The Columbia River is the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The findings from the study reinforce the observation that Columbia River habitat supports production of valuable fish species that provide:
(i) food production from commercial fishing,
(ii) recreational fishing,
(iii) tribal subsistence fishing, and
(iv) nutrient cycling services.
Relative to the status quo, a 10% greater prioritization of salmon conservation via shifts in the flow regime would generate an increase of 4.8 million USD per year in the net economic benefit from these services. A return to pristine flow conditions would raise this value to 19.5 million USD per year. Re-prioritizing hydropower production to average 1976–1980 flow levels would result in a 3.5 million USD per year loss of net economic benefits.
Recreational fishing is the most important ecosystem service that was assessed. Under some scenarios, this sector generates twice the value of the next largest sector (commercial fishing). Although managers have placed greater emphasis on fish conservation in recent decades, opportunities for gains in economic welfare from fish production in the Columbia River may not be fully exploited, particularly considering that under a conservation scenario only minimally alters the flow regime relative to the hydropower priority scenario.
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