Wild salmon are vital to the marine and river ecosystems of Vancouver Island. They are also sacred to many of the Indigenous First Nations here, such as the SC’IA⁄NEW (Beecher Bay) First Nation in East Sooke. Wild salmon – particularly Chinook salmon – are also extremely important to our Southern Resident Killer Whales.
Chinook are the largest species of salmon and can weigh over 100 pounds. They live in waters up and down the west coast of North America, as high up as Alaska and as low as Nevada. They also make up 80% of the diet of a Southern Resident killer whale – a population that is also in great danger. In fact, Ken Balcomb, writer for The Center for Whale Research, believes that the only way to restore the southern resident killer whale population is through “recover[ing] the natural wild runs of Chinook [salmon] and their supporting ecosystems as soon as possible.”
But the danger to our wild salmon is something that many organizations and individuals are keen to work on. There’s the Save our Wild Salmon organization, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and the Puget Sound Foundation, just to name a few. There are also many nameless people behind the scenes doing important work every day to help restore the population.
On April 18th of 2023, the Pacific Salmon Foundation released a blog post for National Volunteer Week in Canada, detailing the work done in Greater Victoria to help these salmon. The Peninsula Streams Society (PSS) organizes volunteers for shoreline restoration, meaning they collect trash and watch out for potential watershed hazards.
If you’re interested in helping out this way, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has compiled a list of organizations taking volunteers to help the Southern Resident Killer Whales (because if you’re helping one, you’re helping the other!)
Works consulted and further reading:
“Chinook” (n.d.). Pacific Salmon Foundation. https://pacificsalmon.wpengine.com/info/chinook/
Balcomb, Ken (July 17, 2019). “Restoring salmon runs, not politics, will save southern resident killer whales.” Center for Whale Research. https://www.whaleresearch.com/post/2019/07/17/restoring-salmon-runs-not-politics-will-save-southern-resident-killer-whales
“I am Salmon”: A great short film on our wild pacific salmon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5sZL20SYCk