Salmon Health

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What is the Salmon Health program?

Salmon health captures the connection between the components of an ecosystem and how it impacts the health of salmon and their ability to survive and reproduce. The Strategic Salmon Health Initiative was a partnered research effort with DFO and Genome BC. Launched over a decade ago, the Initiative examined factors impacting salmon health including the role of open-net-pen aquaculture. Still in its nascent stages, PSF’s Salmon Health Program will build on findings from the Initiative and focus on understanding where and when Pacific salmon face challenges that affect their health and survival.  Studies focus on factors such as disease, high water temperatures, low oxygen, other environmental stressors, or combinations of these factors.

Salmon (environmental) DNA

Using salmon health monitoring tools and technologies, we will identify where along the coast salmon are the most - and least - compromised. In addition to measuring the “stressors” mentioned above, we will use environmental (e)DNA to identify the biological features of different habitats. This eDNA technology captures cellular and genetic debris present in the ocean from across the salmon food chain (from salmon, predators, prey, competitors, harmful algae, and pathogens). This information will help characterize salmon ecosystems, and inform management, conservation and restoration planning and priorities.  

Partnering with many other groups and using Fit-Chips, and other tools at our disposal, we are building a program to help ensure wild salmon are healthy and have the brightest possible future by:

  • exploring patterns of “cumulative stress” as salmon migrate out to the open ocean and back;
  • supporting First Nations to monitor industrial activities and restore salmon populations in their territories;
  • finalizing the transition away from open-net-pen salmon aquaculture in BC;
  • gauging climate-change impacts on Pacific salmon and salmon ecosystems; and
  • partnering with existing hatchery programs to identify how environmental stressors impact the health of hatchery releases. Since many of the same stressors undermine the success of wild salmon, and that insight can be used to improve strategies for rebuilding wild populations.
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