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1 Introduction ~ d THE SALMON PROBLEM The "salmon problem" is easy to state, hard to analyze, and even more difficult to solve. Salmon have lived together with people in the Pacific North- west for at least 10,000 years. Before European and American explorers and settlers arrived in the Pacific Northwest of North America in the nineteenth century, salmon were so abundant there that an American Indian economy had been founded on them; yet human exploitation rates and disturbances of the fishes' environment were small enough that the salmon populations did not di- minish over the long run. Wild salmon, which once numbered more than 8-10 million returning adults in the Columbia River basin alone, have declined to less than one-tenth that number up and down the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Most of the fish that now return began their lives in hatcheries. Although we refer to the decline in the numbers of salmon as "the salmon problem," it is a problem for people those who make their living from the fish, such as Indians in subsistence lifestyles and trollers who catch fish commercially; those charged with regulating fisheries in the public interest; and the 9 million human inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest, for whom salmon are a symbol of their geography, a way of life, a delicacy, and . . ~ . . an zinc locator of ecosystem condition. Because salmon are important across the society of the Northwest and in the United States, they are protected under the Endangered Species Act, the North- west Power Act, the Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and other fed- eral statutes. The web of rights and obligations that form salmon policy draws 18
INTRODUCTION 19 into the salmon problem a remarkable variety of interests and actors. Salmon migrate down and up rivers, and some of the rivers have dams, so dam operators are involved. Salmon rely on high-quality water, so pollution control including regulation of agriculture, mining, ranching, and suburban runoff is important. Salmon originating in the Pacific Northwest are caught by fishers in several U.S. states and western Canada and by members of Indian tribes under treaties to which the United States is a party. In addition, salmon are produced in hatcher- ies, and the wild and hatchery fish interact biologically. Thus, the salmon prob- lem is entangled with so many arms of human society that it is a policy problem affecting the economy. The decline in salmon numbers has been observed and lamented for at least a century and a half, as the human population has grown and economic activity has increased. As early as 1848, the Oregon Territory's constitution prohibited dams across salmon streams; the Washington Territory created management regu- lations as early as 1859, although many of them were more for allocation than for conservation (Wendler 1966~. Hatcheries were seen as important to maintain the salmon runs on the Columbia River as early as the 1870s. By 1919, regulations in Oregon and Washington called for closed seasons, restrictions on gear, and prohibition of purse seines; but they were not well enforced (F.J. Smith 1979~. More recently, petitions have been filed to list some species or populations as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA); lawsuits have been filed, meetings have been held, federal laws have been passed, and more than $1 billion has been spent over the last 10 years alone to improve salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest. Despite extensive recent efforts and activities to improve conditions for salmon, their overall populations in the region continue to decline. (The decline is not universal: some populations or stocks in some streams are not declining, and some in the northern part of the range are even increasing; see Chapter 4 for details.) In response to concern over the continuing decline of salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest and the controversies about how to arrest or reverse the decline, Congress requested advice from the National Research Council (Senate Report 102-106, Appropriations Bill for Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies, 19923. The National Research Coun- cil thereupon established the Committee on Protection and Management of Pa- cific Northwest Anadromous Salmon to evaluate information on the status of various stocks in the Pacific Northwest, identify causes of their decline, and suggest a comprehensive approach to protecting and managing them (the com- plete charge to the committee is in Appendix A).
20 UPSTREAM: SALMON AND SOCIETY IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST COMPONENTS OF THE SYSTEM The Region The Pacific Northwest includes Washington, Oregon, and Idaho; northern California and southeastern Alaska are often considered to be part of the region. The southwestern part of British Columbia is in every physical and biological aspect part of the Pacific Northwest, but it is part of Canada. The committee focused on the region shown in Figure 1-1, although it considered conditions in adjacent areas to the north and as far south as Monterey Bay ir Northern Califor- nia. Chapter 2 reviews the region in detail. The Salmon In the Pacific Northwest, seven species of Pacific salmon (members of the genus Oncorhynchus, including cutthroat and steelhead trout; see Table 1-1) spawn in freshwater, migrate to sea, and return to freshwater to spawn and com- plete their life cycle; fish with this complex life cycle are called anadromous (Figure 1-2~. Some of the species have populations that are not anadromous. Two of the species steelhead trout (the anadromous form of rainbow trout) and cutthroat trout have recently been reclassified from Salmo to the Pacific salmon genus Oncorhynchus (Smith and Stearley 19893. This report considers only anadromous salmon species and populations. Two other salmonidsi that have anadromous populations, Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malnJa) and bull trout (S. confluentus), are not discussed, because their anadro- mous forms are scarce and not well known in the Pacific Northwest. Freshwater habitats seem to provide optimal spawning and rearing areas for these fishes, but the ocean provides better environments for growth. Some spe- cies migrate thousands of miles at sea, where they grow quite large; some popu- lations of some species never go to the ocean. The species vary considerably in the time they spend in freshwater or at sea. Salmon return to spawn, or "home" with various degrees of fidelity to the same place in the same stream where they were spawned. The homing habit results in local populations being adapted to particular streams: The genetic distinctions of local populations, or demos, make the genetic structure of salmon complex and different from that of most fish species. Chapter 2 contains more information on the biology and ecology of the Pacific salmon and Chapter 4 discusses the status of wild salmon populations, including difficulties in evaluation of status. iMembers of the family Salmonidae. which includes freshwater and anadromous fishes in three major subgroups: the whitefishes and ciscoes (subfamily Coregoninae); graylings (Thymallinae); and salmon, trout, and chars (Salmoninae).
