B.C. research program funding 12 projects to protect Pacific salmon populations

Monte Stewart
October 12, 2021

B.C. researchers, Indigenous groups, companies and other groups are undertaking 12 new research and restoration projects designed to protect the province’s salmon population.

The projects are being funded by $10.23 million worth of British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF) grants. Ottawa is providing 70 per cent of funding, while the B.C. government is contributing 30 per cent. The two governments said the funding will build B.C.’s environmental and economic resilience and contribute to its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zachary Sherker, a UBC PhD student who is collaborating on one of the funded projects, said the multi-pronged research approach is “pivotal” to the long-term protection of the fish.

“We won’t be able to solve this imminent decline of Pacific salmon if we don’t understand what exactly it is that’s driving it,” Sherker said.

In June, the federal government announced widespread long-term fishery closures in B.C. due to declining salmon stocks. Ottawa introduced a voluntary commercial Pacific salmon-fishing license buyback program, while First Nations commercial-communal harvesters were given options to shift to more selective fishing gear or non-salmon fishing licenses.

In a news release, the federal government cited data from the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission that shows the 2020 global Pacific salmon catch was the lowest since 1982.

“What cannot be debated is that most wild Pacific salmon stocks continue to decline at unprecedented rates — we are pulling the emergency brake to give these salmon populations the best chance at survival,” said then fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan in a news release.

Jordan lost her seat in the South Shore-St. Margarets riding in Nova Scotia in the September federal election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to appoint a new fisheries minister, along with most other cabinet members, since the Liberals were re-elected under a minority government.

Projects will likely feed into federal-provincial salmon recovery plan

The BCSRIF program has invested about $85 million in 60 projects since it started in 2019. Ottawa is contributing $200 million over seven years, and B.C. has committed $42.5 million over five years, according to a joint news release from both governments.

Sherker said the latest BCSRIF projects are largely designed to improve upstream salmon flow in fresh water.

The various projects, Sherker added, will likely feed into an overall federal-provincial salmon recovery plan. He said such government-funded research will both preserve the commercial salmon fishery and provide benefits to First Nations communities, B.C. lands and more than 150 predator organisms that feed off salmon carcasses.

Under the largest new BCSRIF project, Cascadia Seaweed Corporation and its partners will receive $1.9 million to monitor how coastal kelp farms may provide habitat for migrating salmon and their food sources.

In another large project, a First Nations group will receive $1.53 million to fill salmon-population data gaps on the central coast over the next three years. The Central Coast Indigenous Resource Council, the grant recipient, hopes better data will provide First Nations harvesters with more sustainable opportunities related to marine and food, social and ceremonial fisheries.

The smallest project involves a $36,870 UBC study of lipid, or fat, content within chinook salmon at the Albion test fishery on the lower Fraser River near Fort Langley, a historic site in the Vancouver area.

Sherker is collaborating with the Secwepemc Fisheries Commission on research into how old culverts used in forestry affect salmon habitat on the North Thompson River. The commission received a $789,102 grant that was awarded on behalf of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council Society.

Over the next three years, the commission will gather data on Fraser River coho salmon, interior Fraser summer steelhead and southern B.C. chinook salmon populations, measuring such factors as stream flow, water temperature and their impacts on survivability.

Sherker said the BCSRIF program’s success hinges on First Nations involvement in the research projects. First Nations groups have intimate and integral knowledge of the landscape and historical salmon populations, he added.

“First Nations involvement is pivotal because, otherwise, you’re just playing a bit of a guessing game,” he said.


Other News

Events For Leaders in
Science, Tech, Innovation, and Policy

Discuss and learn from those in the know at our virtual and in-person events.

See Upcoming Events

You have 1 free article remaining.
Don't miss out - start your free trial today.

Start your FREE trial    Already a member? Log in


By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies. We use cookies to provide you with a great experience and to help our website run effectively in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.