What have we been doing?

Salmon: The bloodline of the west coast

“Vancouver should call itself city of the salmon fisjing—there is no major area in the world that has a world class enormous salmon fishing run, running right through it’s streets,” says Alexandra Morton, a marine biologist and champion of the salmon based out of Echo Bay. “In an age when cities want to appear green, Vancouver has this incredible badge of honour.”

Much in the way the honeybee dances along the flowers, spreading pollen and laying the groundwork for life, salmon and halibut on the west coast play a critical role in the development of the ecosystems that mark B.C. from the coastal regions to the tips of the mountains. “When the sun hits the open Pacific life happens—the salmon go out there and they collect the nutrients from the sun hitting the Pacifi c and they bring it back to us,” says Morton. “Without them, it would be like turning the lights o_ . Everything just dims down.” The salmon runs weave their way through communities and ecosystems adjacent to rivers, spreading  nutrients collected from the ocean amongst the trees and animals.

From the beginning

The species of salmon and halibut lies rooted in the very beginnings of the west coast of B.C.. “They were one of two resources that opened up the entire province of British Columbia and one of the main reasons for the First Nations people being distributed along the coast,” says Brian Riddell—CEO of the Pacific Salmon Foundation, an NGO geared towards the species protection. 

From the mid-1800s to the heyday of salmon stocks, nearly 100 canneries dotted the coast. Today, he says, the commercial value is a fraction of what it used to be, but ecotourism and recreational fishing have picked up the slack, with salmon-related activities contributing $2 billion to the province’s economy. 

Safekeeping

Riddell says that although salmon fishing stocks fluctuate in abundance naturally, hatcheries and farmed fishing are affecting the fish. “In B.C. and Vancouver Island right now, we’re definitely seeing a relatively poor period of production. Many of the fisheries have to be curtailed in order to sustain the number of spawners returning for the next generation,” says Riddell. “The people paying for the drop in production right now really are the fishermen.”

Guido Rahr, President and Chief Executive of the Wild Salmon Center, says “the key to protecting the species is identifying the parts of the salmon run being affected by human interference and removing that part of the equation.” “Wild fish are the future. They’re the most resilient fish, they are ecologically critical and they’re free,” says Rahr. “They’re one of the last great sources of wild protein.” Morton agrees, “To have wild salmon—we just need to step out of their way.”

ANDREW SEALE

editorial@mediaplanet.com