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YVR Partners with Pacific Salmon Foundation

Wild Salmon: Now and for the Future

The five-year Salish Sea Marine Survival Project was launched to determine why Chinook, Coho and Steelhead salmon in the Salish Sea declined by about 90% two decades ago and never fully recovered. One major finding is that estuaries are absolutely vital to growing young salmon. But, development and industrial activities have resulted in loss of eelgrass habitat and pollution. Eelgrass provides shelter from predators and waves for growing salmon, and supports small marine insects that they feed on.  Vancouver International Airport YVR) is located in the estuary of one of the most important salmon-producing rivers in the world – the Fraser River.  That’s why YVR is investing in a future for salmon by supporting volunteers funded by PSF, who are removing hundreds of tonnes of marine garbage from more than 20 different salmon estuaries surrounding the Strait of Georgia and replanting eelgrass beds. You can support critical efforts like these by making a tax-receiptable donation today! Your donation will be matched and every $100 you donate will result in one entry to win a hand-carved artist proof Seawolf reel donated by PEETZ Outdoors (see image gallery).

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada recently released a new report revealing that almost half of Chinook populations from southern BC are at risk. Chinook stocks in southern B.C. support our struggling Southern Resident Orcas. In fact, Chinook comprise about 90% of their diet when they are feeding in the Strait of Georgia, and Canadian waters of the Salish Sea. 

The Fraser River drains into a shared body of marine waters called the Salish Sea, which encompasses the Strait of Georgia in Canada, and Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the United States. Between 1993 – 95 wild Coho salmon and Chinook salmon mysteriously and abruptly plummeted by about 90% and never fully recovered.  The  Salish Sea Marine Survival Project was started to figure out what happened and what we can do about it. During the last three years, Canadian efforts for the SSMSP have initiated 40 different projects in partnership with 30 different organizations in the Strait of Georgia. Why so big? We needed to overcome the fragmented view of the ecosystem that has hindered past research efforts. The SSMSP is the first of its kind to assess the ecosystem as a whole studying all factors that could be impacting salmon, including loss of habitat, salmon disease, predation from seals and other species, the role of climate change and more. Now in its final phase, scientists are currently analyzing all of our findings to produce a set of recommendation for policy makers to share next year. We have already started meeting with communities to discuss local action plans for recovery.

During the last three years, Canadian efforts for the SSMSP have initiated 40 different projects in partnership with 30 different organizations in the Strait of Georgia. Why so big? We needed to overcome the fragmented view of the ecosystem that has hindered past research efforts. Research efforts through the SSMSP have resulted in development and application of several new technologies and innovations, including:

  • A customized ‘seal beanie’ that tracks exactly how many juvenile salmon Harbour seals consume and which species. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot – up to 40 per cent of Chinook and 47 per cent of Coho!
  • The Citizen Science Program, which outfits volunteers with private boats to conduct oceanographic research. These volunteers have collected more than 8,000 samples over three years, providing a level of detail not feasible with large survey vessels, and at a fraction of the cost. It is our hope that this program will continue with the help of funders as continued monitoring of the Strait of Georgia environment is key to knowing how to protect our salmon stocks. 
  • A genetic sampling platform that can process samples at unprecedented rate. The technology helped researchers investigate salmon disease in hatchery, wild and aquaculture salmon. Last year, Heart and Skeletal Muscle Inflammation was discovered for the first time on a salmon farm prompting PSF to release its position statement that salmon farms should be moved onto land. 
  • Development of a full-scale scale computer model of the Salish Sea and its’ ecosystems housed at UBC’s Institute of Oceans and Fisheries to facilitate continued study and monitoring of Salish Sea ecosystems. 

Read our  2016 Canadian Progress Report to learn more.

Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has become the first airport in North America to achieve Salmon-Safe certification. This certification acknowledges YVR’s ongoing efforts and commitment to transform its land and water management practices, to protect Fraser River water quality and enhance the habitat so Pacific salmon continue to thrive. The Pacific Salmon Foundation co-manages the program with Fraser Basin Council in British Columbia.