Wild Salmon Program

Using scientific research, policy change, and habitat restoration to restore the health of wild Pacific salmon.

Photo by Fernando Lessa.

Raincoast’s Wild Salmon Program is focused on ensuring that wild salmon thrive across their historic landscape at abundance levels that sustain wildlife. Initiated in 2006, the Wild Salmon Program addresses threats facing the survival of wild salmon. These include fisheries management, habitat loss, hatcheries, and siloed decision making. We promote alternatives to the systemic problems that drive short-sighted and commodity-based decisions on the land, in the water, and over resources, by all levels of governments. 

Underwater photo of 4 Salmon smolts.
Photo by Fernando Lessa.
Two sockeye salmon swimming in a river.
Photo by Fernando Lessa.

Salmon are foundational

Pacific salmon are a foundation species. This is different from the more familiar term keystone species. A keystone species has an influence on its environment that is disproportionate to its abundance. Like the keystone in a masonry arch, its removal can have a strong effect on the surrounding community. 
A foundation species is important because of the role it plays due to its sheer biomass in the ecosystem, and the strong influence this has on structuring a community. Foundation species support ecosystems from the bottom up. In the Northeast Pacific Ocean, salmon, herring, and giant kelp are examples of foundation species.

Current status of wild salmon in BC

British Columbia is in an unprecedented wild salmon crisis. Intensified by a warming North Pacific Ocean, more extreme aquatic conditions, decades of habitat loss, over-harvesting, as well as fish farm and hatchery impacts, many wild salmon populations in BC have declined dramatically. 

Despite harvest reductions over the last two decades, the situation is not improving. Harvest reductions have not kept pace with habitat loss and climate change. With few exceptions, salmon species throughout British Columbia are experiencing low to record low returns.

Although wild salmon face unparalleled threats, there are more people committed to and concerned about their recovery than ever before. Roughly 85% of BC residents are worried about the future of salmon. By working together, we can restore healthy, abundant populations of wild spawning salmon in British Columbia’s wild rivers. 

Fraser River Chum salmon settle on the rocks near the bottom under a shadow.
Photo by April Bencze / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
A school of red fish swim through very clear water, showing the sand beneath them.
Photo by Fernando Lessa.

The Lower Fraser River

The Lower Fraser is the section of the Fraser River that flows westward from Hope, BC, through Metro Vancouver and into the Fraser Estuary. From terrestrial predators in upriver valleys to iconic Southern Resident killer whales in the estuary, the Lower Fraser River connects land to sea through globally-important salmon runs and freshwater habitat.

Despite being just 5% of the Fraser Basin’s size, the Lower Fraser supports half of the Fraser’s Chinook and chum, 65% of its coho, 80% of its pink. However, much of the Lower Fraser’s historical habitat has been lost, with remaining habitat under significant threat. 

We take a multifaceted approach weaving together policy, scientific research, and habitat restoration to advance our goal of seeing healthy populations of wild salmon return to the Lower Fraser River. 

Recent articles

Drone photo of a jetty with the fraser river estuary on either side.

Construction starts this week!

This week, we are starting the construction of a second breach in the North Arm jetty.
A large fish swimming under the water.

Contact your MLA about the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 expansion

The provincial government has a choice. They either act in their role to protect the integrity of south coast ecosystems in BC and their importance to our culture and economy, or they continue to make, and support, decisions that further their decline.
Four people walking in a garry oak meadow.

Raincoast welcomes new team members who have joined our team for the summer!

They will work on a variety of Raincoast initiatives throughout the summer. Learn more about each of them below.
Three killer whales swimming near the surface of the water.

Letter in Science identifies the contradiction between protecting economic growth and biodiversity in Canada’s Fraser River Estuary 

The letter, asking whether Canada will permit killer whale extinction, identifies Canada’s conflicting aspirations and obligations to protect biodiversity while continuing to permit megaprojects that destroy the critical habitat of threatened and endangered species.