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.
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.
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.