NOAA Coastal Storms Program
Setting the Stage
Pacific salmon have tremendous economic, cultural, recreational, and biological importance in the Pacific Northwest region. For example, they are
- One of the most valuable commercial fisheries in the United States,
- A resource relied upon by native Americans for nutrition, income, and culture,
- A prominent recreational fishery,
- Providers of important nutrients to inland riparian areas, and
- A primary food source for marine mammals, such as killer whales, and many birds and land mammals.
Seven species of Pacific salmon and trout are found in the Pacific Northwest, many of which are considered endangered or threatened under federal and state laws. To learn more about the current status of Pacific salmon, see NOAA’s webpage on Endangered Species Act Salmon Listings or the US Fish and Wildlife Service's page on Bull Trout.
To understand how different processes affect salmon, an appreciation of their complex life cycle is essential.
The Salmon Life Cycle
Pacific salmon have a unique life history or cycle, which requires them to rely on multiple habitat types (streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and the ocean). Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) are commonly found in the Pacific Northwest and are referred to as silvers. Some species spend a full year in the stream where they were born before migrating out to sea. As adults, they spend about 15 months at sea before returning to the stream where they were born to reproduce (spawn).
Roll over each image below for additional information on that life stage.
Salmon and Restoration
Restored portion of Longfellow Creek showing weirs
Because salmon utilize multiple habitat types, restoration projects in the Pacific Northwest focus on improving habitat for all life stages of salmon
- Gravel size, stream flow, and temperature are important factors for salmon embryos;
- Young salmon (fry and parr) require invertebrate food sources and shelter;
- Healthy estuaries are necessary for smolt development; and
- Access to streams and suitable spawning habitat are required by spawning adults.
Now that you have some understanding of salmon and their habitat requirements, you are ready to proceed to the Opening Statement and Objectives of the investigation.