Wild Pacific salmon catches down 80 per cent, elders report

Science, Health & Technology

Wild Pacific salmon catches are one sixth what they were 50-70 years ago, Indigenous elders report.

Employing Indigenous research methodologies, Nisga’a citizen Dr. Andrea Reid (she/her) interviewed 48 knowledge keepers from 18 First Nations across the Fraser, Skeena, and Nass rivers.

They identified leading threats to salmon, including aquaculture, climate change, and infectious diseases, with 26 knowledge keepers reporting estimated catch sizes.

Why do salmon matter?

Many of the communities identify as ‘Salmon People’, illustrating the importance of fish to their identity and culture, says Dr. Reid. Indeed, those interviewed perceived threats to salmon as threats to aquatic health and people’s well-being.

Seated Tŝilhqot'in elder with walking stick at Tl'etinqox Culture Camp

Seated Tŝilhqot’in elder with walking stick at Tl’etinqox Culture Camp. Credit: Andrea Reid

What are Indigenous research methodologies?

Using the four “Rs” (respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility) as core values, these methodologies ensure research is conducted with—not on—Indigenous communities. This study partnered with communities, reciprocated learning, and ensured the elders retained control of the information, which was treated as expert knowledge, valid in its own right.

Flying over the Work Channel

Flying over the Work Channel to reach the Khutzeymateen Inlet, BC. Credit: Andrea Reid

What’s next?

This study highlights the expertise of Indigenous knowledge holders, says Dr. Reid. With ongoing wild salmon declines predicted, one solution could be to turn, or return, to Indigenous leadership in caring for salmon systems.

Interview language(s): English (Reid)

Images and b-roll for media: www.bit.ly/Salmondecline

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