Shifting the Balance: Towards Sustainable Salmon Populations and Fisheries of the Future
Donald J. Noakes and Richard J. Beamish
Talk to anyone about fisheries in the North Pacific and odds are the conversation will migrate towards a conversation about Pacific salmon. More than any other species, salmon are seen as an indicator of the health of our environment, and any real or perceived changes in the status of our salmon stocks attract significant public attention. Salmon’s unique life cycle places them at the interface between land and sea, and consequently they are susceptible to harvest in both their marine and freshwater habitats, and the proximity of salmon fisheries to large population centers tends to magnify their successes and failures. Salmon’s popularity as a sport fish also tends to engage more people in issues that affect their (salmon) abundance and distribution as do the extensive public awareness and education campaigns associated with salmon enhancement and salmon habitat restoration programs. In North America, First Nations (aboriginal peoples) have traditionally harvested salmon for food, social, and ceremonial (activities associated with aboriginal culture) purposes for thousands of years (Glavin 2001). Pacific salmon are also vulnerable to both natural and anthropogenic changes in their freshwater and marine environments, and the loss of some Pacific salmon stocks through urban development and other human activities has highlighted the importance of protecting essential salmon habitat and the development of effective strategies for mitigation. While protecting essential habitat is important for managing any fish stocks, the high public profile of Pacific salmon, a species that is quite literally in our backyard, tends to magnify the importance of good salmon habitat and the public’s expectation for immediate and tangible results.