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We should follow the science to support salmon recovery. But how?

July 22, 2020

Populations of Puget Sound Chinook salmon are not recovering and finding out why is critical to shaping sound policy.

From the study:

Populations of Puget Sound Chinook salmon are not recovering, and we don’t really know why. 

[Members of] the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council are counting on scientists to help us understand why. The Puget Sound Salmon Science Advisory Group is looking at five potential reasons for poor salmon recovery. Those reasons include: we are doing the right things, but it will take more time; we have not done enough; we are not taking the right actions in the right places; our progress is being offset by habitat degradation elsewhere; we just do not have enough information. Many of these factors can be true simultaneously. Sorting out which are driving our failure is more difficult. 

To best ensure salmon recover, scientists should readily admit, as they are currently doing, they are still uncertain why salmon have yet to respond to existing recovery efforts, rather than blaming a politically disfavored source of the problem. In addition, one way to help salmon to recover is to avoid centralized decision making. Instead, salmon recovery efforts should focus on "local decision making allows those with first-hand knowledge and experience to apply it to make local projects more effective." In addition, because local decision makers are those most affected by salmon declines they have the greatest incentive to get the policies right and continue to monitor salmon populations over the long term. 

Myers is environmental director at the Washington Policy Center, a market-oriented think tank in Seattle. @WAPolicyGreen