Every year the situation for British Columbia’s wild salmon worsens. And every year the same actions are repeated by governments and society. We clearcut and pave their watersheds, dam and extract water from their rivers, pour toxins on the lands that drain to their rearing grounds, mar their migration routes with open-net fish farms, dump millions of hatchery fish into the ocean, and harvest salmon in mixed-stock fisheries that catch unsustainable numbers of at-risk, immature, and mature salmon.
Each year, Raincoast commits significant staff time and energy working to change salmon management. It requires meetings and calls, participating in technical and stakeholder forums, producing analyses and submissions, and engaging with government. While small steps are made, change is not happening fast enough. Increasingly, we are having to call for fisheries closures as a last resort solution to protect threatened and endangered salmon from entrenched and flawed management decisions.
Chinook salmon are a case in point. Chinook are the oldest and largest of the Pacific salmon, and were once present almost year round. This is partially why Resident killer whales evolved to depend on them. Yet many of the attributes that make these salmon magnificent are now compromised by fisheries that catch them before they are mature, overharvest the biggest and oldest fish, and reduce their size and diversity. Hatcheries have, for the most part, only made these problems worse.
Changing how and where we fish, along with making land use decisions that use salmon as an overarching indicator of sustainability, would make a big difference for all species (humans and non-human) that depend on these fish. In 2020, we will be working on big picture solutions to the systemic problems of salmon and fisheries management.
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