Letter to the Editor: The Real Reason Salmon Are Smaller These Days


This is in response to Darryl Wareham’s April 13 letter to the editor titled “Hatchery Practices Must Be Improved and Modernized.”  

He blames current hatchery practices for the decline in size of salmon, but in reality the responsibility lies elsewhere. 

Chinook salmon return from three to six years of age. The older, larger fish are exposed to years more ocean harvest by commercial trollers, so the likelihood of a fish returning to hatcheries at age six is far less than one returning at age three, resulting in smaller salmon returning to hatcheries for broodstock.  

One researcher found the average size of Chinook salmon declined by about 50% between the 1920s and 1970s, while another found the average age of Chinook returning to Columbia River hatcheries declined by another six months between 1970 and 2018.  

Both authors pointed to ocean commercial trollers as the cause.  

There are only about 100 commercial trollers in Washington state but they harvest about 20,000 Chinook salmon, and they harvest wild fish along with hatchery fish. In 2019, the average size Chinook salmon landed by commercial trollers was only about 8 pounds. Society is spending billions of dollars to save wild Chinook salmon while commercial trollers sold them for less than $100 each.  

If we don’t restrict harvest of commercial ocean trollers, Mr. Wareham’s 10-pound salmon may soon be a trophy fish.


Jack Tipping