Last week I had the privilege to spend some time with one of BC’s most iconic species. Year after year the salmon return to the streams of BC to spawn. At Goldstream Provincial Park, near Victoria, you can get a close view of the salmon as they complete their epic life cycle. As I walked along the path, salmon carcasses were scattered across the forest floor , this is great for the ecosystem, as the salmon carcass decomposes the nutrients are used by the trees and other vegetation to grow, leading to the lush rainforest we see around us, it is said that in these forests, the trees are made of salmon.
As well as basically making the trees grow, they also feed almost every species that lives in this region. Bears are frequently seen in this area during the salmon run; on the west coast of the island, wolves rely heavily on the salmon, out at sea, orcas, sea lions and dolphins predate the fish, and right in front of me, hundreds of gulls are feasting on the salmon eggs, brains and eyes. Even the tiny, but charismatic dipper, zips back and forth collecting eggs, out in the estuary almost 50 bald eagles, catch the salmon as they enter the river, not the most ideal welcome home for those poor fish.
Seeing the salmon so close, in just one river, it can be hard to take in the enormity of it all. Along the BC coast, millions of salmon are making the same journey their ancestors have made for thousands of years. I really believe that the salmon run is one of the great natural spectacles on Earth. These salmon have navigated the Pacific Ocean, returning to the same stream they were born, the fact that they are able to tell exactly which stream is their home is miraculous. The salmon we see spawning have survived the endless list of predators, the harshness of the Pacific Ocean and the relentless currents of the rivers. On top of all that, they have survived the devastating impact humans have had on this region. Fisheries, disease from salmon farms, endless pollution, plastic and waste, habitat loss and industrialisation all threaten wild salmon populations.
Watching salmon complete their incredible journey, against all the odds, one might think they are indestructible, but this could not be further from the truth. The salmon run we see today only exists because of the sustainable stewardship by those who have lived on this land for thousands of years. Salmon stocks are down again this year, they are on a consistent decline, the foundation of our ecosystem is starting to vanish in front of our eyes, and it is entirely preventable. If you do one thing today, I urge you to look at the ways you can help wild salmon in BC, and support those who fighting to save them, these fish are irreplaceable and their protection has to be our priority.
SOS (Save Our Salmon)