Restoring wild salmon runs to the Pacific Northwest is technically challenging, politically nasty, and socially divisive. Past restoration efforts have been largely unsuccessful. Society’s failure to reverse the continuing decline of wild salmon has the characteristics of a policy conundrum: nearly everyone supports, abstractly at least, restoring salmon runs; considerable public and private resources have been devoted to their restoration; but society collectively remains evidently unwilling to make the painful decisions clearly necessary to arrest their decline. The salmon policy conundrum is characterized by competing societal priorities being adjudicated in a political environment where few are willing to acknowledge publicly the future consequences of prior de facto policy choices. Decisions already made have greatly circumscribed the status of wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest through at least the next several decades. Barring a near wholesale reversal of many of society’s previous decisions (and apparent priorities), and allowing for considerable year-to-year and decade-to-decade variation in run size due in part to oscillations in climate and oceanic conditions, I conclude that through the twenty-first century, many, perhaps most, stocks of wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest likely will remain at their current low levels or continue to decline in spite of current protection and restoration efforts.
Lackey, R.T. Policy Conundrum: Restoring Wild Salmon to the Pacific Northwest. In: Microbehavior and Macroresults: Proceedings of the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade, July 10-14, 2000, Corvallis, Oregon, USA. Compiled by Richard S. Johnston and Ann L. Shriver. International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade (IIFET), Corvallis, 2001.