Historic Steelhead Abundance: Washington NW Coast and Puget Sound

(With Particular Emphasis on the Hoh River)

Authors: Bill McMillan and Nick Gayesk

Date: Prepared for the Wild Salmon Center, May 2006

For lack of sufficiently long histories, each new generation of resource manager has commonly made decisions based on the status of the fishery they inherited when their profession began. This leads to what has been called “the shifting baseline syndrome” in which a progressively diminished resource is passed on to each new generation of biologists who come to accommodate and to manage for perpetual resource depletion. The result has been a global fisheries disaster as described by Daniel Pauly (1995) in his paper, Anecdotes and the Shifting Baseline Syndrome of Fisheries, published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. This can continue to occur despite efforts to preserve and/or recover habitat.

The Hoh River Trust owns and manages 4,685 acres of land to provide refugia for expression of Hoh River salmonid biodiversity outside of Olympic National Park. This paper provides a thorough historic perspective from which to manage for perpetuation of steelhead as but one indicator of the larger Hoh River ecosystem. Because of the long lack of using a sufficiently old baseline from which to determine management decisions, some of that Hoh River history is now largely unknown. In its absence, a composite of histories from other West Coast rivers, regions, and species was used to fill in the historic information gaps. The status of a functioning salmon and steelhead ecosystem of intertwined species and habitats can begin to occur within the adaptive context of geological and biological time – past, present, and future.

The report is available to download in the following sections:

Title and Contents
Extended Summary
Part I: Historic Steelhead Abundance
Defines the problem; how historic information was developed and where it came from; and a sequence of prehistoric and historic information leading to the example of past and present Hoh River steelhead abundance
Part II: Historic Steelhead Abundance
Provides detailed comparative steelhead histories of Puget Sound, Stillaguamish River, Queets River, Quileute River, Quinault River, and Alaska’s Situk River.
Part III: Historic Steelhead Abundance
Conclusions drawn and references.
Part IV: Determining Escapement Goals to Rebuild Wild Steelhead Populations: What Role Should Stock Recruit Analysis Have?
Discusses the limitations inherent in the conventional use of stock-and-recruitment analysis to establish harvest-based spawning escapement goals, and then discusses a more limited but potentially more fruitful use of stock-recruit analysis from a conservation and recovery perspective.
Part V: Appendix: Stock-Recruit Analysis of Hoh River Wild Winter-Run Steelhead Data For Brood Years 1978 to 1999
An application of the stock-recruit analysis described in Part IV to recent data for the Hoh river wild winter-run steelhead population.