Pacific salmon are vital to our culture and environment in British Columbia. They are facing unprecedented challenges with increasing impacts from climate change, pathogens, development, and predation. At the Pacific Salmon Foundation, we are working to save and restore wild Pacific salmon.
Our Climate Adaptation series focuses on seasonal issues that salmon face, issues that become challenges during extreme climate events. These challenges often result in amplified stressors to Pacific salmon.
What exactly is freshet?
The first in our Climate Adaptation series, PSF VP Salmon Jason Hwang teaches us about freshet, the seasonal flood of a river from heavy rain or snowmelt.
Historically, during normal years, early run sockeye and Chinook salmon migrate easily through freshet to their natal spawning streams. However, many rivers have had higher-than-average flows for three of the past five years. And when rivers are higher than normal, migration can become nearly impossible due to extremely high and fast-flowing water.
It’s anticipated that more extreme high- and low- flow conditions will become the new norm as a result of climate change. This means the definition of “normal” may need to be reconsidered, and we must double down our efforts to save these salmon and provide them with a passageway that’s accessible in all conditions.
In the Heart of the Fraser River, relatively calm side channels allow for salmon to take refuge. Salmon also veer from the mighty Fraser for food. When islands and shorelines flood seasonally, terrestrial insects float, thus creating a buffet for salmon. However, due to increasing island and shoreline development and dikes, this valuable feeding ground is disappearing.
Pacific salmon need our help, and we must do everything we can to save them. At PSF, we’re salmon first, salmon always — and we don’t go it alone. Special thanks to our partners in this video — Mike Pearson, Ecologist, and Kelsey Ned Kwilosintan, Fisherman, Sumas First Nation — for sharing their knowledge with us.