Pink Salmon Restoration Approach

Historically, pink salmon were the most abundant of all salmonids in the Elwha River. The Elwha's pink salmon are a genetically distinct stock and have no history of hatchery assistance. Their population numbers are severely depressed as measured by extremely low returns.

The restoration effort focuses on a captive brood program, which will preserve the genetic integrity of this unique stock while increasing population numbers. Along with this, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe's (LEKT) hatchery will also be used to supplement the population during the few years surrounding dam removal.

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


Pre-dam-removal period:
Conservation efforts will focus on Elwha River stock protection by means of developing a captive brood program. This involves the careful collection of eggs from different generations of pink salmon. Because of the small population of pink salmon, there is the potential threat of inbreeding depression, or the reduced fitness of a population due to breeding of related individuals. Genetic sampling will be done to prevent this and maximize genetic diversity. If there is a lack of space at the current LEKT hatchery, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Hurd Creek facility will be used to rear fish.

During dam removal:
During the dam removal period, activities will continue to focus on genetic conservation using the captive brood program. As sediment yields peak and environmental conditions in the lower river are temporarily unsuitable for spawning, capture of adults will be attempted. Offspring will either be incorporated into the captive brood program or released into the river as fry. No harvests will be directed at Elwha River pink salmon during this period.

Post-dam removal:
At this time, pink salmon restoration strategies may move from genetic conservation to stock rebuilding. Monitoring will provide critical information regarding recolonization rates and genetic makeup of Elwha pink salmon populations. Returning adults will be encouraged to spawn naturally and captive brood fish will be used to supplement the population. Hatchery enhancement of pink salmon may be considered if populations fail to respond. If natural populations do expand, hatchery programs will be phased out as the population begins to achieve self-sustainability. If both captive brood programs and natural recolonization fail, importation of stocks from other rivers will be considered.

Complete Restoration Plan:
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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