State of the Salmon

International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Through a unique collaboration with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), State of the Salmon presents a new effort to systematically catalogue the tremendous biodiversity of Pacific salmon, identify important knowledge gaps, and assess the overall condition of wild salmon based on international standards. This effort is intended to provide a means to mark progress toward reversing global trends in biodiversity loss and help safeguard these iconic species.

Salmonid Specialist Group of the IUCN

The Salmonid Specialist Group (SSG) (4kb pdf) was formed in 2001 under the auspices of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. Membership includes fisheries scientists and managers dedicated to protecting and restoring wild salmon throughout their natural range. State of the Salmon staff are assisting the SSG in conducting the first IUCN assessments for these species.

  Status of Eurasia's Taimen Species Assessed

Karibetsu Ito - taimen
Photo courtesy of Clemens Ratschan

October 2012 - With the release of status reports by the IUCN Salmonid Specialist Group, all five species of taimen, known as the world’s largest salmonids, are now included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The assessment team concluded that all species in this group (known also as huchen, “HOO-kin”, including species in the genera Hucho and Parahucho) are now either threatened or “Data Deficient”. The natural range for these species include Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, North Korea, and Japan. Due to their sensitivity to habitat deterioration and fishery exploitation, the species have been experiencing steady declines over the last half century. The assessment team concludes that conservation actions are needed immediately to reverse current trends. Any successful conservation initiative must include critical habitat protection and special fishing regulations to minimize risk from recreational and commercial fishing operations.

The full assessment reports are now available through IUCN’s Red List site: The links below provide access to the full reports and an interactive range map for each species.

IUCN taimen assessments:

Wild Salmon Center's press release on the taimen assessment can be found here. Taimen photos and a current range map for all five taimen species can be found here.

  Amendment to the 2008 Red List Assessment of Sockeye Salmon Released!

sockeye salmon underwater
Photo courtesy of WSC staff

The IUCN Salmonid Specialist Group (SSG) is pleased to announce the completion of an amendment to the 2008 Red List assessment for Oncorhynchus nerka, an iconic salmon species found in the North Pacific.  The species is known by a variety of common names, including  sockeye salmon (derived from the native Salish name suk-kegh, sθə́qəy̓), red salmon, nerka and benizake.  

The original assessment encompassed the entire range of the species, and the amendment reflects a reevaluation of subpopulations in the province of British Columbia, Canada.  This amendment represents an unprecedented collaboration between the SSG, a bilateral treaty organization (Pacific Salmon Commission) and a government fisheries agency (Fisheries and Oceans Canada). 

In the amendment, the species global status remains the same (Least Concern), but the assessment at the subpopulation scale resulted in an increase in the total number of subpopulations (from 80 extant subpopulations in the original assessment to a total of 93 in the amendment).  Results reported in the amendment still point to a broad region in the southeastern extension of their North American range with elevated threats, underscoring the need for continued conservation action.

In summary, two subpopulations are listed as Near Threatened, three as Vulnerable, 12 as Endangered, and four as Critically Endangered.  Thus 31% of assessed subpopulations are considered threatened against IUCN criteria.  Further, 32% of all extant subpopulations are considered Data Deficient, and hence their status is not known.   A full description of the results of the amendment can be found on the IUCN Red List site.  In addition, a special website has been launched that provides an engaging summary of the results and allows the user to fully explore the data used in the assessment. Launch Visual Sockeye.

Key conclusions and recommendations from our work on this species:

  • Since the last glacial period, natural processes of colonization and adaptation have resulted in at least 98 unique subpopulations of sockeye salmon across their range.
  • Five subpopulations are now extinct.
  • Approximately 1 out of every 3 of the subpopulations we identified lack basic information to determine their status.
  • Approximately 1 out of every 4 subpopulations we assessed are threatened, and the ones at greatest risk are located in the southern range of their distribution in North America.
  • Threats are many and diverse, including habit deterioration, overfishing, dams, artificial propagation, and disease risk. Climate change is likely to increase risk to salmon in the future, particularly those in southern locations.
  • We recommend implementing new wild salmon policies, restructuring coastal and river fisheries, adapting and reforming monitoring practices, and initiating new research efforts.


Visual Sockeye

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