along with millions of tourists. But as it prepares to celebrate its centennial, the aged structure is also drawing the concern of engineers. They worry that an earthquake could cause the locks to fail, draining massive amounts of water from Lake Washington and Lake Union. In some scenarios, the two lakes could drop by as much as 20 feet, stranding boats, disabling bridges and causing big problems for salmon restoration.
Chinook, coho and sockeye salmon, along with steelhead trout, live in the Lake Washington watershed and navigate a treacherous route through the Ballard Locks on their way to Puget Sound.
Chinook, coho and steelhead populations in Puget Sound have declined dramatically over the past 30 years. In some cases, counts of fish returning to the rivers are just a tenth what they were in the 1980s. While many possible causes of this decline are under consideration, some researchers are focusing on the combined effects of predators and disease. This article continues our coverage of the ecological impacts of disease in Puget Sound.
The 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book brings together statistics and other information about the health and makeup of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Areas of focus include climate change, geography, water quality, habitats, human dimensions and regional species. The fact book was prepared for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Partnership.
This report documents how Washingtonians have responded to the challenges of protecting and restoring salmon and steelhead to healthy status. It also serves as a tool to summarize achievements, track salmon recovery progress through common indicators, and identify data gaps that need to be filled.
This 2008 report highlights the vision and accomplishments of ESRP in advancing an ecosystem restoration strategy in Puget Sound to restore the ecosystem processes that are essential for a self-sustaining coastal ecosystem.
This report highlights the vision and accomplishments of ESRP in advancing an ecosystem restoration strategy in Puget Sound to restore the ecosystem processes that are essential for a self-sustaining coastal ecosystem.
Salmon recovery demands both dedication among people with different interests, and sustained resources. This biennial report tells the story of the progress made to date and the challenges ahead.
Scientists say low marine survival rates threaten Puget Sound coho salmon populations. A 2015 article in the journal Marine and Coastal Fisheries reports that wild cohos in the Salish Sea had higher smolt survival rates over a 30 year period than hatchery coho salmon. Smolt survival in the Strait of Georgia during that time declined faster than it did in Puget Sound.
A 2015 paper presented to the International Whaling Commission compares the impacts of kayaks and powerboats on killer whale populations.
Development of a stormwater retrofit plan for Water Resources Inventory Area (WRIA) 9: Comprehensive needs and cost assessment and extrapolation to Puget Sound
A 2014 King County report projects the capital and maintenance costs of the stormwater treatment facilities that would be needed, within WRIA 9 and the Puget Sound region, to fully comply with the Clean Water Act.
A December 2014 paper in the journal Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management describes a project to identify transboundary ecosystem indicators for the Salish Sea.
Scientists are rethinking floodplain management in Puget Sound. Can we have our farms and salmon too?
The decaying seawall along Seattle’s waterfront is providing scientists with an opportunity to improve long-lost habitat for migrating salmon. It could also show the way for habitat enhancements to crumbling infrastructure worldwide. One University of Washington researcher describes the project.
A 2014 paper decribes how monitoring the energy density of key Pacific salmon species could affect the recovery of northern and southern killer whales through fisheries management.
Monitoring and adaptive management of the Nisqually Delta after tidal marsh restoration: Restoring ecosystem function for salmon
This 2009 report by the Nisqually Tribe establishes key measures of restoration development, habitat processes, and Chinook salmon response for the largest delta restoration project in the Pacific Northwest.
New research presented at the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference shows that some of the greatest dangers to Puget Sound marine life come from our common, everyday activities. These pervasive sources of pollution are so woven into our lives that they are almost invisible to us, but it’s becoming impossible to ignore their effects.
The growth and survival of young salmon in streams, river deltas and floodplains are seen as crucial pieces of the salmon recovery puzzle. In part two of this two-part series, researchers at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Seattle say the complexities of the salmon life cycle require new coordination among scientists.
Scientists say Puget Sound’s salmon are dying young and point to low growth rates in the marine environment as a possible cause. In part one of this two-part series, scientists consider threats facing young salmon in the open waters of Puget Sound.
Scientists say eelgrass, an unassuming flowering plant found just off shore in Puget Sound, is vital to the health of the ecosystem. They also say the plant is declining. New and increasingly urgent efforts to restore it brought a group of researchers to the 2014 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference.
A 2014 report describes a study of socio-cultural values associated with blueback salmon in the Quinault Indian Nation. The blueback salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) is a unique strain of sockeye that returns primarily to the Quinault river system.
Lead Entities are local organizations in Puget Sound that develop salmon recovery strategies and priorities for the region on a watershed-based scale.
An October 2013 report released by the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program inventories and assesses monitoring activities of Puget Sound's ESA-listed salmon and steelhead stocks and habitats.
Extended abstract: Ecological response and physical stability of habitat enhancements along an urban armored shoreline
This paper describes a multi-year effort testing whether shoreline enhancements at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle have improved conditions for fish and invertebrates as compared to armored shorelines.
Report: Economic analysis of the non-treaty commercial and recreational fisheries in Washington State
This report, published in 2008 by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, summarizes the economic importance of Washington fisheries using data from 2006. The report's Executive Summary is reprinted below, followed by summaries of data specific to Puget Sound.
Puget Sound Chinook Salmon recovery: a framework for the development of monitoring and adaptive management plans
The Puget Sound Recovery Implementation Technical Team has released a draft of a NOAA technical memorandum describing frameworks for adaptive management and monitoring of Chinook salmon in Puget Sound. Download the report.
This technical report produced for the Puget Sound Nearshore Partnership on Valued Ecosystem Components (VEC) summarizes existing knowledge of salmon use of nearshore habitats in order to help protect and restore these habitats.
Methods and Quality of VSP Monitoring Of ESA Listed Puget Sound Salmon and Steelhead: With Identified Critical Gaps 2012
A recent report by an independent science panel reviewed data on the effects of salmon fisheries on Southern Resident Killer Whale populations. The report was released on November 30, 2012 and was commissioned by NOAA Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The State of Our Watersheds Report is produced by the treaty tribes of western Washington, and seeks to present a comprehensive view of 20 watersheds in the Puget Sound region and the major issues that are impacting habitat.
The Tulalip reservation is located near Marysville, Washington. It was created after the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855, and currently has a population of 2,500 members. The entire tribal population is approximately 4,000 and growing.
Tulalip Tribes Area of Concern:
The Stillaguamish Tribe is descended from the Stoluck-wa-mish River Tribe, who signed the treaty of Point Elliott in January 1855. Some tribal members moved to the Tulalip reservation, while others remained along the Stillaguamish River. The headquarters for the tribe are in Arlington, Washington.
Stillaguamish Area of Concern: