The Continued Decline of BC Salmon Fisheries: An Issue Wrought with Uncertainty

by jgabriel on November 10, 2017 - 5:10pm

Salmon fisheries in BC have been under significant threat. This issues, as stated by Alex Pennock in the article “Fish tales: the Collapse of BC’s Wild Salmon”, is one that is due to insufficient funding by the government. The article states that a policy for salmon management was created in 2005 by the DFO called “Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy”. This policy was originally thought of as a hopeful change, but was later found out to be ineffective. Salmon spawns continued to decline, and the DFO was unable to figure out why. The article goes on to describe that the policy needed to be assessed by a third party researcher at Simon Fraser University, since the government was unable to assess it critically itself. The researchers concluded that the policies major issue was lack of migration pattern monitoring by the government, which lead to inadequate information on the biological status of approximately half of the total pacific salmon population. The article went on to state that the only solution would be increased funding in order to increase data collection on salmon populations. The DFO claimed in response that they were attempting to combat through the use of new, less costly technology. I would argue that the major issue with the policy is not funding, but an improper approach to resource management as a whole.

Lack of fishery monitoring has lead uncertainty. This is a large problem when it comes to resource management in general, because the government needs to implement policies regardless of certainty. The article states that uncertainty and lack of data is the main issue with the way the resource is being managed. Uncertainty is a major issue, but I would instead argue instead that the management techniques that the government is implementing is more of an issue. Regardless of how much information there can be, uncertainty will always be an issue with complex systems. As the result, the policy makers should adopt an adaptive management approach that accepts the uncertainty and seeks to analyse failures in order to learn from mistakes. Instead, there is a lack of assessment on the part of the government when it comes to the effect of the effect of their policies on salmon fisheries. Third party investigators have been needed to uncover the issues with policies. As a result, ineffective policies have continued to be implemented without assessment. This could be avoided through the use of an adaptive management approach. If I were the author, I would have mentioned this as a solution to the fisheries issues instead of lack of funding and uncertainty.

Another issue I had with the article was the lack of in depth analysis on the effect of fishery collapse on indigenous communities. The article briefly mentions that first nation’s communities have been having issues with the plummeting salmon numbers, but does not mention the extent to which they are affected. The article also fails to mention whether or not these communities have been involved in the policy implementation. This would be useful information when analysing the salmon fishery management policies. This is because it would tell me whether any traditional knowledge has been taken into account when implementing the management techniques. This traditional knowledge would be useful information for the government, and would aid in their decision making process. These forms of co-management can be extremely affective, and can lower the amount of uncertainty in the decision making process. Brushing over these communities is an issue with the article, and I want to know more about the first nation’s communities’ involvement.


Article Used:

Pennock, A. (2017, October 23rd). Fish Tales: the Collapse of BC’s Wild Salmon. The Peak.

Retrieved from:

Additional Resources:

Mitchell, B. (2015). Resource and Environmental Management in Canada: Addressing Conflict and Uncertainty. Oxford University Press.

Roth, R. (2017). Adaptive Management [PDF Document].

Roth, R. (2017). Public Participation and Co-Management [PDF Document].