INTRODUCTION 21 FIGURE 1-1 The Pacific Northwest and the Columbia River Basin. The committee focused on the area up to the U.S.-Canada border and southward to Monterey Bay, Cali- fornia (not shown). Note how much of the region is encompassed by the Columbia River Basin (dotted line). Source: Columbia River System Operation Review 1993. Evolutionary, Genetic, Ecological, and Spatial Units of Concern Pacific salmon are widely distributed and occur in diverse habitats; they are correspondingly biologically diverse. Each species is divided genetically and evolutionarily into subspecies (races) and into narrower and narrower local breed- ing populations (demos). These are described in detail in Chapter 6. The Endan
22 UPSTREAM: SALMON AND SOCIETY IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST TABLE 1-1 Seven Native Species of Anadromous Salmon in Pacific Northwest Common Name(s) Scientific Name Pink (bumpy) salmon Chum (dog) salmon Sockeye (red, blueback) salmon Coho (silver) salmon Chinook (king, spring) salmon Steelhead (anadromous rainbow) trout Sea-run cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus gorbuscha O. keta O. nerka O. kisutch O. tshawytscha O. mykiss (formerly Salmo gairdneri) O. clarki (formerly Salmo clarki) On the way, Adult fish enter the rivers and move upstream toward spawning areas... Ocean and river harvests reduce the numbers ~ of returning t'~ salmon... :~, Enter ~>the ocean... ~ to maturity By\ in ocean... Natural Propagation.. Spawning females deposit eggs In gravel nests In streams where the eggs are tenilized by adult males. Males and females then die. Some steelhead do not die after spawning... - ~ EOurvivors crow _~ _ - ggs hatch ~ - _ in the streams An__ end young tish a_ live there until A they are ready Am) ~ .. tominrate... _ ~ As smolts travel from streams to main ~ rivers and on to the ocean, some must pass dams and all must dodge predators. =~ Chan ein ~ ~ body color and Arm i'' Aft... ~ ~ are fertilized with sperm .trom multiple males to ~ ensure genetic diversity. I Eggs and young are cared for at the hatchery, smelts I are released into streams... ~ _~ ·~-of~ ·. :~} ~9 FIGURE 1-2 General life cycle of salmon and steelhead. Source: NMFS 1995. gered Species Act protects not only species but, for vertebrates, "subspecies, varieties, and distinct population segments." However, the act does not define "distinct population segments." It would be important to understand what levels of evolutionary (or taxonomic) and genetic variation are important biologically (see NRC l995b for a discussion of identifying distinct population segments). What are the biological consequences of preserving or not preserving spatially distributed salmon populations, such as all the salmon in a watershed, river, or
INTRODUCTION 23 stream? Spatial units of concern include both freshwater and ocean habitats. Biological relationships of salmon to freshwater are well known because a river has an easily studied upland watershed and a lake has a clear shoreline and is without abyssal depths. Considerably less is known about the vast and widely dispersed ocean habitats of salmon. Salmon spend some of their lives in freshwater and some in the sea and are subject to management in both. Fishery management in the two systems is quite different (Magnuson 1991~. In general, the difference is characterized by the use of manipulations in freshwater systems, sometimes as drastic as poisoning a lake or stream and restocking it. Hatchery supplementation of freshwater systems and management of their species composition, including introduction of exotic spe- cies, is common. One major reason that such an approach can work is that freshwater systems have well-defined boundaries and are usually fairly small. In contrast, the management of marine fisheries historically has depended only or mainly on attempts to assess or predict the size of the stock and regulate fishing effort. Enhancement and other manipulations of the marine environment are comparatively rare. Natural environmental variations and humans' activities in freshwater affect the salmon stocks at sea, and vice versa; this adds complexity to the salmon problem and to attempts to solve it. The People As the glaciers receded about 10,000 years ago, the Pacific Northwest was populated by the ancestors of the American Indians who live there today. They benefited from and depended on the natural resources of the region, including salmon. Salmon became an important part not only of the native peoples' sustenance, but also of their culture. As salmon became an integral component of American Indians' culture, the effect of people on salmon increased as well. There is evidence that native peoples caught large amounts of salmon in some areas (Hewes 1947, Walker 19671. When Euro-Americans first arrived in the region in the eighteenth century, they too took advantage of Nature's bounty, including salmon. By the 1870s, salmon populations had begun to decrease (C.L. Smith 1979J. But salmon con- tinue to have important commercial and cultural values for inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest. The diversity of cultures and institutions, the diversity of values and goals, and the complexity of physical and social infrastructures in the region all contribute to the salmon problem. All must be considered in any proposed approach to a solution.
