Chum Salmon Baseline and GSI in Southern Boundary Region

This proposal seeks to expand the Chum SNP baseline to identify fall-, winter-, and summer-run Chum salmon population contributions to mixed fisheries in the Southern Boundary area. Southern Boundary Chum salmon populations have been in general decline yet have recently become a higher priority fishery. Fisheries have shifted to Chum salmon because Chinook salmon have declined and their harvest is restricted. Further, resident Orca Whales, also in decline in Puget Sound, prefer Chinook salmon and are another factor diverting fishing effort to Chum salmon. Several rivers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and North Puget Sound support Chum salmon, including the Elwha, Nooksack, Snohomish, Skagit, and Stillaguamish rivers. Although wild Chum salmon numbers are low, Tribal and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) hatcheries maintain Tribal and non-tribal fishing while supporting wild populations. However, because Chum salmon from a hatchery are generally unmarked, we conduct marine fisheries without information on the contributions of specific stocks or hatchery programs to the fishery. Due to the recent elevated importance of the Chum salmon fishery, both the Tribes and WDFW require information to manage fisheries to protect weak stocks and to ensure that fish return to terminal areas. Further, for fisheries in the Southern Boundary area, we need to identify fishery components to adhere to guidelines in the Pacific Salmon Treaty regarding Chum salmon harvest limits by U.S. fishers in relation to Fraser Chum salmon abundance.

This project will identify components of two mixed fisheries over four years to better understand the origins and abundance of wild and hatchery Chum salmon harvested in Strait of Juan de Fuca and North Puget Sound throughout the season.