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The Salish Sea was once an ecosystem with abundant wild Pacific salmon that supported fresh and saltwater ecosystems, thriving fisheries and Indigenous cultures. Beginning in the late 1970s, marine survival rates for Chinook, Coho, and steelhead, meaning the number of fish that survive migration from river to ocean and return as adults, mysteriously and sharply declined. Efforts to reduce harvest, restore habitat, and improve hatchery practices have not led to recovery. Our research efforts, conservation initiatives, and commitment to salmon health studies make up our Marine Science program.
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.
The initiatives within the Marine Science Program are based on the culmination of findings from the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project and identification of urgent priority areas for advancing recovery. This includes projects to identify and address bottlenecks to survival for salmon, green shore initiatives, nearshore and estuary programs, and the expansion of community-based science to continue to collect oceanographic information, map forage fish beaches, collect juvenile Chinook and Coho salmon, and restore habitats .
Pacific salmon are a keystone species in B.C., supporting ecosystems, culture, and more than $1 billion in economic activity. The people that care for them represent a breadth of vested and sometimes disparate stakeholders. During the last decade, the Pacific Salmon Foundation has launched some major initiatives that took a watershed-wide approach to salmon management by connecting multiple stakeholders and bridging information gaps.