Prioritizing Pacific Salmon Stocks for Conservation
Over 300 native stocks of Pacific salmon, steelhead, and coastal cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus spp.) are at risk of extinction in the Pacific Northwest. With only limited resources available for conservation and recovery, prioritization of these stocks may become necessary of meaningful measures are to be implemented. We propose criteria by which prioritization may be guided. First, we rank stocks for risk of extinction, either by population viability analysis or by a set of surrogate measures. Then we rank stocks for biological consequences of extinction, using sets of questions designed to establish the genetic and evolutionary consequences and the ecological consequences if a stock were to become extinct. Together, these rankings allow stocks to be prioritized for a range of possible actions, with those stocks at highest risk and bearing the greatest biological consequences of extinction receiving attention first. Application of the prioritization process to 20 Pacific anadromous salmonid stocks worked as intended, although data limitations are considerable. The process is most likely to work successfully when applied to many stocks on which data exist, when several experts carry out the prioritization and then the results are peer reviewed.