Salmon 2100: The Future of Wild Pacific Salmon

Wild Salmon in Western North America: Forecasting the Most Likely Status in 2100

Robert T. Lackey, Denise H. Lach, and Sally L. Duncan


Restoring wild salmon to the Pacific Northwest and California is one of the most vexing public policy problems facing the region (Wu et al. 2003). Billions of dollars have been spent, people’s lifestyles have been affected negatively, and commercial activities altered, but still the prognosis for the long-term future of wild salmon has not appreciably changed.

The prognosis is problematic in spite of support for restoring salmon remaining a high priority policy goal, and a massive and far-reaching restoration effort continues. The recent and much improved salmon runs have been due primarily to changes that made ocean conditions more favorable to salmon; the improved runs do not appear to be the result of an effective or comprehensive restoration effort. As recently as 2004, a senior official of the federal agency in the United States responsible for recovering salmon observed that “there are no recovery plans in place for Pacific salmon” (Darm 2004).

The purpose of this chapter is to describe the most likely future for wild salmon given the best available current scientific information and the most likely future policy drivers. This chapter is not seeking to pass judgment on the desirability of current policies affecting salmon, nor to offer an opinion on what should be done, if anything, regarding the future of salmon in western North America.