Pacific Salmon Restoration Program

Pacific Coast wild salmon are in a state of ecological crisis. Tragically, the vast majority of the wild salmon populations that once widely inhabited California and the Pacific Northwest states are now at high risk of extinction. The reason? Decades of over-logging of old growth forests; wide-spread livestock over-grazing; over-appropriation of increasingly scarce river waters; increased water pollution, and; the deliberate blockage of salmon migration routes by poorly designed dams. These human-caused impacts have all cumulatively resulted in the widespread destruction and blockage of critical salmon spawning and rearing habitat all across the US west-coast landscape!

For nearly 30 years, however, IFR has been the focus for salmon-dependent communities working for much needed environmental changes to these habitat destructive practices. IFR’s oldest (and still largest) activity, its Pacific Salmon Restoration Program, has been an effective advocate for reforming land and water use practices known to destroy salmon habitat.

In the past, for instance, IFR has successfully (a) pushed for and achieved several dam removals, thus restoring access to hundreds of stream-miles of previously blocked key salmon habitat; (b) improved pesticide controls to reduce stream pollution impacting fish as well as public water supplies; (c) secured greater and better quality instream flows in many west-coast rivers to better protect migrating salmon; (d) helped state and federal agency land managers design and achieve enhanced forestry and agricultural conservation regulations that are more fish-friendly. IFR was instrumental, for instance, in improving riparian stream protections to benefit salmon spawning and rearing habitat on literally tens of millions of acres of federal BLM and US Forest Service, state and privately owned timberlands in California, Oregon and Washington.

IFR makes good use of existing environmental protection laws and helps create better public policies in support of restoring the US west coast’s damaged salmon runs. For instance, through use of the federal Clean Water Act, IFR was instrumental in the US EPA and the States of Oregon and Washington establishing new aquatic toxic chemical seafood safety standards that are at least an order of magnitude more protective of human health than previously.

Research and the application of the best available science is also vital to the program’s habitat restoration success. For this reason, IFR created a robust GIS software application, the Klamath Resource Information System (KRIS) [], which integrates pertinent fishery and watershed information supporting more fish-friendly land use and habitat conservation and restoration efforts.

Sustainable Fisheries Program

As required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1801, et seq.) all US ocean commercial, recreational and Tribal fisheries must, by law, be managed according to the principles of biological sustainability, both to recover overfished stocks and to prevent their overfishing in the future. This mandate has made U.S. commercial fisheries the best-managed and most sustainable fisheries in the world.

IFR’s Sustainable Fisheries Program helps implement these sustainability rules through its work with state and federal fisheries managers in applying that science.

The Wildfish Coalition

As certain wild fish species begin to decline, or as individuals capitalized on a new area of marine fish markets, aquaculture began to rise internationally. Several past federal Administrations have also pushed for national open ocean aquaculture programs, supposedly as a way to combat the “trade deficit” America faces in the seafood industry.

Unfortunately, many open ocean forms of aquaculture pose serious environmental risks to human and environmental health, and there are as yet few if any regulatory controls over those negative impacts.

A few of the negative consequences of these open ocean net-pen operations include: dyes and toxins used on the fish can be consumed by humans; pollution from fish net-pen excrement and wasted food impacts from such operations is comparable to the pollution of a small city; increased outbreaks of epidemics, with ocean net pen operations acting as vectors for the transmission of fatal fish diseases and parasites to nearby migrating wild fish populations; net-pen collapses can release large numbers of farmed fish into the wild, where they can then interbred with or out-compete local wild populations for limited food sources, and; most of these operations create a net loss (rather than a gain) of ocean-source protein.

IFR is also coordinating a collaborative nationwide effort, called the “Wildfish Coalition,” to bring together various stakeholder groups with leaders in California, Florida, Alaska, Washington, and Washington D.C. to work on better regulation of aquaculture operations generally. IFR also advocates for inland, closed-cycle aquaculture operations which do not produce many of these negative ocean impacts.

Fisheries Climate Change Response

IFR has also been working for several years to help US west coast fishing communities identify and pursue “climate resilience” measures that will allow coastal fisheries to better adapt to ongoing threats of climate change. Coastal fishing-dependent communities are especially vulnerable to projected impacts of climate change, and already suffering from impacts on their fisheries caused by climate change-driven ocean acidification, changes in ocean currents and rising sea levels.

Promoting Fisheries-Friendly Ocean Development

The oceans of the US are no longer mostly empty. The last several decades particularly has seen a much greater federal push to designate large portions of the US outer continental shelf (in what is known as “ocean zoning”) as “exclusive areas” designated and then federally leased specifically for the industrial development of aquaculture, offshore oil platforms, offshore deep-sea mining and most recently offshore wind energy projects.

Often, however, these federal ocean lease development programs are being designed with little or no regard to their potential impacts on valuable local and regional ocean fisheries. Many well-established and highly valuable US fisheries are now threatened by poorly designed ocean industrial developments that will exclude, limit or block ocean access by the US commercial ocean fishing fleet.

IFR’s members are not opposed to most of these ocean development projects, per se, particularly offshore wind programs to help wean our society away from its addiction to damaging fossil fuels. Our concerns center on poor siting or structuring decisions that may unnecessarily block, limit or eliminate valuable ocean fisheries.

IFR is working, and will continue to work, with BOEM and other federal ocean development agencies seeking win-win situations where future ocean industrial development is done in ways that minimize or eliminate to as great a degree as possible any adverse impacts on valuable ocean fisheries that are important sources of food for America’s tables.

International Fisheries and Trade Program

IFR has also participated in World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international discussions on how best to sustainably manage fisheries internationally. This also includes efforts to reduce international fisheries subsidies that distort fisheries market forces and sometimes become a barrier to fisheries sustainability.

Fisheries Outreach and Education Programs

IFR keenly feels the need to continue to educate the public on how fisheries work, how fishing communities are connected to the seafood the public loves, and how these fisheries are best sustainably managed. The fishing-dependent communities we represent feel strongly that as commercial fishing families they are the stewards of these fisheries, and must always manage these resources in trust for the benefit of the general public.

A few years ago, IFR also initiated a collaborative effort between local commercial fishermen, seafood restaurants, and farmers markets to promote increased awareness of the benefits of sourcing locally harvested seafood and to connect the demand for fresh, high-quality and sustainable seafood to local supply. Its Local & Seasonal Seafood Project, which is under this Program, also helps educate the public as to where to purchase local sustainable seafood and also provides consumers information about when local fish is in season so that consumers can make informed decisions.

Institute for Fisheries Resources

SF Office
PO Box 29196
San Francisco, CA 94129-0196

IFR Northwest Regional Office
PO Box 11170
Eugene, OR 97440-3370


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