SNOHOMISH COUNTY (Feb. 18, 2003) – Taking advantage of salmon runs boosted by favorable freshwater and marine
conditions, tribal and state managers are allowing ever-larger numbers of fish to return to their spawning grounds in 2002 in
the Stillaguamish and Snohomish systems. This harvest management strategy, which the co-managers say is an important step
forward in salmon recovery, builds on last year’s record escapement of chinook, pink, and coho salmon.
“Our harvest management strategy is working,” said Joe Hatch, Fisheries Manager with the Tulalip Tribes. “Great sacrifices
have been made by our fishing communities, but those sacrifices are starting to pay off.”
Chinook salmon, the region’s most high profile fish, are a prime example.
About 7,200 chinook salmon in the Snohomish river system — including the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers –
escaped to spawn this year. This exceeded the former goal of 5,250, and marked the fourth time in the past five years that
the co-managers were able to exceed this level. In 2001, they achieved the highest chinook escapement since at least 1965.
“Escapement” is the number of fish allowed to spawn in order to sustain a run at a desired level.
Perhaps the flashiest numbers in both the Snohomish and Stillaguamish systems showed up in chum salmon escapement. More
than 155,000 Snohomish chum moved upstream, shattering the minimum escapement number of 28,000 and representing the highest
observed Snohomish chum numbers since at least 1982. In the Stillaguamish, nearly 215,000 chum were able to spawn.
“We have years where not that many chum have come back to all of Puget Sound,” marveled Kit Rawson, harvest management
biologist with the Tulalip Tribes. Both Rawson and Hatch, though, cautioned against assuming that the gaudy numbers indicate
meaningful salmon recovery is at hand. Environmental factors, such as ocean and river conditions, fluctuate from year to
year. Fish returning to spawn in 2002 faced neither an El Ni