Salmon in our Rivers

From the river to the ocean – and back home again

For most B.C. wild salmon, life begins and ends in fresh water. The sockeye salmon featured in UNINTERRUPTED spend the first few years of their lives in freshwater streams and watersheds before heading out for the open ocean. After 2-7 years at sea, adult sockeye begin the arduous migration back home, swimming hundreds of kilometres upstream to spawn in their freshwater hatching grounds.

B.C. rivers are among the world’s most vital for preserving wild salmon stocks. Billions of eggs are laid every year in B.C.’s primary salmon rivers and watersheds – legendary waterways such as the Fraser, Skeena, Nass, Somass, Thompson, Upper Peace and Adams River. There are also major sockeye spawning runs in the Stikine, Taku and Alsek watersheds, and the Smith and Rivers inlets. UNINTERRUPTED was filmed in three of these BC waterways: the Adams, Pitt and Sproat Rivers.

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A difficult journey with growing risks

The annual migration is beautiful to witness, but life is not without risk for salmon at all stages. Young sockeye face predators in their own species and make a tasty meal for snakes, osprey and eagles. As the sockeye return to their spawning waters, danger looms again in the form of bears and hungry birds, plus natural and human-made obstacles including river rapids, currents and dams – and fishing. In the Adams River, where much of UNINTERRUPTED was filmed, it’s estimated that only a few in every 2-4,000 eggs will survive and return to spawn as an adult salmon.

Throughout their journey, the salmon nourish the Pacific ecosystem as they have done for millennia – but human intervention has threatened this annual cycle. Warming temperatures, disrupted riparian (shoreline) zones, water shortages, and contamination pose a major risk to migrating salmon. Even big cities like Vancouver used to offer a safe haven for salmon, but urban sprawl has eaten up this important habitat.

Lost watersheds matter, because for wild salmon, there really is no place like home. Groups of salmon that hatch in a stream and return there to spawn (a process known as “homing”) possess a unique genetic code that evolved over thousands of years to match that particular waterway. When human actions or a natural disaster wipe out an entire stock, it may take another thousand years for salmon to return bearing the genetic makeup they need to thrive in that stream.

 

You can join in

In every B.C. watershed, there are people and programs working to gather important data about wild salmon, and to preserve and protect essential habitat throughout the river system. To celebrate the fact that B.C. is one of the few places in the world that still has significant wild salmon runs, fall festivals are held in communities across the province; and every four years at the Adams River, the Salute to the Sockeye witnesses one of the largest remaining migrations in North America. Read here in the coming weeks to learn how you can join in.

Feature Stories

“Grocery stores” for salmon fight impact of urban & agricultural development

Salmon in the Stave River are getting a leg up from the Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition and partner organizations, as together they put the ingredients for life back into this vital river habitat.

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Ecologists reveal the mystery of the salmon-bear relationship

A groundbreaking study finds bears eat salmon-rich diets near Alberta border.

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Salmon Stewards face off against a Rockslide

Salmon stewardship is woven into the culture of First Nations from a history that goes back thousands of years. It’s seen as a sacred responsibility, reflected in stories that are passed from one generation to the next.

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Resources and Links

Salmon Safe Program Fraser Basin Council & Pacific Salmon Foundation

fraserbasin.bc.ca

Pacific Salmon Foundation Pacific Salmon Explorer

salmonexplorer.ca

Watershed Watch Salmon Society Fraser Basin Live Map - Salmon & Water Atlas

Fraser Basin Live Map

Adams River Salmon Society

salmonsociety.com

UNINTERRUPTED: Now until Sept 24th

UNINTERRUPTED brings the heart of a wild salmon-bearing river to the heart of the city by transforming a downtown Vancouver bridge.

After dusk, audiences witness the extraordinary migration of wild Pacific salmon in a 30-minute cinematic spectacle that explores the connection between nature and our urban environments.

See the Show

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