Editor’s Choice 58:9 Identifying a pathway towards recovery for depleted wild Pacific salmon populations in a large watershed under multiple stressors

Associate Editor, Hedley Grantham, introduces this month’s Editor’s Choice article by Lia Chalifour and colleagues, which evaluates the potential benefits of 14 management strategies on 19 conservation units of the five Pacific salmon species in the lower Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada.

Salmon are an iconic and globally recognisable species. In the Northeast Pacific they are also an important commercial and recreational fish species with important cultural values. Despite this, there are challenges around the management of 5 key salmon species, including pollution, overfishing and habitat degradation, that are contributing to their decline.

In their new article, Chalifour et al., explore this problem in the lower Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada, and identify the best set of management strategies for reducing threats using Priority Threat Management (PTM). PTM uses data and expert input to evaluate and prioritize potential management strategies based on their predicted benefit, management costs and feasibility. The authors also evaluated the potential benefits of 14 strategies spanning fisheries management, habitat management, invasives management, pollution, pathogens, hatcheries, and others on 19 fish conservation units (CUs), which are genetically and ecologically distinct populations of the five Pacific salmon species.

Fernando Lessa - HighRes8
Farm land butts up against salmon habitat in the lower Fraser River. Photo: Fernando Lessa

Their results showed that under the current trajectory of ‘business as usual’, zero CUs were predicted to have >50% chance of thriving in 25 years. However, by investing in five combined habitat strategies, costing 20M CAD annually, it would bring 14 of those 19 salmon CUs above the targeted 50% threshold.

Also identified through this process was the importance of co-governance between First Nation and various levels of Canadian governments to manage and improve monitoring of salmon populations. PTM has previously been applied to real conservation problems in Australia and Antarctica, with a focus on biodiversity outcomes. This study uniquely builds on this with a real example application for recovering wild salmon populations.

Read the full Open Access paper Identifying a pathway towards recovery for depleted wild Pacific salmon populations in a large watershed under multiple stressors in Journal of Applied Ecology

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