Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy: an assessment of conservation progress in British Columbia

Research shows that salmon abundance, and monitoring efforts, have continued to erode.

This paper, lead by scientists at Simon Fraser University and co-authored by two Raincoast biologists, examines whether progress on the conservation of Pacific salmon has been furthered since the adoption of Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) in 2005. The study looked at the monitoring effort (counting) of spawning salmon rivers/stream and also salmon abundance within Conservation Units (CUs) on BC’s north and central coast.

Several themes emerge from this research:

  1. The number of assessed spawning streams is at an all-time low,
  2. There is inadequate information to determine the status of roughly one-half of the CUs,
  3. There was an overall decline in the number of salmon on spawning grounds (primarily seen in Chinook, chum and even-yr pink salmon) after the implementation of the WSP, but this varied by species as some improved (mainly odd-yr pink and coho)
  4. Of Conservation Units assessed as Red (Poor, 10 of 24 CUs), status would have improved had Canadian fisheries been reduced.

Read the full article, “Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy: an assessment of conservation progress in British Columbia”.


Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon has been heralded as a transformative approach to the management of wild salmon whereby conservation is the highest priority. Given that changes to the Policy are under consideration, it is timely that we understand whether our state of knowledge and the status of wild salmon in Canada have indeed improved after its adoption in 2005. To answer these questions, we used two indices of improvement: (i) monitoring effort and (ii) abundance of spawning adults. Our results, based on data for all species from British Columbia’s north and central coasts, show that monitoring effort has continued to erode, abundance of spawning adults has significantly declined for several species, the status of many salmon Conservation Units are in zones of concern, and 42% of the Conservation Units that we assessed as Red (threatened) would have improved in status had the Canadian fishery been reduced. We conclude with recommendations to help improve our knowledge of the status of salmon and enable a robust and successfully implemented Wild Salmon Policy for the future.


Michael H.H. Price1,2 Karl K. English3, Andrew G. Rosenberger4,5, Misty MacDuffee5 and John D. Reynolds1. 2017. Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy: an assessment of conservation progress in British Columbia, Canadian Journal of  Fisheries and  Aquatic. Sciences, e-First, August 21, 2017,


1. Simon Fraser University – Earth to Ocean Research Group,
2. SkeenaWild Conservation Trust,
3. LGL Limited,
4. Lake Babine Nation Fisheries,
5. Raincoast Conservation Foundation,

Select figures

Figure 1

Regions encompassed by the Wild Salmon Policy include British Columbia (BC) and Yukon Territory. DFO Fisheries Management Areas 1–10 for Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) returning to BC’s north and central coasts, the focus of this assessment.

A map of regions of salmon runs in BC: figure 1.

Figure 2

(a) Comparison of the number of spawning streams monitored between all streams combined (black line) and indicator streams (grey line) and (b) percentage of indicator streams routinely (i.e., ≥50% of the time) monitored and the trend (black line) in monitoring since the adoption of the Wild Salmon Policy in Management Areas 1–10 of BC’s north and central coasts from 1950 to 2014. Vertical dashed lines demarcate the adoption of the Wild Salmon Policy in 2005.

Graphs of salmon run streams monitored over time: figure 2.

Figure 5

Status assignments for all Conservation Units (CUs) and species based on mean escapement before (1995–2004) and after (2005–2014) the adoption of the Wild Salmon Policy, derived from benchmarks assigned using the 25th and 75th percentile approach of historical escapement for each CU.

A series of species specific charts showing salmon diversity health before and after the Wild Salmon Policy was implemented.



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