24 UPSTREAM: SALMON AND SOCIETY IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST COMPONENTS OF THE PROBLEM Limits to Biological Production Human populations and institutions have reduced the numbers of salmon not only by fishing, but also by modifying the land and waters of the Pacific North- west. When people noticed declines in salmon runs, they tried to compensate for them by increasing salmon production with hatcheries or technological modifica- tions to the fishes' environment, such as fish ladders and mechanical transporta- tion schemes and instream projects that attempted to improve habitat. Salmon fishing also was restricted. Those approaches have not been successful, at least on a regional scale, inasmuch as salmon populations continue to decline. The salmon production cycle has three principal components that determine abundance: reproductive potential of adults returning from the sea to spawn, which is affected by their growth at sea; production of offspring from natural reproduction in streams and artificial propagation in hatcheries; and sources of mortality (including natural mortality, fishing mortality, dam-caused mortality, mortality from habitat alterations and changes in environmental conditions, and so on). All three components are affected by changes in environmental condi- tions as well as by human activities. Production from salmon returning to fresh- water to spawn is affected by interactions between natural and hatchery stocks. Habitat sets an upper limit on salmon production, which cannot be exceeded easily even with technological assistance. The number of salmon removed from the system by all agents (e.g., fishing, dams, habitat loss, and consumptive water use) has steadily increased. The growing losses have been easy to overlook because it has not occurred to everyone that a dam that reduces a salmon run by 100 adult fish takes just as much as a person who catches 100 adult salmon. Thus, a dam or an irrigation system reduces the amount of fish available for fishing just as much as ocean trolling reduces the amount of fish available for tribal set-nets or recreational fishing upriver. Solving the salmon problem re- quires that people understand those equalities. Institutions Many state, federal, local, regional, tribal, international, and private institu- tions have jurisdiction over or influence some aspect of the salmon problem. As described in Chapter 13, institutions have complex behaviors and commonly change slowly; understanding and managing them is not easy. Yet because they are essential to the conduct of human lives in modern society, understanding them and perhaps adapting them are essential to solving the salmon problem. Current institutional arrangements in the Pacific Northwest have contributed to the salmon problem and probably will need modification if the problem is to be solved.
