Salmon Biodiversity

There are six species of Pacific salmon (sockeye, pink, chum, coho, Chinook and steelhead) that have evolved over millions of years into hundreds of distinct genetic stocks in British Columbia, occupying a tremendously diverse mosaic of salmon habitats, from the coastal rainforests, to the boreal plateau, to the Rocky Mountains. Each of these stocks has developed unique behaviours and unique physical traits to best survive under the unique set of environmental conditions it encounters throughout its life cycle. Scientists have shown that maintaining this remarkable biological diversity helps to ensure that there will always be salmon populations that can thrive under the environmental conditions of the day. This biological diversity can be likened to a diverse financial investment portfolio which protects against market fluctuations. Overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, inappropriate use of salmon hatcheries, and climate change are the major threats to maintaining and restoring biological diversity of salmon in BC. Learn more about biodiversity on our Benefits of Biodiversity and Wild Salmon Policy pages. Also see efforts being made to improve management of Fraser sockeye on our Fraser Sockeye Inquiry page.

Fisheries Management

When it comes to salmon, can we conserve biological diversity and eat it too? For many British Columbians, catching and eating salmon is a fundamental part of our cultural identity. First Nations in BC have been harvesting salmon in their traditional territories since time out of mind, thousands of British Columbians work in the commercial and sport fishing industries, and thousands more go fishing for salmon, steelhead, and trout every year. These user groups often come into conflict over who gets to catch what and how much, especially in years when numbers of returning salmon are low. Too often this leads to overfishing: too many salmon being caught, and too few salmon being allowed to return to their natal streams to spawn the next generation and nourish coastal and freshwater ecosystems. We all expect that our fisheries will be managed for long-term sustainability, but over the past century BC’s salmon populations have been subjected to chronic overfishing, to the point of extinction in some cases, while others remain endangered or threatened.

Salmon Habitat

Healthy, diverse salmon populations require healthy, diverse habitats. Over their lives salmon occupy many different habitats, from the streambed gravel where they emerge as fingernail-sized alevins, through riverine pools and lakes, far out into the North Pacific Ocean where they feed as adults, before returning to their natal streams to spawn. Watershed Watch helps to protect and restore salmon habitat by raising public awareness about specific threats to salmon habitat; reviewing and critiquing development proposals through the provincial and federal environmental assessment processes; and by participating in projects that aim to restore lost salmon habitat. ...Read More


The Canadian Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) was established in the late 1970s in an attempt to improve freshwater survival of salmon. Currently there are 23 Fisheries and Oceans Canada-operated hatcheries and spawning channels, 19 contracted community and First Nation's hatcheries, and 110 volunteer facilities, however, the use of hatcheries has become a controversial issue because of concerns over the interactions between hatchery bred and wild salmon. There are also questions being raised about how salmon enhancement fits within the Wild Salmon Policy. Watershed Watch Salmon Society worked with Simon Fraser University to bring together experts on salmon enhancement and conservation for the workshop Reconciling the conservation of wild salmon and the production of enhanced salmon under Canada’s Wild Pacific Salmon Policy to further explore this issue.

Salmon Farming

The issue of open-net pen salmon farming continues to be hotly debated. Serious issues such as sea lice, disease, escapes, pollution, and depletion of global food fish stocks have many people concerned about how the salmon farming industry is currently operating and calling for change. The industry maintains that their operations are not affecting the surrounding environment, but the weight of scientific evidence indicates that open net cage farming is negatively affecting wild salmon stocks. We need to move beyond the debate and move forward with real solutions that offer protection for BC’s wild salmon. Watershed Watch is working towards this by conducting outreach in an effort to raise awareness of harmful industry practices, and by producing and sponsoring peer reviewed research to add to the science on this issue. ...Read More.


Water runs through almost every aspect of life in British Columbia, from fulfilling our drinking water needs to supporting diverse aquatic ecosystems, to providing recreational, social, and economic opportunities, it is not surprising that we consider water our most precious natural resource. Unfortunately, a lack of comprehensive legislation (around both surface and groundwater) and sustainable use practices has placed British Columbia’s precious water resources under increasing threat. Changes to instream flow, and temperature regimes due to the over allocation of water for industrial, agricultural and individual use can have drastic consequences for fish and aquatic ecosystems. Tough legislation, combined with increased monitoring, and research is necessary to ensure adequate water resources are protected and available to perform necessary ecosystem functions (eg regulating river temperature) and combat the uncertainties of climate change. Currently, the provincial government is engaged in the Water Act Modernization process that has promised to deliver a new provincial Water Act in 2011 and Watershed Watch has been working with other provincial groups to ensure the new act contains strong protection measures for groundwater and promotes truly sustainable use of this vital natural resource.


Global climate change poses a grave threat to our planet, and humanity must reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially and immediately. Along with dramatic energy conservation, replacing dirty energy with renewable energy is part of the solution to climate change. But without careful planning these projects will do more harm than good. Watershed Watch is pushing back on behalf of BC’s wild rivers and the people who care about them by demanding a democratic and transparent approach to planning energy development; by educating the public on the benefits and risks of hydropower development; and by sounding the alarm when inappropriate hydropower projects are proposed. ...Read More
Craig and Sturgeon

Other Fish Species

Although conserving salmon is Watershed Watch’s primary focus, since we take a “watershed” approach to environmental conservation, we also deal with a few other important fish species in the Fraser River and BC’s coastal ecosystems. Our work on Fraser River sturgeon and eulachon stems from our work with our neighbours the Kwikwetlem First Nation. Many of the habitat and general conservation issues affecting sturgeon and eulachon also apply to Fraser River salmon species. Watershed Watch also applies its expertise on fisheries issues to groundfish species in an attempt to improve fisheries management and protect endangered stocks.