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

Stress and Reproductive Hormones in Grizzly Bears Reflect Nutritional Benefits and Social Consequences

November 27, 20131 min read
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 authors of a study published today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. The researchers examined stress and reproductive hormones of salmon-eating grizzly bears from coastal British Columbia. Their results,…

Bears, salmon and forests: new research on old connections

October 22, 20131 min read
Bears, salmon and forests: new research on old connections

Raincoast’s Dr. Caroline Fox and UVic’s Dr. Tom Reimchen have published a study examining bears, forests and trees in BMC Ecology.  The study examines the influence of salmon nutrients on the ancient Sitka spruce trees of Haida Gwaii. 19168

Salmon farms as a source of sea lice: Raincoast responds

April 28, 20121 min read
Salmon farms as a source of sea lice: Raincoast responds

Raincoast’s Michael Price and SFU’s John Reynolds respond to comments by DFO scientists Richard Beamish and Simon Jones.  The comments were published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 13339

Using grizzlies to assess harvest-ecosystem trade-offs in salmon fisheries

April 17, 20121 min read
Using grizzlies to assess harvest-ecosystem trade-offs in salmon fisheries

A new study, published in the journal PLoS Biology by scientists at Raincoast and the University of California-Santa Cruz has found that providing more spawning salmon to grizzlies also benefits salmon, the ecosystem and in several cases even fisheries yields.  …

Sea lice from salmon farms infect juvenile sockeye

February 8, 20111 min read
Sea lice from salmon farms infect juvenile sockeye

A study published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE by researchers from Raincoast, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University provides the first link between salmon farms and elevated levels of sea lice on juvenile…

Evidence of farm-induced parasite infestations on wild juvenile salmon in multiple regions of coastal BC, Canada

November 9, 20101 min read
Evidence of farm-induced parasite infestations on wild juvenile salmon in multiple regions of coastal BC, Canada

M.H.H. Price, A. Morton, and J.D. Reynolds. 2010. Evidence of farm-induced parasite infestations on wild juvenile salmon in multiple regions of coastal British Columbia, Canada. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 67: 1925–1932 Download the paper   Price etal 2010 Farm-induced lice…

Salmon Reports

A critical assessment of the BC Central Coast Land & Resource Management Plan

March 1, 20041 min read

This report is a critical assessment of protection for key wildlife & salmon habitats under the proposed BC Central Coast Land & Resource Management Plan undertaken by Dr. Paul Paquet, Dr. Chris Darimont, Dr. John Nelson and Katrina Bennett. The…

Ghost Runs: The Future of Wild Salmon on BC’s North and Central Coasts

December 1, 20021 min read

Raincoast’s recently published report on BC’s salmon stocks says new ways of managing Pacific salmon must be implemented if wild salmon, and the food web that depends on salmon, are to remain on BC’s central and north coasts. The report…

Losing Ground: The decline in fish and wildlife law enforcement capability in BC and Alaska

November 18, 20021 min read

Authored by Dr. Brian Horejsi, Losing Ground analyzes the respective conservation enforcement capabilities of coastal BC and southeast Alaska. A comparison of the two jurisdictions reveals an enormous gap in enforcement capability between BC and Alaska. In every component compared,…

Losing Ground: Executive Summary

November 17, 20021 min read

Authored by Dr. Brian Horejsi, Losing Ground analyzes the respective conservation enforcement capabilities of coastal BC and southeast Alaska. A comparison of the two jurisdictions reveals an enormous gap in enforcement capability between BC and Alaska. View the report in…

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.

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Support Raincoast’s Salmon Conservation Efforts