Recovering the diversity and abundance of the Northwest's wild salmon and steelhead requires a complete rethinking of how, when, and where commercial salmon fisheries occur.
Guided by science, Wild Fish Conservancy is advocating for a place-based approach to salmon harvest. Instead of chasing salmon into the ocean where immature and imperiled populations are too often incidentally killed, a place-based approach harvests salmon as they return to their home rivers fully mature ensuring enough fish remain to regenerate the population and maintain life history diversity.
Along with transitioning where we fish, a vital component of place-based fisheries is transitioning toward alternative fishing techniques capable of selectively harvesting targeted healthy or hatchery stocks, while protecting those that need to recover.Learn more about placed-based fisheries and the conceptual framework guiding this approach in a published paper by WFC's Dr. Nick Gayeski.
Historically, indigenous people of the northeastern Pacific fished for salmon when the fish returned to their natal rivers. Since they fished in or near the river, the impact of the fishery was confined to the river.
European colonists arrived and brought new technologies that helped fishermen expand how and where they could fish. Sail power, then gas and diesel engines and factory canneries forever changed the ability to exploit this rich new resource. Fishers were no longer confined to fishing the rivers near their communities. In the rich, new, ocean fishing grounds, fishers caught salmon that originated from many distant rivers. This shift to an ocean fishery represents the start of the mixed-stock fishery and the dilemma it poses for our region and the international managers that are now in charge of the fishery.
A new study published in BioScience suggests returning to historical indigenous fishing practices and systems of salmon management are key to restoring culturally and ecologically resilient Pacific salmon.
Historically, Pacific Chinook salmon commonly weighed over 50 pounds and occasionally exceeded100 pounds. Why then, is the average size of a Chinook today shrunk to only 10 pounds?
To better understand this alarming trend, Wild Fish Conservancy's Dr. Nick Gayeski and Devin Swanson are working to develop an individual-based eco-genetic model of Chinook salmon to analyze and demonstrate how harvesting in mixed-stock ocean fisheries is impacting the abundance, diversity, and size of wild Chinook that Southern Resident killer whales, coastal communities, and our ecosystems depend on.
Learn more about Wild Fish Conservancy's historic legal effort working to stop the overharvest of wild Chinook in Southeast Alaska that is pushing Southern Resident killer whales and wild Chinook closer to extinction.
After a landmark ruling, this effort is on track to set new precedence that will finally require resource managers to consider the needs of threatened and endangered species when managing commercial salmon fisheries throughout the Pacific coast.