Salmon 2100: The Future of Wild Pacific Salmon

Human Numbers-The Alpha Factor Affecting the Future of Wild Salmon

Gordon F. Hartman, Thomas G. Northcote, and C. Jeff Cederholm


The Salmon 2100 project asks a crucial question: what does society have to do, specifically, in order to have sustainable runs of wild salmon at the end of this century? The question assumes people want to act on this challenge. The project proposal asks us to examine four major elements in the way our society functions and then to identify policy options that would respond to these basic aspects of society and consequently sustain and/or restore salmon populations.

In addressing the challenge, we first lay out various contextual issues, then present a detailed example from the Okanagan basin of how fish populations and habitat are lost. In this illustrative example, we consider the history of land use, human number expansion, and all levels of government behavior. We are not familiar, in detail, with such areas as the San Francisco Bay and the Central Valley in California, the Willamette Valley area in Oregon, or the Puget Sound area in Washington. However, it is evident that the Okanagan basin area in southern British Columbia is following their trajectory, and exemplifies the many growing problems of maintaining wild salmon populations elsewhere in British Columbia and in river basins in the western United States. In short, we see rapidly increasing human numbers as a primary societal driver affecting the future of salmon, hence the term alpha factor.