The Northwest: towering mountains, longhouses, technological innovation, orca whales & salmon. The Northwest’s identity cannot be defined without the salmon that have sustained people and their cultures since time immemorial. Whether enriching forests with oceanic nutrients, providing sustenance to wildlife & humans, creating a spiritual connection to the earth, inspiring youth, or supporting generations of fishers, salmon are a profound icon defining our connection to place.
Salmon are as complex as they are magnificent. In their lifetime, spanning up to seven years, salmon migrate thousands of miles across several ecosystems—from mountainous headwaters, down creeks & rivers, through estuaries, to the North Pacific Ocean, and back again. They have remarkable abilities to survive fresh & saltwater, and extraordinary navigational skills that lead them back to where they once came, ready to spawn their next generation.
Salmon are the heart of the Salish Sea. Their health is an indicator of the overall health of the Pacific Northwest environment and, in turn, our own health. When salmon thrive, we thrive.
Salmon and steelhead have declined to historic lows and face daunting challenges at every phase of life. Over time, populations have declined, diversity within species has been all but lost, run timings have become uniform, and geographic distribution has narrowed. Long Live the Kings (LLTK) focuses on critical problems and builds inclusive, powerful constituencies to solve them. Several interconnected issues will be our priorities over the next five years.
Supporting salmon ecosystems top to bottom: from whales to zooplankton.
herring abundance & geographic diversity in Puget Sound
reduction in seal predation, especially at major migration bottlenecks
toxics in critical salmon habitat
In 2014, we co-founded this project with the Pacific Salmon Foundation of Canada, coordinating 60+ partners across 90 studies to determine why juvenile salmon are dying in Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia. Now, we are leveraging the findings to influence salmon recovery actions from an ecosystem perspective. Highlights include: working to increase herring populations (salmon prey), reducing contaminants in estuaries, and deterring predators.
Working to restore diversity in salmon populations, their habitats, and food sources.
Lake Sammamish Kokanee contributed annually from adults reared at our field station on Orcas Island
increase in older, larger returning Chinook
estuaries for salmon, humans, and climate benefits
Decades of compounding problems have reduced genetic, behavioral, and geographic diversity of salmon populations. Today, nearly all Puget Sound Chinook leave rivers at the same time and age, and are returning much smaller. This uniformity reduces the resilience of these salmon populations, putting them at greater risk from threats such as disease, lack of food, and drought. Rebuilding diversity will increase resiliency, creating populations that can better survive. To boost diversity, we are working with partners to test new hatchery techniques and restore estuaries.
Improving or removing human-made migration obstacles in Puget Sound.
more juvenile steelhead survive passage at the Hood Canal Bridge
the removal of dams & culverts
salmon survival in urban areas (Ballard Locks, Lake WA Ship Canal)
This is one of Washington’s largest migration obstacles with 50% of juvenile steelhead not surviving past it. For perspective, all eight Snake & Lower Columbia River dams & reservoirs combined kill nearly the same percentage of fish trying to pass them. Armed with two years of intensive field research, our interdisciplinary team is identifying solutions to test as soon as 2022.
Using Survive the Sound (STS) as a catalyst for launching additional education efforts and building a large constituency of vocal salmon advocates.
youth in salmon and environmental conservation programs annually
people following LLTK and committed to salmon recovery
lawmakers to better align policy & funding with salmon recovery goals
We aim to build a diverse community of conservation leaders equipped with the knowledge to protect salmon & steelhead. Survive the Sound reimagined salmon education, attracting 100,000+ students & the general public. We will keep improving the program & ensure it is accessible to all students (in '19, 48% of classrooms were from Title 1 schools). By expanding our reach, engaging with communities, educating students, and bringing the latest science to decision makers, we will grow a powerful constituency of salmon advocates.
Working with every level of government, tribal nations, universities & schools, commercial & recreational fishers, environmental groups, donors, businesses, and the public, LLTK takes a collaborative & iterative approach to salmon recovery. We learn, plan, & act.
