Salmon Watersheds Program

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Improved Pacific Salmon Explorer Provides Access to Data for More than 80% of BC’s Salmon

September 22, 2020

The PSF’s Salmon Watersheds Program has launched major updates to an online data visualization tool that summarizes status and trends of Pacific salmon and their habitats throughout British Columbia (BC). This tool – aptly named the Pacific Salmon Explorer – is one of the most comprehensive sources of information on salmon in BC, with data and assessments for more than 80% of salmon across the province.

For a decade, the Salmon Watersheds Program has been collaborating with First Nations, federal and provincial governments, academics, NGOs, and independent salmon experts to identify, assemble, analyze, and present the best available data for salmon in BC. Recent updates to the Pacific Salmon Explorer are a huge boost for this mission as it now reaches beyond the North and Central Coast to include salmon in Southern BC. This expansion offers new insights into the status of 150 biologically, ecologically, and genetically unique groups of salmon populations, known as Conservation Units (CUs), across more than 160,000 square kilometers of freshwater salmon habitats in Southern BC. As a result, 80% of the 411 CUs in BC are now accounted for. This latest update to the Pacific Salmon Explorer also includes several new features including: (1) assessments of data quality; (2) interactive visuals of hatchery facilities and releases of juvenile salmon from these facilities; and (3) summaries of salmon status and trends by species for each region in BC.  

The Pacific Salmon Explorer has become an important tool for supporting salmon conservation and recovery. For example, the Pacific Salmon Explorer is being used to support Recovery Potential Assessments (RPAs) for salmon assessed as threated or endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. In the recent RPA for southern BC Chinook, the Pacific Salmon Explorer helped experts to evaluate the scope and severity of threats to threatened or endangered salmon and to identify recovery strategies and actions for these at-risk populations. Additionally, the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance, the Nuxalk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Heiltsuk, and Wuikinuxv First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, academic partners, and other salmon experts, recently used the Pacific Salmon Explorer to help guide the development of a strategic plan for salmon on BC’s Central Coast, identifying the most cost-effective conservation and management actions for supporting the persistence of salmon in the region.

The expanded tool will continue to inform salmon recovery priorities and catalyze local conservation planning efforts and management strategies for supporting at-risk salmon populations. “The Pacific Salmon Explorer has the potential to be an essential tool in assisting Indigenous communities when assessing local watersheds for fisheries values, preparing for water and land use planning, proposing restoration activities, understanding the status of salmon and making decisions in support of healthier aquatic resources. The vast amounts of information are now at the touch of a button with outputs such as graphical, map-based data to help managers understand and describe watershed-based issues.” (Gordon Sterritt, Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance Executive Director)

“The Pacific Salmon Explorer is a high priority for the Pacific Salmon Foundation and we will continue to catalyze efforts to bring together salmon experts and support them in using the Pacific Salmon Explorer to identify strategies for supporting the conservation and recovery of salmon,” said Michael Meneer, President and CEO of the Pacific Salmon Foundation. “Involving the people who are monitoring, restoring, and making decisions about salmon conservation and management, has been, and will continue to be, a central tenet of this work.”

This work has been supported by grants from Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Coastal Restoration Program, the Province of British Columbia, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund.

You can read more about the project and the methodology for salmon population assessments in our technical report or by visiting the Pacific Salmon Explorer: