Chum Salmon Restoration Approach

Chum salmon were likely the second most abundant anadromous fish species in the river, numbering in the several thousands. They are considered a native, wild-origin stock, though a hatchery program did exist from 1975 through 1985. The status of Elwha chum salmon is considered critical, numbering in the low hundreds, at most. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (LEKT) has carried out a preservation program since 1994.

There is no harvest of chum salmon in the Elwha River.

A summary of the Elwha River chum salmon restoration strategies includes:

  • Release of smolts from the hatchery
  • Planting of fertilized eggs at locations throughout the lower and middle Elwha basin
  • Natural spawning of adults
  • Distribution of fry to upstream locations

Restoration Strategies:
Pre-dam removal
During dam removal
Post-dam removal

Pre-dam Removal:
Restoration efforts will focus on increasing the chum salmon population originating from the LEKT hatchery and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Elwha rearing channel. Facilities will be modified to accommodate additional fish production while water treatment and delivery systems are constructed to meet supply needs. Smolts will be released from the facility as a production strategy. There will be no chum harvest in the Elwha during this time.

During dam-removal:
While the dams are being deconstructed, large quantities of sediment will be released and conditions in the lower river may become temporarily unsuitable for spawning. For this reason, enhancement activities for chum will focus on increasing the chum population at the LEKT hatchery. At low return levels, enhancement will emphasize hatchery release of smolts. As adult return levels increase, the enhancement program will expand to include distribution of eggs and fish (at various ages) to upstream locations.


Post-dam removal:
Restoration strategies will continue to focus on hatchery production of smolts and distribution of fertilized eggs throughout the basin. Natural spawning will be encouraged and hatchery enhancement will be phased out as the chum population reaches self-sustainablility. If escapement goals are met, sport and commercial harvest may occur. The benefits achieved by migration of chum into upstream reaches will be factored into the decision before harvest of chum is allowed.

Complete Restoration Plan (200-page PDF):
Ward, L., P. Crain, B. Freymond, M. McHenry, D. Morrill, G. Pess, R. Peters, J.A. Shaffer, B. Winter, and B. Wunderlich. 2008. Elwha River Fish Restoration Plan – Developed pursuant to the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act, Public Law 102-495. U.S. Dept. Commer., NOAA Tech. Memo. NMFS-NWFSC-90, 168 p.


This webpage was made possible in part by a grant from Washington’s National Park Fund.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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