We work across borders & scientific disciplines to resolve major barriers to salmon recovery & management. We convene experts, design & launch studies, and create science-based resource management tools. The evidence we find fills critical information gaps, progressing toward salmon recovery & sustainable fisheries. Our largest undertaking is the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project. Other work includes hatchery experimentation, steelhead monitoring, and researching salmon predators & prey.
Unprecedented changes to the natural environment affect fish in dramatic ways. To help imperiled stocks survive, we provide resource managers with the latest information & practices. This takes many forms: improving species recovery plans, identifying & building new sources of financial support, sharing best practices, & navigating policy systems with overlapping, and sometimes conflicting, mandates. We spent a decade improving hatchery practices to reduce impacts to wild fish, and today we bring new strategies that address concerns across the entire ecosystem.
We implement innovative, scientifically sound solutions. Our conservation hatchery programs at Lilliwaup Creek and Glenwood Springs bring local salmon & steelhead populations back from the brink of extinction. Our salmon education & outreach efforts engage the public and thousands of students annually. With partners, we put science to work to raise millions of dollars to improve salmon passage through infrastructure, resulting in the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack Dam and improving fish passage at the Ballard Locks in Seattle.
Our staff are highly skilled experts with strong commitment to salmon and steelhead recovery. Today, our Board includes a state representative, a former member of Congress, and business & science leaders. Together, we are experts in policy & project management, facilitation, and fundraising. To retain this talent and attract tomorrow’s stars, we will do the following:
Our accomplishments over the past 30+ years are not ours alone. Lasting relationships with 100+ partners are at the core of everything we do. We value the investments & knowledge of local governments & organizations, and work to find common pathways. Over the life of this strategic plan we will:
Over the last five years, our budget has doubled to $2.5M. As our project work grows, so do our staffing & administrative needs. We strive for increased stability & flexibility to better respond to the changing needs of salmon. The following are critical to meeting our goals:
Long Live the Kings (LLTK) has come a long way from our start along the Wishkah River in 1986. From day one, our founder, Jim Youngren, had a clear vision—to restore salmon & steelhead. Since that day, we knew we were taking on a complicated & challenging cause. We have continually addressed & honored the many reasons these fish are valued: as a treaty right & way of life, as native wildlife, and as indicators of ecosystem health. Salmon & steelhead provide recreation, nourishment, cultural, spiritual & economic value, and inspire passions that can burn extremely hot. One of our great honors has been bringing disparate sides together to listen, learn, and form coalitions that deliver solutions for fish and people.
Whether working with tribal partners to research & test new methods to restore wild populations, partnering with NOAA to use the latest salmon science to aid endangered killer whales, or joining with the Pacific Salmon Foundation to tackle problems considered “too big” to solve, LLTK works with the necessary partners to make significant strides towards recovering salmon.
The sum of our work & lessons learned from stakeholders and partners point to several themes that will drive our efforts through 2025: a changing climate, loss of diversity in salmon populations, and barriers to salmon migration.
To tackle these threats, we must provide decision makers & the public with actionable information, work to combine scientific & place-based approaches, and put solutions in the water, in policy, and in our daily lives to recover these fish that are the foundation of our ecosystem & culture.
The world of salmon recovery is complex. Measurable progress towards meeting our mission by 2025 is a tall order considering how severely underfunded regional efforts have been. Adding to that, 2020’s pandemic has brought unforeseen obstacles that have had an immediate impact on our work and will require us to strive for resiliency for years to come. At the same time, we recognize that change is afoot as 2020 saw some of the largest social justice protests ever, providing encouragement for LLTK to find our own role in contributing to a more just world. The next five years will test us all, but LLTK’s strong foundation and readiness to respond to these societal shifts is how we will remain an asset to our community, and our fish.
More than ever, what we do today matters. Join us as we face some of the most daunting challenges yet and move from science to action.