Sustaining North American Salmon: Perspectives Across Regions and Disciplines

Chapter 14: Ecological Perspectives on Pacific Salmon: Can We Sustain Biodiversity and Fisheries?

E. Eric Knudsen


Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. may arguably be the most studied group of exploited fishes. Yet, with many populations already extinct, a number listed as threatened or endangered, and many others depressed (Nehlsen et al. 1991; Slaney et al. 1996; NRC 1996a), biologists remain unable to answer critical questions for the public regarding sustainability of these salmon populations. Natural salmon production is significantly down in many of the remaining U.S. Pacific Northwest and some British Columbia populations, leading to significant reductions of important subsistence, commercial, and sport fisheries. Further, although many Alaskan and some British Columbia populations have been at all-time highs over the past several decades (e.g., Holmes and Burkett 1996; Wertheimer 1997), there have been serious declines during the past several years in some important Alaskan populations relative to record high previous years (e.g., Kruse 1998). The obvious question in light of these pervasive declines is: how can we sustain biodiversity and fisheries?