Summer is winding down in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Days are growing shorter, but the weather is clear and sunny, the nights star-filled. It’s the time of year when wild salmon return to their natal rivers, where more than two hundred other species also depend on the sustenance provided by the spawning fish. The salmon, who have grown to full size in the open Pacific, bring marine-based nitrogen into the rainforest, feeding the ancient cedars in a crucial ecological process known as the “nitrogen pump”.
Clayoquot Sound’s backcountry is a series of seven large intact rainforest river valleys, which have never known the roar of industry. But wild salmon in the region are in serious trouble. Despite the abundance of pristine habitat, Clayoquot’s salmon runs are in dramatic decline, with some runs now being counted in the tens, rather than in the tens of thousands.
Many factors impact salmon survival, including open net-cage salmon farming. It’s an impact that Clayoquot Sound’s salmon endure close to home, where tiny smolts must swim past a gauntlet of 20 farm sites on their journey to the open ocean. They might be attracted into the pens by lights on the farm and be eaten by the ravenous farmed Atlantic salmon, or be sucked up as by-catch during harvesting. Or they might make it past the farms but contract a heavy load of deadly sea lice—a parasite that nature would not normally expose them to until they are adults. Or they may be bathed in a soup of viruses and other pathogens from the crowded farm pens. No wild salmon population anywhere in the world has thrived in close proximity to open net-cage salmon farms.
Wild salmon are the lifeblood of Clayoquot Sound’s ecology, culture, and economy. But we are at a crossroads. A new salmon feedlot site near Tofino is awaiting approval. Due to public pressure and now a legal challenge, this permit has been postponed. But we may only have weeks to make a difference. Please sign our petition and share it with your network. Every time someone signs, Premier Clark and federal Fisheries Minister Ashfield will receive an email. Add your voice. Together we can keep Plover Point wild for the salmon!
Friends of Clayoquot Sound