Salmon for Terrestrial Protected Areas

Protecting salmon runs into parks for the wildlife that need them.

Watershed management should include bears, whales and other wildlife.

As returning wild Pacific salmon headed upstream, scientists spawned a thought-provoking proposal about how taking less salmon might bring more benefits to wildlife, ecosystems and economies.  But it’s not just the bears and wildlife that would benefit from letting more salmon return to their natal streams.  The importance of pink, chum and sockeye salmon to wildlife may trump their value in the commerical fishery.  In October 2010, pink salmon were fetching an obscenely low $0.30/lb in BC super markets, yet residents and tourists were travelling the province to watch eagles, bears and wildlife eat salmon, or even just watch the salmon themselves, putting a significant amount of wildlife viewing dollars into the BC economy.

The paper was published in Conservation Letters  and is available at: (PDF)


Although managers safeguard protected areas for migratory species, little consideration has been given to how migratory species might benefit parks. Additionally, whereas land-sea connections are considered in management of protected areas, most effort has focused on reducing negative “downstream” processes. Here, we offer a proposal to promote positive “upstream” processes by safeguarding the seasonal pulse of marine nutrients imported into freshwater and riparian ecosystems by spawning migrations of Pacific salmon. Currently, high rates of fishing limit this important contribution to species and processes that terrestrial parks were designed to protect. Accordingly, we propose limiting exploitation in areas and periods through which salmon runs bound for terrestrial protected areas can migrate. Best suited for less commercially valuable but relatively abundant and widespread pink and chum salmon (O. gorbuscha and keta), our proposal thus considers ecosystem and societal needs for salmon. We conclude by outlining strategies to overcome socio-economic barriers to implementation.

Darimont, Chris T., Heather M. Bryan, Stephanie M. Carlson, Morgan D. Hocking, Misty MacDuffee, Paul C. Paquet, Michael H.H. Price, Thomas E. Reimchen, John D. Reynolds, and Christopher C. Wilmers. 2010.  Salmon for Protected Terrestrial Areas. Conservation Letters Vol 3 (6) 379–389.

Download the paper: Salmon-for-Parks Darimont et al. 2010 (PDF)

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Raincoast’s in-house scientists, collaborating graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and professors make us unique among conservation groups. We work with First Nations, academic institutions, government, and other NGOs to build support and inform decisions that protect aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and the wildlife that depend on them. We conduct ethically applied, process-oriented, and hypothesis-driven research that has immediate and relevant utility for conservation deliberations and the collective body of scientific knowledge.

We investigate to understand coastal species and processes. We inform by bringing science to decision-makers and communities. We inspire action to protect wildlife and wildlife habitats.

Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.