Over the past 100 years, Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. and steelhead trout O. mykiss populations in the Pacific Northwest have experienced dramatic declines as a result of human population growth and associated development of the region's natural resources. Any strategy to reverse those declines will depend on achieving consensus among a diverse group of stakeholders willing to (1) restore damaged habitats and watersheds; (2) consider the biological needs of salmonid fishes; and (3) understand, conserve, and manage existing levels of biodiversity within an ecosystem context. The objective of this chapter is to review and summarize the needs of Pacific salmon and steelhead trout from perspectives that promote their sustainability and perpetuity, and, within that context, provide a framework, for the development of a sustainable fisheries strategy. Although volumes of information are available on the life histories and habitat requirements of Pacific salmonids, new concepts have begun to address the importance of habitat complexity, genetic diversity among locally adapted populations, and the need for appropriate units of conservation. Habitat variability and complexity are the templates that produce diverse, locally adapted populations of Pacific salmon and steelhead trout. Molded by conditions in the environments they colonized, salmon and steelhead have unique adaptations they may have taken hundred i?? perhaps thousands i?? of years to evolve. Any strategy to reverse the declines of salmon and steelhead must focus on conserving both current levels of genetic diversity as well as restoration and maintenance of habitats compatible with the specific needs of individual populations. An argument can be made that we know enough already about the needs of our salmon and steelhead to allow us to make appropriate decisions. There is strong need to integrate what we know about local salmonid adaptations and habitat needs with conservation and management strategies that address the problems we have created. It may be possible to have healthy, sustainable salmonid populations coastwide if we do not wait too long to make up our minds.
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