Canada’s Policy for the Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon (also known as the Wild Salmon Policy, or simply, the WSP) was adopted by the Government of Canada in 2005, following five years of public consultation on the issue of Pacific salmon conservation.
The WSP outlines the objectives and strategies that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will apply in its management of wild Pacific salmon. It is guided by the principles of conservation, honouring obligations to First Nations, sustainability and open process. Its overall goal is “to restore and maintain healthy and diverse salmon populations and their habitats for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of Canada in perpetuity.”
The WSP defines objectives, general approaches and conservation outcomes, although it does not prescribe specific management actions for achieving these outcomes. Conservation plans and activities are meant to be designed via an integrated strategic planning process with input from First Nations and stakeholders, to “ensure that decisions reflect societal values”.
Since the release of the WSP, DFO has struggled to achieve the key objectives as conceptualized in the 2005 policy document. For the past nine years, the Salmon Watersheds Program has been partnering with First Nations, DFO, the Province of BC, community members, and local non-governmental organizations in the Skeena River watershed to develop approaches for advancing the implementation of the WSP in the region. The assessment approaches developed for the Skeena are often considered a template for implementing the WSP in other jurisdictions and in recent years, the Salmon Watersheds Program has partnered with local First Nations, federal and provincial governments to expand the methodologies developed for the Skeena to the Nass River watershed and the watersheds of BC’s Central Coast.
Key Elements of the Wild Salmon Policy
The key elements of the WSP that most closely inform the work of PSF’s Salmon Watersheds Program include:
- Management focuses on maintaining salmon “Conservations Units” (CUs), in order to protect the genetic and geographic diversity of salmon species (see sidebar).
- Standardized monitoring and assessment of salmon status are emphasized. The status of each CU is to be assessed against quantitative benchmarks. A CU’s status relative to the benchmarks may be based on attributes such as the abundance, distribution and productivity of the salmon that make up that CU.
- The policy recognizes the importance of habitat protection and rehabilitation. Management plans will integrate habitat considerations by documenting important salmon habitat, and monitoring and assessing habitat status indicators against benchmarks.
- Management decisions will include consideration of the status and integrity of the ecosystems to which salmon belong.