Addressing the Impacts of American Shad in the Columbia River

Raising awareness, supporting fishers, and developing viable markets for non-native American shad
2023 – Present

American Shard. US Fish & Wildlife

American shad is a non-native, invasive fish species. It was introduced and planted in the Sacramento, Columbia, and Willamette Rivers repeatedly, starting in 1871 by the US Fish Commission.

Since their introduction, shad populations returning to the Columbia River have continued to grow, peaking at a count of more than seven million shad at Bonneville Dam in 2019. In comparison, struggling salmon populations have averaged at an annual count of about one million over the past five years.

We are seeking to remove American shad from the Columbia River and to understand the severity with which shad are interfering with the recovery of threatened or endangered runs of salmon across the Northwest.

The map above shows the range of non-native shad. In California, the Sacramento and American rivers are heavily populated. In Oregon and Washington, we see them in the Columbia, Willamette and Snake rivers, as well as Lake Washington, and Skagit Bay. Courtesy of a 2021 US Geological Survey map.

WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

Today, shad competes with salmon smolts for food and crowds salmon out of fish ladders during migration, causing harm to federally listed runs of threatened and endangered salmon species. During shad migration, tribal salmon fishermen on the Columbia River report that for every chinook or sockeye they catch, they also catch hundreds of pounds of American shad.

Something is severely out of order, but little action has been taken regarding American shad in terms of research, development of harvest programs, or development of market channels.

CONVENING AROUND A SOLUTION​

A group of fishers and fishery researchers and managers have been meeting with Ecotrust and are engaging in conversations with Tribes, federal and state agencies, industry partners, and other interested parties about addressing the overpopulation of shad through implementing market-based solutions and increasing harvests.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

In Spring 2024, Ecotrust will be gathering with partners to collaboratively plan for actions and activities to address the overabundance of American shad in the Columbia River. Interested in collaborating with us? Fill out this partnership survey or reach out to us at fisheries@ecotrust.org.

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Every summer, when I should be catching salmon on the Columbia, I must clean my nets of thousands of shad … They have no cultural or commercial value to me and are currently only a nuisance that interferes with my treaty salmon fishing.

—RANDY SETTLER, YAKAMA TRIBAL FISHER

Resources

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Memorandum
PUBLISHED DATE: SEPT. 27, 2023 | The Columbia River and its tributaries, wetlands, and estuaries are the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest, providing abundant water, power, recreation, agriculture, transportation, and natural resources that have supported livelihoods, cultural and spiritual practices, commerce, and economic growth…
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Flier

Since their introduction, shad populations returning to the Columbia River have continued to grow, peaking at a count of over seven million shad at Bonneville Dam in 2019. Meanwhile, salmon populations have continued to struggle, with an average annual count of just over one million over the past five years…
press

Handout

Since their introduction, shad populations returning to the Columbia River have continued to grow, peaking at a count of over seven million shad at Bonneville Dam in 2019. Meanwhile, salmon populations have continued to struggle, with an average annual count of just over one million over the past five years.
press release

News

PUBLISHED DATE: FEB. 15, 2022 | Shad is a species of non-native fish that has become increasingly common along the West…

press release

News

PUBLISHED DATE: FEB 5, 2022 | A recent report shows an explosion of growth of a non-native species in the Columbia River. What does that mean for salmon and the cultures built on them?…

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