Pacific Salmon: Ecology and Management of Western Alaska’s Populations

Failures to Incorporate Science into Fishery Management and Recovery Programs: Lessons from the Columbia River

James A. Lichatowich and Richard N. Williams


Abstract.—The Pacific Northwest states of Oregon, Washington, California, and Idaho are engaged in a massive effort to restore depleted populations of Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. The region’s largest watershed, the Columbia Basin, is the focus of what has been called the world’s largest attempt at ecosystem restoration. After 26 years of implementation, the failure of the program to achieve its modest recovery goal was the result, in part, of a failure to incorporate the latest science into the program. The fundamental assumptions and principles that guide the selection of recovery tasks and their implementation were not based on the latest scientific understanding of the salmon production system. Three impediments to the incorporation of science into management and recovery programs are identified: an inadequate conceptual foundation, fragmented institutional structures, and political interference. Each impediment is illustrated and discussed using case histories from the Columbia River.