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Salmon Ecosystems

Program Description

Salmon are a cornerstone of British Columbia’s marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, culturally iconic, and one of its most economically valuable fisheries. Yet salmon have largely been in decline in BC since the 1990’s. The complex life history of salmon species, which includes both freshwater and marine phases and an enormous spatial range that spans coastal to high seas ecosystems, makes understanding these declines extremely challenging.  In 2009, historic low catches of Fraser River sockeye precipitated a Commission of Enquiry into causes of declines, led by Justice Bruce Cohen. Climate change effects on early marine survival emerged as the leading contender, while pathogens, parasites, and high seas conditions were all identified as key knowledge gaps in understanding stock abundance trends. Hakai Institute salmon research targets these priority areas using salmon stocks in the vicinity of our research stations as case studies.

The life history of Fraser River sockeye salmon. Figure from the Cohen Commission report.
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