Managing Pacific salmon for ecosystem values: ecosystem indicators and the Wild Salmon Policy

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Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) was released in June 2005 with a goal to restore and maintain healthy and diverse salmon populations and their habitats. Strategy 3, Action Step 3.1 aims to include ecosystem values in decision-making by proposing “ecosystem indicators” to monitor the status of freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. The scientific basis for proposing ecosystem indicators within the WSP recognizes that Pacific salmon play an important role in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems, including streams, lakes, riparian forests and wildlife food webs. Managers influence these ecosystems by considering changes in fisheries regulations (i.e., harvest levels) and artificial enhancement (e.g., hatcheries). Thus, the role of ecosystem indicators is to provide a measure of ecosystem responses to changes in spawner abundance, thereby helping managers understand how changes in their actions affect freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems.

This work serves three functions: (1) provide a first attempt at developing ecosystem indicators for Strategy 3 of the Wild Salmon Policy; (2) recommend further development and refinement of ecosystem indicators; and (3) suggest next steps. To serve these functions, we reviewed the literature to develop a better understanding of the linkages among the five Pacific salmon species and freshwater / terrestrial ecosystems, and used our resulting summary on the “state of the science” to provide a scientific rationale for recommending ecosystem indicators and next steps.