Protect Wild Salmon
Wild salmon are the foundation of the Great Bear Rainforest ecosystem. At sea, killer whales, sea lions and other marine mammals feed on adult salmon. Each fall, black, Spirit and grizzly bears, wolves, eagles, gulls and a host of other wildlife gather in estuaries and along rivers to feast on returning salmon. The end of the salmon life cycle brings renewal to the rainforest, delivering an annual pulse of ocean-derived nutrients. Wild salmon have been central to First Nations cultures on the B.C. coast for thousands of years, and coastal communities continue to rely on salmon for sustenance and sustainable livelihoods. Wild salmon are also a cornerstone of B.C.’s tourism industry, as a highlight of local cuisine and essential food for whales, bears and other wildlife that attract so many visitors to our province.
AN ICONIC SPECIES UNDER THREAT
The life-cycles of wild salmon span diverse habitats. From their first months in the gravel of streams and rivers, to early migrations through freshwater lakes, rearing periods in estuaries along the coast, and years of adulthood in the North Pacific Ocean, Pacific salmon are exposed to many environmental impacts.
Wild salmon in B.C. face threats that include:
- Widespread destruction of upstream habitat caused by logging, construction of roads, bridges, and pipelines, and other land use changes;
- Reduced food supply due to overfishing of forage fish species;
- Warming waters and ocean acidification caused by climate change;
- Pathogens and parasites spread by fish farms;
- Aquatic pollution from agriculture, cities and industry;
- Competition with and loss of genetic diversity from hatchery-raised fish;
- Physical stress during fisheries capture and release;
- Long-term overfishing;
- Current government policies.
Wild salmon stocks must be allowed to rebuild. Protection will require action on climate change, habitat protection and restoration, pollution control, better fisheries management, and ending open net-pen salmon aquaculture on the B.C. coast.
It's time to tell Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan that Canadians will no longer accept open-net salmon pens in our waters. The many risks they pose to our critical wild salmon populations are too great.
OPEN NET-PEN SALMON FARMING
The federal and B.C. governments are actively promoting salmon aquaculture, despite the fact that open net-pen fish farms generate a small fraction of the income and employment brought by wild fisheries. There are over 100 fish farms along on the B.C. coast, 98% of which are owned by Norwegian companies. Open net-pen salmon farms cause a host of environmental problems.
The placement of open net-pen salmon farms along vital wild salmon migration routes jeopardizes the health of wild salmon stocks in a number of ways:
- Pollution – Fish farms pollute marine habitat with feces, antibiotics and uneaten food. Recent footage by Tavish Campbell showed that untreated blood, infected with piscine reovirus (PRV), is being discharged into wild salmon habitat.
- Infections – Sea lice and viruses that thrive in crowded open net pen fish farms spread to and threaten wild Pacific salmon;
- Escapes – When farmed Atlantic salmon escape from net-pens, they can compete with wild Pacific salmon for food, colonize B.C. rivers, and consume wild salmon fry in streams; (e.g. Marine Harvest 2008; Cooke Aquaculture 2017)
WHY ARE OUR FEDERAL & PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS TRYING TO KILL WILD SALMON?
Proper protection of wild salmon and their habitat also benefits ecosystems, species—and human health—by conserving water, air and soil. However, protecting wild salmon is in direct conflict with the destructive industrial resource extraction that is endorsed by the federal and provincial governments. In short, wild salmon are under direct threat from current government policies.
Several pieces of legislation, government-issued reports, commissions, policies and court rulings including the Species at Risk Act, Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy and the Cohen Commission Report have spelled out the threats to wild salmon and the changes that need to be made to protect them. Currently, almost none of the changes have been implemented. To make matters worse, the last Federal government cut DFO’s budget by $100 million and habitat staff by one third from 2012-2016. They gutted the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act, crippling legal protections for wildlife habitat.
Although the current Federal government has committed to restore lost protections under the Fisheries Act, wild salmon populations continue to decline. In 2017, salmon biologists warned that half of B.C.’s managed salmon runs aren’t monitored, so DFO can no longer determine their status. The 2018 assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) found half of Chinook salmon populations in Southern B.C. are at-risk; concerns about the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales have focused attention on declining Chinook salmon populations along the West Coast.
Here’s how you can get involved:
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