At just 1% of their historic abundance, wild salmon are in a state of emergency in Clayoquot Sound. Local salmon stocks have drastically declined in recent years. Watersheds that once supported returns of over 40,000 salmon annually have decreased to roughly 2,000 returning adults. Changing ocean conditions and productivity, habitat degradation, historical over-fishing, genetic diversity, disease, pathogens and sea lice prevalence are all believed to be leading causes of this decline.
The loss of local salmon stocks on Vancouver Island spurred the formation of the Clayoquot Salmon Roundtable in 2013. The purpose of the Roundtable is to build partnerships in co-management processes aimed at the recovery and protection of Clayoquot Sound’s wild salmon stocks. The Clayoquot Salmon Roundtable consists of representatives from the Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht, and Hesquiaht First Nations, Federal and Provincial government agencies, NGOs, aquaculture, sport, recreational and commercial fishers and other stakeholders.
In 2020, the Clayoquot Salmon Roundtable began the first ever marine risk assessment for wild salmon. The objective is to identify and rank the scale and intensity of limiting factors in the marine environment and causes for the rapid decline in wild salmon stocks. The risk assessment will employ the best available data, science, traditional ecological knowledge and experts to identify high risk factors, key data gaps, and to develop prescriptions and recommendations for rebuilding, restoration, mitigation and management.
Beach seine sampling has confirmed that sea lice loading on juvenile wild Pacific salmon was higher in recent years than in any previous sampling year on record, 20 times higher in some cases. The success of sea lice populations are influenced by several factors including temperature, salinity and host abundance. Changing ocean conditions, as predicted by climate change, such as increasing sea temperatures and higher salinity, are likely to increase louse abundance on wild salmon. In a rapidly changing climate, protecting the genetic diversity in the remaining wild salmon is critical for long-term viability.
The recent and sharp decline in our local wild Pacific salmon stocks in Clayoquot Sound should be considered a state of emergency. The Clayoquot Salmon Roundtable is requesting your financial and political support and immediate action.