Puget Sound anglers impacted, buyers forced to outsource by decreasing salmon population

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- The Puget Sound is home to more than 200 fish species. However, none are likely more iconic than the salmon is to the Seattle area.

For decades, salmon has been an integral part of tribal communities, but it’s also a major source of food and a huge part of our local economy.

According to the state, our salmon supply is shrinking and more than just dollars and cents – anglers, like Mark Riedesel worry that if the population dies– so could one of the Puget Sound's favorite past times.

Riedesel serves as the President of Bellingham Puget Sound Anglers and also owns Barleans Fishery--a seafood shop in Bellingham.

Cruising out of Bellingham's Squalicum Harbor on a recent Spring morning, Riedesel headed straight for the San Juans.

It’s a sunny morning, but as stunning as the scenery is, Riedesel and his kids came out here for the salmon, joining a thin crowd of other recreational anglers along Point Thompson off the north coast of Orcas Island

But the salmon--specifically the supply--has become harder to come by.

I would say there’s been a lot of changes, even in the last 20 years," said Riedesel. "In the size range of fish, the abundance, you know run stocks... for salmon and for Steelhead there seems to be less opportunity within the Puget Sound."

According to the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office, he's right--tribal, sport and commercial salmon harvesting has significantly decreased since the early 70s.

"It can equate to less fish then are available to purchase--so for livelihood sake, if I’m trying to work on local stocks and purchasing them there might not be as many, or the fisherman aren’t catching as many," said Riedesel.

You can see how that would be a problem for this casual boater and business owner who also buys salmon from commercial fisherman for his seafood shop.

"I have to outsource to Canada and Alaska to ensure I have enough quantities," said Riedesel.

Not something a man who grew up fishing around Washington likes as an alternative.

That’s part of why Riedesel has teamed up with local non-profit Long Live The Kings and serves as an adviser on Fish and Wildlife’s Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Committee.

"I think there’s a multitude of issues," said Riedesel. "There’s habitat, there could be over harvest, there could be stream conditions."

Not to mention a spike in land development, passage barriers and predation from other animals.

Mark says when salmon stock dwindles that dictates fishing seasons – or days on the water and restrictions for how many fish he and his family can take home.