Protect Wild Salmon
Wild salmon are the lifeblood of the Great Bear Rainforest, connecting and feeding the ocean and forest. Each spring, young salmon swim out to sea, where they will grow and feed killer whales, sea lions and other marine mammals. In the fall, bears, wolves, eagles, gulls and a host of other wildlife gather in estuaries and along rivers to feast on the returning fish. 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 for thousands of years, and coastal communities continue to rely on salmon for sustenance and livelihoods. Wild salmon are also a cornerstone of B.C.’s tourism industry, as a highlight of local cuisine and essential food for the wildlife that attract so many visitors to our coast.
SALMON STOCKS IN CRISIS
In 2018, the rivers of the North and Central Coast saw one of the most devastating salmon returns on record. Historically, hundreds of spawning populations of chum and pink salmon provided a huge annual influx of nutrients to creeks and rivers throughout the Great Bear Rainforest, but last year these runs were abysmal. Very few coho returned to the coast, and recreational Chinook fishing was closed for the first time ever in the Skeena River, due to concerns about population numbers. The number of sockeye that returned to spawn was well below the historical average in multiple watersheds. This year is on track to be even worse. There has never been such a sense of urgency over the state of salmon on the BC coast.
Wild salmon built our coast, but they face threats at every turn. From widespread habitat destruction in spawning streams, to diseases spread by fish farms and commercial overfishing, each part of a salmon’s migration is jeopardized by industrial activity. For decades, wild salmon have been caught in mixed-stock fisheries that target large stocks but tragically intercept smaller endangered ones. The necessity of large, genetically diverse salmon runs becomes even more important as we face climate changing ocean conditions. Our unsustainable relationship with wild salmon has to stop. Join Pacific Wild as we work towards solutions for the future of wild salmon.
Wild salmon are the foundation of the Great Bear Rainforest ecosystem. Help us keep our salmon populations healthy for generations to come.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE CREEKWALKERS GONE?
The work of a creekwalker isn’t easy. Creekwalkers hike hundreds of remote and isolated streams, multiple times each fall, to count the number of adult salmon that have returned home to spawn. This physically demanding and isolating work is necessary every year to understand the status of each population of salmon. Is it stable? Is it growing? Is it declining?
In the midst of an escalating wild salmon crisis, the federal government is divesting from on-the-ground salmon monitoring in the Great Bear Rainforest. This region has 2,592 populations of wild Chinook, coho, chum, pink and sockeye. Now, less than half are monitored annually, because Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) isn’t providing enough funding. In the past 15 years, DFO has decreased their investment in monitoring by over 60%.
These spawner counts are the foundation of salmon management on the B.C. coast. When DFO doesn’t know the number of fish, they can’t make responsible decisions about how many can be caught in fisheries. And that’s exactly what’s happening now.
First Nations Guardian programs, academics, volunteers, and a few remaining creekwalkers are trying to keep the salmon count alive, year after year. But they’re not getting the funding they need from DFO.
UNCOUNTED RIVERS, BLIND MANAGEMENT
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. Are these government policies trying to kill wild salmon?
For more than a decade, federal legislation, commissions, policies and court rulings, including the Species at Risk Act, Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy and the Cohen Commission, have spelled out the threats to wild salmon and the changes needed to protect them. Currently, few changes have been implemented, and salmon populations continue to decline. In 2018, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) found 50% of Chinook salmon populations in Southern B.C. are at-risk. But if fewer than half of B.C.’s salmon runs are actually monitored, how can we know their status?
It’s time for DFO to reinvest in salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest. At a minimum, there are 215 indicator streams that need to be counted every single year. DFO needs to train and fund Guardian Watchmen programs and replace retiring creekwalkers, so spawner counts remain robust. And they need to use this information to make responsible decisions on commercial and recreational fisheries openings.
Creekwalkers provide the only connection between the health of wild salmon and the Canadian public. They are our single greatest asset in salmon conservation on our coast.
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