Shifting salmon policy

Photo by Alex Harris.

Ecosystems are complex. They are communities of living organisms connected through interacting processes and features on the land, in water, and between the two. Yet BC’s antiquated environmental policy doesn’t reflect this. Colonial society governs ecosystems by siloing them into distinct ministries and resources instead of reflecting the interconnected nature of habitats that make them function in the living world. This “siloed decision making”is the root cause of many of the ecological challenges we face today.

Steelhead salmon underwater in a river.
Photo by Fernando Lessa.
Grizzly bear in a river with a salmon in its mouth.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Our policy goals

1. Manage fisheries for ecosystems

  • Set salmon harvest at levels that optimize the benefits of spawning salmon to watersheds and wildlife. 
  • Shift away from historic management paradigms that minimize the number of spawning salmon reaching rivers and maximize harvest (called Maximum Sustainable Yield). Move towards fisheries management that meets salmon spawning targets that are ecologically based, not harvest-based.
  • Shift harvest toward selective terminal fisheries (conducted in or near the rivers of origin) that respect the ‘place-based’ nature of salmon, and optimize the benefits to ecosystems, Indigenous cultures, and local communities.

    2. Implement ecological-based governance

    • Conservation planning and a commitment to sustainability that looks 7 generations ahead.
    • A “whole-of-government” approach that implements shared solutions by Indigenous, federal, provincial, and municipal governments to achieve salmon recovery from inland watersheds and rivers, to the open ocean.
    • Governance that honours Aboriginal rights and title, inherent Indigenous jurisdiction and law, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA). 
    • Sustainable funding strategies for watershed-scale restoration and planning.
      Fraser River Chum salmon settle on the rocks near the bottom under a shadow.
      Photo by April Bencze / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
      Two sockeye salmon swimming in a river.
      Photo by Fernando Lessa.

      3. Advance land-use policies that prioritize the health of wild salmon and biodiversity

      • Zoning that bolsters functioning watersheds and riparian habitat (i.e.protect natural features, limit impervious surfaces, reduce urban sprawl, adopt nature-based solutions).
      • Forestry policy that prioritizes salmon health by restricting clear-cutting in salmon watersheds, and incentivizes a sustainable, second or third-growth forest economy.
      • Climate adaptation policy that incentivizes nature-based solutions including natural shorelines, intact riparian areas, unrestricted floodplains, managed retreat, and use of rain-gardens in urban areas.

        Our recent reports

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        Newly published research from Simon Fraser University shows that salmon and marine plants increase both growth and reproduction in terrestrial plants.
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        Bold, sustained action can revitalize wild Pacific salmon in the lower Fraser River

        New research shows that Wild Salmon populations in the Fraser can recover if action is taken now.
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        Quantifying lost habitat for Pacific salmon in the Lower Fraser

        Salmon have lost access to as much as 85 per cent of their historical floodplain habitat – the biologically rich wetlands next to a river or stream that typically harbour wildlife – due to dikes and similar infrastructure.
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        Chinook salmon exhibit long-term rearing and early marine growth in the Fraser River, B.C., a large urban estuary

        Using tiny salmon ear bones, or otoliths, Raincoast researchers and partners were able to demonstrate that Chinook salmon from Harrison River rely on the Fraser estuary for one to two months while they feed and grow. These findings underscore the critical nature of this habitat for the persistence and recovery of Chinook salmon…
        An infographic about the Fraser Estuary overlayed on top of an underwater photo of some salmon.

        Research: Conservation in heavily urbanized biodiverse regions requires urgent management action and attention to governance

        A new open access research paper led by Dr. Tara Martin at the UBC Conservation Decisions Lab applied a novel conservation decision making tool called Priority Threat Management to identify the most cost-effective management strategies needed to address the threats facing 102 species at risk identified in the area…
        An expansive view of a Raincoast scientist working in the field in the Fraser River estuary.

        Habitat use by juvenile salmon, other migratory fish, and resident fish species underscores the importance of estuarine habitat mosaics

        Pacific salmon, especially Chinook and Chum, reside and feed in estuaries during downstream migrations. But the extent to which they rely on estuaries, and which habitats within estuaries, is not well understood. We need to understand this complexity if we are going to enact effective conservation policies. This is especially important in urban systems where habitat loss is ongoing, and at different rates across the estuarine mosaic. The Fraser River estuary, for example, supports a multitude of fish species…