Cost-effective management alternatives for Snake River Chinook salmon: a biological-economic synthesis

Conserv Biol. 2008 Apr;22(2):338-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00913.x.


The mandate to increase endangered salmon populations in the Columbia River Basin of North America has created a complex, controversial resource-management issue. We constructed an integrated assessment model as a tool for analyzing biological-economic trade-offs in recovery of Snake River spring- and summer-run chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). We merged 3 frameworks: a salmon-passage model to predict migration and survival of smolts; an age-structured matrix model to predict long-term population growth rates of salmon stocks; and a cost-effectiveness analysis to determine a set of least-cost management alternatives for achieving particular population growth rates. We assessed 6 individual salmon-management measures and 76 management alternatives composed of one or more measures. To reflect uncertainty, results were derived for different assumptions of effectiveness of smolt transport around dams. Removal of an estuarine predator, the Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia), was cost-effective and generally increased long-term population growth rates regardless of transport effectiveness. Elimination of adult salmon harvest had a similar effect over a range of its cost estimates. The specific management alternatives in the cost-effective set depended on assumptions about transport effectiveness. On the basis of recent estimates of smolt transport effectiveness, alternatives that discontinued transportation or breached dams were prevalent in the cost-effective set, whereas alternatives that maximized transportation dominated if transport effectiveness was relatively high. More generally, the analysis eliminated 80-90% of management alternatives from the cost-effective set. Application of our results to salmon management is limited by data availability and model assumptions, but these limitations can help guide research that addresses critical uncertainties and information. Our results thus demonstrate that linking biology and economics through integrated models can provide valuable tools for science-based policy and management.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animal Migration / physiology
  • Animals
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Fisheries / economics*
  • Fisheries / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Northwestern United States
  • Population Dynamics
  • Rivers
  • Salmon / physiology*
  • Survival Analysis