Salmon in our Lives

Shaping our past, present and future

Wild salmon are the lifeblood of British Columbia. That might sound dramatic, but according to one survey about a decade ago, 70 per cent of respondents said provincial salmon runs are as important to British Columbians as the French language is to the people of Quebec.  The decade since has not been an easy one for salmon.

Still, if there were ever a place where salmon were going to take over a city bridge as they do in Uninterrupted-VR, B.C. would be it. Read on to learn why salmon swim right through the heart and soul of this province.

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Revered by Indigenous cultures

Wild salmon have always been deeply ingrained in the culture, spirituality and daily life of First Nations living in the Pacific region. For more than 10,000 years, Indigenous communities have relied on salmon for nourishment – creating innovative fishing techniques to catch only what they need, while protecting precious stocks.

Many of the nearly 200 First Nations also developed traditions to honour wild salmon as a precious resource. This reverence continues today – helping to infuse a profound appreciation for salmon throughout the province.

Legacy and livelihood

After settlers arrived from Europe, the Hudson Bay Company began exporting salmon from B.C. waters teeming with wild fish. A vibrant fishery flourished, led in part by immigrants to the growing colonies. Most notably, Japanese-Canadian settlers established a rich community centred in Steveston and the Fraser River salmon fishery, until Canada’s World War II internment policies intervened.

In order to preserve the perishable catch, the first cannery opened in the early 1870s,  and by the early 1890s, nearly 45 canneries were operating along the Fraser River. Both commercial and sport fishing grew along with B.C. Out on the water, fishing fleets began using radios, radar, sonar, nylon nets and hydraulically powered gear to make increasingly large catches. Overfishing eventually led to fish management policies that now link Canada, the U.S. and First Nations.


A wild education

In response to dramatically declining Pacific salmon stocks, Fisheries and Oceans Canada introduced the Salmonid Enhancement Program in 1977 (salmonids refers collectively to Pacific salmon and trout), building hatcheries and spawning channels, while working with local communities and First Nations to restore and preserve damaged streams.
The effort reached all the way to school classrooms, where most B.C. elementary school students can now recite the salmon lifecycle and map the transformation from alevin to fry to smolt with materials developed through the SEP (or you can find a refresher right here).

The Salmonids in the Classroom program takes these lessons a step further with tools and resources to help students raise salmon right in their schools. Children incubate Pacific salmon eggs and raise them to become fry, before releasing the swimmers into local streams.

Fueling economies, cultures – and imaginations

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, nearly 43,000 Canadian commercial fish harvesters and their crews were actively operating in 2016. In May of the same year, the price of a single Chinook salmon was worth more than a barrel of oil.

Beyond hard dollars and cents, however, salmon permeate the very fabric of West Coast culture. Visitors eagerly dine on wild salmon at tiny sushi counters through to high-end eateries and salmon festivals. The wildlife that attracts people from all over the globe would not thrive without salmon.

Fish-inspired art is literally everywhere in this province. Whether you’re driving past an urban wall, visiting a gallery or admiring a First Nations carving, salmon continue to inspire artists, authors, painters, actors, dancers, and even a national bestseller. Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s 2016 novel, The Spawning Grounds, is set around a fictional river in the Thompson-Shuswap region and details the impact of a declining salmon run – which brings us back to our own flight of imagination inspired by Shuswap salmon.

Now in virtual reality and on tour in the summer of 2021, find us to follow the sockeye back to their spawning grounds in the Adams River.

Feature Stories

Commuters: You’re not alone out there

For years, Pacific salmon have been dying at alarmingly high rates in urban waterways. Until recently, no one could explain why. New research may hold the answer. Read on, and then check out the related salmon shareable below!

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Rock Star of the Ecosystem (salmon shareable)

It’s not just bears, whales and humans that love Pacific Salmon. The impact of these resilient but vulnerable creatures is in the soil we walk on, the air we breathe, the cities we live in – and all up and down the food chain. Research points to over 130 species that rely on Pacific Salmon…

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The Spirit of the River: Dr. Mary Thomas

Occasionally you’ll hear a voice in the soundscape of UNINTERRUPTED, woven in amongst the instrumentation and natural sounds of the original score composed by Owen Belton. The voice is a recording of renowned Neskonlith elder and ethnobotanist, Dr. Mary Thomas sharing a story about salmon in her first language, Secwepemcstin. A young child in the…

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“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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Get a Stream Address

Salmon Sundays are an institution at the Mossom Creek Hatchery and Education Centre in Port Moody. Visit any Sunday and you’ll likely encounter one of the founders – Ruth Foster or Rod MacVicar – and a cluster of volunteers.

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Just Give Me A Rock

The volunteers have learned a lot in the last 30 years – about ecoystems and the way in which hundreds of natural elements intersect. “Give me a rock and I can now talk for hours.” Zo Ann says, picking up a rock and pointing to the significance of a miniscule creature found on its underside.

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Resources and Links


Where art meets nature

VR On Location

We gratefully acknowledge that UNINTERRUPTED was filmed on the unceded traditional territories of the:
xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam)
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish)
səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)
q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie)
Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band, Secwepemc Nation

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