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

        Recent articles

        A large salmon is lying on the ground in a river.

        Spawning pink and chum salmon provide benefits to coho

        Research from SFU and Raincoast scientists shows juvenile coho salmon benefit from dining on the carcasses of spawning pink and chum salmon.
        Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), fishing for salmon (Oncorhynchus sp.), coastal British Columbia.

        Bear and salmon research in Heiltsuk Territory

        Check out the work to date on our Salmon Carnivore project in Heiltsuk Territory on BC’s coast…
        Grizzly wades through water with salmon in its mouth

        Stress and reproductive hormones in grizzly bears reflect nutritional benefits and social consequences

        Salmon declines could have long-term effects on grizzly bear health, conclude scientists from Raincoast in a study published today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE…
        A black bear with a fish in its mouth.

        Bears, salmon and forests: new research on old connections

        Raincoast and UVic scientists finds new reasons to support the importance of bears and salmon for tree growth in the ancient forests of Haida Gwaii…
        A fishing boat in the ocean with mountains in the background.

        Is BC’s chum fishery sustainable?

        Raincoast and three other BC ENGO’s have critiqued the proposal by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) to certify BC’s chum salmon fishery as sustainable…
        Photo of infected juvenile sockeye salmon infected with sea lice

        Salmon farms as a source of sea lice: Raincoast responds

        Raincoast biologist responds to DFO on the impact of salmon farms. Published in Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences