Stop Toxic Runoff From Killing Coho Salmon in Puget Sound

Target: Director Maia Bellon, Washington State Department of Ecology

Goal: Stop polluted runoff from killing Coho salmon near urban areas.

Unknown pollutants from urban runoff are killing Coho salmon in the Puget Sound. Coho salmon have already been identified as a species of concern under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and will continue to experience population decline as long as this toxic runoff is allowed to impact Coho salmon habitats.

Researchers at Washington State University conducted a study of Coho and chum salmon due to recent concerns with a decline in the Coho salmon population. These scientists believe that the premature mortality of younger adult salmon prior to spawning, or urban spawner mortality syndrome, has been occurring for decades due to polluted urban runoff near salmon habitats. The study conducted on both Coho and chum salmon, however, revealed that chum salmon are not as susceptible to the impacts of this toxic urban runoff. Although these species are similar, the Coho salmon is very sensitive to one or more pollutants in the runoff, resulting in a high mortality rate. The specific contaminant has not yet been identified, only correlated to high-traffic areas around the Puget Sound. Since most pollutants associated with highway runoff are metals, and scientists have determined that metals alone are not causing this population decline, it is assumed that the pollutant causing these impacts is not currently regulated with a water quality standard or limit.

Without identification of the specific pollutant causing Coho salmon mortality or how the chum salmon can survive in it, all runoff should be targeted for reduction and/or treatment prior to release into the Puget Sound. In addition, further research should be funded to determine the exact pollutant that has been causing the decline in the Coho salmon populations and what, if anything can be done to help the Coho salmon thrive as the chum salmon do.


Dear Ms. Bellon,

The storm water runoff from high-traffic areas around the Puget Sound has been killing Coho salmon for decades and scientists cannot identify what contaminant is causing the population decline. While research continues, this species of concern will continue to die off unless this contaminated runoff is stopped from entering their habitats.

The population decline of Coho salmon has been linked to the runoff from high-traffic areas around the Puget Sound. With the Washington State Office of Financial Management, Forecasting Division estimating significant population growth in the area over the next two decades, this problem will likely worsen. The contaminant in this runoff has yet to be identified and cannot be controlled through water quality standards. Something must be done to prevent this runoff from poisoning the Coho salmon habitats.

Coho salmon are a food source and an integral part of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Don’t allow urban sprawl to completely kill off this species. Put policies in place to stop or treat this runoff while this important research continues.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington

Success: Washington State Protects Wild Salmon and Orcas from Extinction

Target: Jay Inslee, Governor of the state of Washington

Goal: Support the protection of the Puget Sound’s endangered orcas and wild salmon via a government executive order.

Two endangered species found in Washington’s Puget Sound no longer face possible extinction. Thanks to an executive order signed by the governor of the state of Washington, Puget Sound orcas—whose population is currently the lowest it’s been in thirty years—and their main food source the Chinook salmon have a better chance at survival. Petitions like this one illustrate threats the salmon face, and as their population declines, so too does the population of the orcas. And, as the governor stated at a news conference, “The destiny of salmon and orca and we humans are intertwined. As the orca go, so go we.”

The executive order signed by the governor requires state agencies to take immediate action, outlining a strategy for the long-term survival of both the salmon and the orca. Plans include a decrease in pollution and noise from vessel traffic, and the creation of a task force that has until November to put forward a final report. The task force will include state agencies, tribal leaders, members of local and federal government, and others to ensure that action will be taken at all levels. Sign below to aupport this humane and responsible action that will benefit Puget Sound wildlife as well as humanity.


Dear Governor Inslee,

Thank you for taking a stand in order to protect invaluable Puget Sound wildlife—particularly the endangered Chinook salmon and Puget Sound orca. As you stated, our destinies are intertwined with these creatures, and they must be protected and preserved.

The population of the Puget Sound orca is the lowest it has been in 3 decades. This is tied inextricably with the threats to Chinook salmon, their main source of food. Your executive order—requiring action aimed at the long-term survival of both species on local, regional, and federal levels—is an inclusive and responsible fulfillment of your duties. I support this executive order and thank you for your commitment to protecting the future of salmon, orca, and humans.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Mike Charest