Ultimate Fate of Pacific Salmon in the Pacific Northwest

Written by Andrea Reid

Source: Reid

Source: Reid

I am currently a PhD student cosupervised by Dr. Steven Cooke in the Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory at Carleton University and Dr. Scott Hinch in the Pacific Salmon Ecology and Conservation Laboratory at the University of British Columbia. My research investigates the impacts of fisheries interactions for the fate of Pacific salmon (genus Oncorhynchus) in British Columbia’s most salmon-bearing rivers: the Nass, Skeena and Fraser Rivers (see map). I integrate methods from multiple disciplines – movement ecology, ecophysiology and socio-ecology – to understand how different fisheries-related stressors are shaping Pacific salmon migrations and their future. As a member of the Nisga’a Nation on the British Columbia–Alaska border, I work closely with Indigenous groups throughout the province and across all stages of the research process.

BC’s most salmon-bearing rivers: the Nass, Skeena and Fraser Rivers. Map created by Andrea Reid.

BC’s most salmon-bearing rivers: the Nass, Skeena and Fraser Rivers. Map created by Andrea Reid.

Fisheries capture is among the most stressful events fish experience in their lifetime. As with all fish, when Pacific salmon encounter capture gear and either escape or are landed and released as bycatch they face a very uncertain fate. Stress, both physiological (e.g. elevated cortisol) and physical (e.g. skin, scale and mucous loss), can promote disease development as well as immediate or delayed mortality. In my research, I work with First Nations fishers to simulate the escape or release experience for Pacific salmon, either in the ocean or in-river. There, I implant a radio transmitter inside each study fish prior to their release which allows me to monitor their movement up-river by way of radio receivers along their migratory path. I also obtain non-lethal tissue biopsies from each study fish to quantify pathogens present and to explore gene responses to capture stress. Taken together, these data allow me to tease apart the relationships between different capture experiences, disease development and ultimate fate for wild Pacific salmon.

Andrea using a mobile radio receiver to listen for her tagged study fish in the Nass River watershed. Photo by Collin Middleton.

Andrea using a mobile radio receiver to listen for her tagged study fish in the Nass River watershed. Photo by Collin Middleton.

To complete this picture, I explore traditional knowledge of these relationships by interviewing Indigenous elders throughout the province. They share with me their historical perspectives and cultural understandings of different Pacific salmon stressors and management strategies. Interviews are centered around the themes of climate change, infectious disease, fisheries bycatch, traditional governance systems and novel adaptations to change with respect to Pacific salmon management. This work seeks to advance the uptake of elder knowledge into related policy and practice, to recognize different ways of knowing, and to provide the results of this research to the communities who are at the center of this work.

To learn more about Andrea’s research, visit: http://andreajanereid.com/.