Northwest Treaty Tribes in 2015: Drought, uncertain fisheries

Last year’s historic drought and depressed salmon runs forced treaty tribes to make hard choices to protect natural resources for everyone.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission recently released its annual “Tribal Natural Resources Management” report. You can download or read the report online.

The report describes how tribes reacted to the drought:

In 2015, tribal hatchery managers worked to save salmon from potentially deadly water temperatures and low flows.


Temperatures higher than 60 degrees are bad for salmon because pathogens such as ichthyophthirius multifiliis (ich) and columnaris (gill rot) thrive in warm water. The diseases spread more quickly when the rivers are crowded by low flows, and can lead to increased pre-spawn mortality.

And fisheries:

Low flows and high temperatures in rivers, along with the Pacific Ocean’s “blob” of warm water, led to fewer numbers of salmon returning in 2015. As a result, several tribes closed or shortened fisheries. The Pacific blob also may have led to smaller-than-usual coho and pink salmon, because the warmer water lacks adequate nutrients.