INTRODUCTION 25 Knowledge A great deal is known about salmon, rivers, climate, the oceans, human behavior, institutions, how to manage fisheries, and other relevant matters. Yet much remains unknown, and some gaps are crucial to a long-term, stable solution to the salmon problem. As the rest of this report makes clear, enough is known now to improve the prospects for salmon in the short term if knowledge is applied wisely and quickly, but not enough is known to warrant confidence in a long-term regional plan for salmon. In addition, the components of the salmon problem and the pertinent disciplines are so diverse that no person can know all that needs to be known for a comprehensive solution. Thus, the salmon problem is in a sense a cognitive problem whose solution will depend on close cooperation and col- laboration of people with many kinds of experience and expertise. This report attempts to provide the background for such a solution. APPROACHES Goals Finding cures to the salmon problem promises to be even harder than recog- nizing its character and scope. People do not agree on how or even whether they should modify the region's human population size, their behavior, and their economic contributions to halt or reverse the decline in salmon, even though they do agree that such a reversal should be achieved. The salmon problem, like so many other controversies in natural-resource management (Ludwig et al. 1993), reflects conflicting goals and values, many of which are unarticulated and so cannot be squarely addressed. Part of the need to articulate and discuss diverse goals and values is practical: actions undertaken without clear articulation of goals are unlikely to achieve anything useful. Consideration of goals and values has been essential to this committee in addressing how to approach the salmon problem, and has led it to frame its conclusions and recommendations in terms of rehabilitation of salmon stocks a pragmatic approach to improving the situation that relies on natural regenerative processes in the long term and the selected use of technology and human effort in the short term-rather than on attempts to restore the ecosystem to some pristine former state and rather than on a primary reliance on substitu- tion, i.e., the use of technologies and energy inputs, such as hatcheries, artificial transportation, and modification of stream channels. The concepts of habitat restoration, rehabilitation, and substitution are discussed in detail in Chapter 8. Framework In considering options for solving the salmon problem, the committee first
26 UPSTREAM: SALMON AND SOCIETY IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST had to consider a range of frameworks or contexts into which the solutions would fit. For example, the framework in which some people operate is the desire to increase catch levels, a framework for others is the desire to restore the salmon's environment to some pristine state; yet others might prefer to focus on economic development of the various natural resources in the region. The committee considered four general categories of framework: continued degradation of the salmon's environment, restoration of the natural environment to some pristine condition, substitution; and rehabilitation. · Continued Degradation. Unless a substantial coordinated effort is made to reverse the trajectory of environmental decline, it will continue, and the num- ber of salmon runs and their abundance will continue to decline along with it. Although there might be worthy reasons for allowing the decline to continue, the committee's charge (see Preface) did not include this option, and the committee did not consider it. · Restoration. Restoration of Pacific Northwest ecosystems is no longer possible in many portions of the region. Many ecosystems have been so altered that it is difficult to decide what the pristine condition was. The process by which the environment arrived at its current condition is not totally reversible. Genetic variability has been lost; evolution has occurred; exotic species have been intro- duced; human populations in the region have increased, and people have devel- oped dependence on a variety of modern technologies, cultures, and economic systems; and other natural and a~nthropogenic environmental changes have changed the range of biophysical and socioeconomic possibilities for future states of the system. In brief, the past provides opportunities for the future but also constrains it. Because of anthropogenic impacts and because of the dynamic nature of most stream systems, it is not possible to return many streams and rivers of the Pacific Northwest to a specific pristine condition. However, there are major opportunities for restoring riparian and aquatic ecosystem functions and processes to many streams and rivers throughout the region, particularly those in public ownership. It will be a major challenge to current and future generations to see how many, and to what extent, riparian and aquatic functions and habitats can be restored throughout the range of anadromous salmon. · Substitution. By substitution the committee means investing substantial energy, time, and money on a continuing basis to replace natural ecosystem processes that have been destroyed or degraded. Examples of substitution could include production hatcheries, barging of young salmon around dams, construc- tion of fish ladders and stream channels, altering instream flow by drawdown or changing storage, and other activities that can reasonably be expected to require continuing human input. Substituting for natural processes to maintain salmon runs is possible in at least some portions of most streams, but it would be expen- sive, and the cost in human and financial resources is expected to increase rather than to decrease or stabilize in the future. This approach has several things to
INTRODUCTION 27 recommend it, but there is no compelling evidence that it will reverse salmon declines or protect against unwelcome surprises in the future status of various stocks. Such activities also will limit other uses of natural ecosystems and their natural functioning. Finally, as the ability of human actions to make up for natural processes lags behind expectations, the danger is that either more and more drastic interventions will be undertaken or the whole effort will be aban- doned and the salmon will be lost. Therefore, the committee has focused most of its attention on rehabilitation as a goal. · Rehabilitation. By rehabilitation the committee means a process of human intervention to modify degraded ecosystems and habitats to make it pos- sible for natural processes of reproduction and production to take place. Reha- bilitation would protect what remains in an ecosystem context and regenerate natural processes where cost-effective opportunities exist. It might be necessary to use the technologies and techniques suggested in the preceding paragraph to maintain the essential ecosystem components in the short term, but the ultimate goal is to modify (i.e., rehabilitate) the systems to the point where human input is substantially reduced or even stopped altogether. Substantial local opportunities for ecosystem rehabilitation exist throughout the region and they should be taken advantage of. Although this framework implies reduced management costs over the long term, it requires a long-term commitment to achieve positive results.