Perhaps no other migration story is quite as famous as the travels of the Pacific Salmon. Each year the fish make an epic voyage from mountain streams to the far reaches of the Pacific Rim, only to return after maturing at sea to that very stream in which they were born to reproduce. Wild salmon and steelhead of the northwest coast are a treasure to our nation and the Northwestâ€™s ambassadors to the world.
Salmon are essential to the economy, culture, and natural systems of the Northwest. As survivors of the Ice Age, wild salmon have supported rural communities and tribal cultures for centuries. The tradition continues today as salmon provide stable jobs in the outdoor recreation and fishing industries, world-renowned fishing opportunities, and healthy food along the Pacific Coast and the inland West.
In the early 19th century, salmon were so abundant that the Columbia River system saw 16 million salmon returning each year alone.
Sadly, habitat destruction, dams, over-fishing, pollution, and competition with hatchery fish are severely threatening the survival of many types of salmon. Only 1 percent of wild salmon return to these vulnerable waters today.
Salmon are also among the animals most vulnerable to climate change. With every degree the water temperature rises, these coldwater fish become more susceptible to disease and, ultimately, extinction.
In the 1980s, the west coast salmon industry included more than 80,000 people and was valued at over a billion dollars annually. Today, as a result of the severe salmon declines from dams, habitat destruction, and other threats, fishing opportunities are severely restricted and coastal and river communities have been hurt by the loss of critically important jobs and revenue.
The Sierra Club is actively working to protect the salmon by:
- Protecting and restoring watersheds and reducing polluted storm water runoff in the Puget Sound basin
- Fighting to remove dams that harm salmon populations by preventing Snake and Columbia River salmon from returning to their spawning grounds.
- Preserving important private forests in the Northwest to protect and connect high and low elevation salmon habitats, keep streams cool, improve water quality, and reduce carbon pollution
- Securing protections for important salmon habitat in the Olympics, Alpine Lakes, and North Cascades