Salmon as status indicators for North Pacific ecosystems



A new system of salmon status categorization will provide useful indicators of ocean conditions and climate variability in the North Pacific Ocean. Under Canada’s new Wild Salmon Policy, biological status will be assessed and categorized for a few hundred largely independent lineages of chinook, sockeye, coho, chum, and pink salmon. Changes to the status of these Conservation Units, information regarding their oceanic distribution, and biological characteristics of fish returning to fresh water to spawn will be linked to the status of marine ecosystems. Data from short-lived species like pink salmon will inform the management of longer-lived species, including fish other than salmon. Each Conservation Unit will be categorized into one of three status zones based on the abundance and distribution of spawners or proxies thereof. Intensive studies of salmon returning to selected streams will determine the relative importance of factors operating in fresh versus oceanic waters and the role of natural vs. anthropogenic factors (e.g. fishing) on Conservation Unit status. These types of information collectively should provide important clues to marine health and carrying capacity. Things should also work the other way–ecosystem data (including oceanographic) will aid in the management of salmon and other marine species.