Wild Salmon Program

Pacific salmon are a foundation species in British Columbia’s coastal ecosystems. For millions of years, they have journeyed between the ocean and the streams, rivers and lakes of their natal watersheds.  In every life stage – from eggs to juveniles to adults – they are important food sources for marine, terrestrial and avian wildlife. Inherent in their lifecycle, is the provision of nutrients to the ecosystem when they return to spawn and die.

Photo by Fernando Lessa.

Wild salmon program

Misty MacDuffee, Biologist, Wild Salmon Program Director
Dave Scott, Biologist, Lower Fraser Research and Restoration Coordinator
Kristen Walters, Biologist, Lower Fraser River Program Coordinator

Pacific salmon are ‘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. In the Pacific northwest, species like sea stars, sea otters, and wolves are considered keystone species.

A foundation species, on the other hand, 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 ecosystem structure, process and organisms from the bottom up. Foundation species can be plants or animals with many species relying on them, but not disproportionately to their abundance, it’s because of their abundance. On the Pacific Northwest coast, the collective group of salmon species (chum, pink, etc), herring, and giant kelp are examples of foundation species.

Raincoast’s Wild Salmon Program is focused on ensuring that BC’s 450+ unique and irreplaceable Conservation Units of wild salmon persist over their historic range at spawner abundance levels suitable to meet the needs of wildlife and ecosystems. Conservation Units consist of thousands of spawning populations from hundreds of coastal rivers and watersheds across BC.

BC salmon face multiple obstacles. Domestic and international harvest, habitat loss (in watersheds and the ocean), interactions with hatchery and cultured salmon, and climate change can individually and cumulatively reduce the abundance of spawning salmon. We address these issues through academic, community, public policy and on-the-ground initiatives.

Raincoast’s work

Raincoast’s wild salmon initiatives are the product of coordinated strategies between diverse groups including First Nations, coastal communities, academic institutions (such as UVic, UBC and SFU) and other NGOs. Our policy recommendations and advocacy on behalf of salmon conservation and wildlife are informed by our research.

Some current projects

Salmon Science

Criteria for a good catch: A conceptual framework to guide sourcing of sustainable salmon fisheries

April 17, 201813 min read
Criteria for a good catch: A conceptual framework to guide sourcing of sustainable salmon fisheries

Researchers from Wild Fish Conservancy, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and the University of Montana are proposing an alternative framework for certifying wild salmon. The alternative is explained in a paper published in journal FACETS, by Canadian Science Publishing, titled “Criteria for…

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

August 24, 20174 min read
Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy: an assessment of conservation progress in British Columbia

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…

The ecology of conflict

May 17, 20165 min read
The ecology of conflict

Read moreRead this article (PDF) A new study, the “Ecology of conflict: Marine food supply affects human-wildlife interactions on land” published in the journal Scientific Reports, finds that in areas with spawning salmon and grizzly bears, bear-human conflict is higher…

Juvenile salmon & small streams

August 11, 20152 min read
Juvenile salmon & small streams

The Great Bear Rainforest is home to over 2,500 salmon runs from more than 5,000 spawning populations.  Many of these rivers are still intact, offering a unique opportunity to study the linkages between salmon and the larger food web. However,…

Time-delayed subsidies: Interspecies population effects in salmon

June 10, 20141 min read
Time-delayed subsidies: Interspecies population effects in salmon

New study shows the benefits from higher numbers of pink and chum salmon on spawning coho.  Research was conducted by Michelle Nelson, PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University in partnership with Raincoast. Paper: Nelson, Michelle C. and John D. Reynolds…

Spawning pink and chum salmon provide benefits to coho

June 9, 20141 min read
Spawning pink and chum salmon provide benefits to coho

Coho salmon: pinks’ and chums’ eating cousin Fro release: June 9, 2014 Vancouver, BC: It’s generations away from qualifying as cannibalism, but newly published research co-authored by two Simon Fraser University and Raincoast Conservation Foundation scientists shows juvenile coho salmon…

Salmon Reports

Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture – Final Report Volume 1

May 16, 20071 min read

Report to the Government of British Columbia from the Government-appointed Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture, volume 1. The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. ISBN 978-0-7726-5787-9 SPSA Final Report Vol 1

Special Committe on Sustainable Aquaculture – Final Report – Volume 2

April 16, 20071 min read

Report to the Government of British Columbia from the Government-appointed Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture, volume 2. The Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. ISBN 978-0-7726-5787-9 Appendix – Economic Impact Study SPSA Final Vol 2

Small Streams Survey Report (2006)

March 29, 20072 min read
Small Streams Survey Report (2006)

This report documents 127 previously undocumented salmon-bearing streams surveyed on BC’s central coast between 2003-2006 in Heiltsuk Territory. Small Streams Survey Report (PDF) Summary Small stream surveys were carried out by members of the Heiltsuk Nation, volunteers, and…

Juvenile Salmon Migration Mapping: A Pilot Study in Roscoe Inlet

March 27, 20071 min read

The purpose of this pilot study was to investigate whether it is feasible to undertake a large-scale juvenile salmon migration mapping project on the central coast. View the report in .PDF

Salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest

February 1, 20071 min read

This popular summary gives an overview of the importance of salmon in the ecosystem and Raincoast’s work to protect the abundance and diversity of salmon. Salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest

Death by a Thousand Cuts: The importance of small streams on British Columbia’s central and north coasts (2005)

January 1, 20071 min read

This report describes the role of small salmon runs in the overall structure and genetics of salmon populations. It is a response to the increased effort of federal monitoring of large salmon-bearing streams, at the expense and health of small…

Past projects

Raincoast’s 2008 Ghost Runs paper (CJFAS) and 2017 update (CJFAS) found that salmon runs have repeatedly failed to meet their escapement targets – meaning that not enough fish are returning to spawn

Raincoast’s Small Stream Surveys document the existence of hundreds of small streams that support salmon, yet are not catalogued federally or provincially.

In partnership with SFU, the Chum & Coho Stream Ecology project found that juvenile coho abundance is up to 3x higher in streams that have pink and chum runs compared to streams that don’t.

In partnership with SFU and the UVic, the Juvenile Salmon Ecology Project found that salmon farms on the migration routes of juvenile salmon disrupt survival of sockeye, chum and pink salmon.

 Join us

Support Raincoast’s Salmon Conservation Efforts