What is a wild salmon? Fish that chose each other as mates and deposit their eggs into a river create the only wild salmon.
We have never used everything we know about salmon to restore them. Now is the time.
Consider this. Nature is very careful not to waste energy. At spawning time, the fish is starving, swimming against a river, while growing eggs and sperm and yet every species of salmon invests precious finite energy reserves to grow enormous humps, teeth and brilliant colours. The only reason salmon can afford this extravagance as they are running out of fuel is because their babies are the ones that come back. Salmon are carefully reading each other’s bodies to choose the best mate for their babies. They are picking the salmon that fits the river, the state of the ocean, their world. Scientists can trace salmon to their spawning grounds using DNA because each run has made themselves uniquely perfect for that spot. If your river gets warmer, faster, more acidic, smaller, salmon will prepare their offspring to survive those changes.
No human can do this for salmon, they have to do it themselves. We can’t read their spawning regalia. All we can do is give them every opportunity possible to do what they do best, while still respecting the needs of society. Wild rivers make wild salmon stronger. Salmon born in gravel develop larger brains in the 1st 3 weeks of life, than salmon born in trays (Kihslinger and Nevitt 2006). This serves them as they learn how to avoid predators, feed and migrate. Wild rivers prepare diverse individuals and populations ready to face the challenges ahead.
Why Wild versus Enhanced
Hatcheries have a specific purpose: to produce free-range salmon. But hatchery salmon depend on money, fuel and government support every single year. As government spending becomes tighter, these runs will fail.
Hatchery salmon are at greatest risk from disease. Disease spreads more rapidly in captivity because there are more fish and less water than in the wild. Disease mutates more easily in captivity because the predators are not allowed the contagious diseased fish. Disease becomes more virulent in captivity because there is no risk in killing its host, there will always be another fish to infect. As salmon farms increase parasites, bacteria and viruses, free salmon are bringing new and more disease into the rivers.
Crowding salmon is becoming increasingly dangerous whether in the sluggish flow of spawning channels or minimal flow in hatcheries. Spawning channels that are left to fill with debris and carcasses are death traps to wild salmon. Communities have to take responsibility to maintain or close them.
For more information on wild salmon, hatchery salmon and the impacts of enhancement efforts, visit Science Library of the Wild Fish Conservancy site.
Why the Department of Wild Salmon
We recognize the difference between wild, enhanced, hatchery and farm salmon and are committed to wild salmon as the fish with greatest potential to populate our future. We recognize that wild salmon thrive without humans and to restore them we need to adapt our behavior to allow salmon maximum unimpeded flow. The knowledge and work force already engaged in support of wild salmon far outstrips the capacity of any government agency. We, the local people, will use cutting-edge science and traditional knowledge to identify and measure the bottlenecks in wild salmon survival. We will bring this information to society so that we can make sophisticated decisions to accept, remove, adapt or relocate human impact. We will measure the success of our decisions so that we can fine tune, share and/or completely change direction. We will work with the fish.