Salmon management should include wildlife

New peer-reviewed scientific paper outlines why and how it should be done

For Release: Oct 22 2010

Sidney, British Columbia – As this year’s returning Pacific Ocean salmon head upstream, scientists have spawned a game-changing idea about how taking less salmon might bring more benefits to regional ecosystems and economies.

Writing in the peer-reviewed journal Conservation Letters, researchers from Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Canadian universities, and US universities propose shifts to harvesting in which fisheries take smaller catches of known runs closer to shore. Their paper is titled Salmon for terrestrial protected areas.

“Although more than a hundred wildlife species – like grizzly bears, wolves, and eagles – depend on salmon, fisheries often capture more salmon than all of these animals combined, even from runs bound for protected areas that were created to safeguard these wildlife,” said Dr. Chris Darimont, science director for Raincoast.

These aforementioned alternative harvesting strategies are known to generate higher prices and more employment. Also, catching less fish, can support other industries. Specifically, less valuable pink and chum species might be worth more alive than dead in areas with salmon-dependent ecotourism that includes bear- and killer whale-viewing.

“Anticipating concerns from harvesting interests, we suggest that spawning runs bound for terrestrial parks and protected areas would be the best candidates for early implementation, but on a graduated schedule to help moderate the change for those people most affected by the reallocation of fish,” said Raincoast’s senior scientist Dr. Paul Paquet.

Current maximally exploitative fisheries policies for Pacific salmon do not account for the needs of wildlife and ecosystems.

“The question arises whether a protected area is truly protected when its foundation species, in this case Pacific salmon, are not safeguarded and are subject to such high levels of exploitation,” said Dr.Chris Wilmers, assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, a co-author on the study.

Without changes, species like BC’s coastal grizzlies that are particularly dependent on salmon will decline; salmon-dependent species already at great risk, such as BC’s small and endangered population of southern resident killer whales, could face declines that might ultimately lead to their disappearance.

Contact: Chris Darimont (250-589-7873) Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Paul Paquet (306-376-2015) Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Chris Wilmers (831-459-3001) University of California, Santa Cruz

Link to paper:

Salmon for terrestrial protected areas list of authors:

Chris T. Darimont1,2 , Heather M. Bryan2,3 , Stephanie M. Carlson4 , Morgan D. Hocking5 , Misty MacDuffee2 , Paul C. Paquet2,6 , Michael H.H. Price2,7 , Thomas E. Reimchen7 , John D. Reynolds5 , & Christopher C. Wilmers1

1 Environmental Studies Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA
2 Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Denny Island, BC, Canada V0T 1B0
3 Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, University of Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 4N1
4 Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
5 Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada V5A 1S6
6 Environmental Design, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4
7 Department of Biology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada V8W 3N5

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Research scientist, Adam Warner conducting genetics research in our genetics lab.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.