A Proactive Sanctuary Strategy to Anchor and Restore High-Priority Wild Salmon Ecosystems
Guido R. Rahr and Xanthippe Augerot
We have failed to sustain healthy populations of wild salmon in the North Atlantic and more recently in the southern and central regions of the North Pacific (Lichatowich 2001; Montgomery 2003; Augerot 2005). Our inability to coexist with salmon is startling because both Atlantic salmon Salmo salar and Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. have been valued very highly by human cultures throughout history and have been the focus of some of the most ambitious and expensive recovery efforts directed at any wild fish. Despite concerted, large-scale conservation initiatives in the United States and Canada, beginning in the 1930s, we have been unable to slow the decline of wild salmon populations in the southern portion of their range. Unless we direct our recovery and restoration funding toward priority salmon ecosystems, there is a strong possibility that continued human population growth, increasing resource scarcity and our globally oriented economic system will drive many wild salmon populations in western North America toward extinction.
In this chapter, we describe a salmon sanctuary strategy designed to protect and restore selected centers of salmon productivity and diversity within river basins located in each ecological region of western North America (Figure 1). It is important to note that this strategy is not a comprehensive solution to salmon declines. It will not restore all of the region’s salmon populations to healthy levels. Nor should adoption of this strategy be seen as an argument to weaken county, state, and federal regulations and statutes or local volunteer efforts to protect salmon and their habitat outside of sanctuary or stronghold basins.