Current habitat pressures to Vancouver Island salmon are shown on the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s explorer tool. Red areas are high risk, yellow are moderate and green are low risk. Photo courtesy Pacific Salmon Foundation, Pacific Salmon Explorer.

Current habitat pressures to Vancouver Island salmon are shown on the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s explorer tool. Red areas are high risk, yellow are moderate and green are low risk. Photo courtesy Pacific Salmon Foundation, Pacific Salmon Explorer.

Data-driven salmon tool helps conservation planning

Habitat pressures, population status and overview all part of interactive mapping tool

Accessing salmon conservation data has never been easier in B.C. thanks to a new interactive tool created by the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF).

The “Pacific Salmon Explorer,” combines publicly-available data from various agencies into one place, giving people in charge of planning and conservation decisions an easy-to-use look at the threats faced by salmon. It has recently been expanded to include Vancouver Island, and can provide a close look at watersheds around Campbell River.

“The intent of the tool is to kind of bring together disparate information on salmon and their habitats into one place,” said Katrina Connors, director of PSF’s Salmon Watersheds Program. “It’s intended to help inform planning, conservation decisions as they relate to recovery and protecting salmon. It can be used as a sort of decision support tool to external groups that are tasked with thinking about salmon conservation and management.”

The explorer looks at salmon population data, including survival rates, spawning return, harvest rates and hatchery releases. It also looks at habitat stresses like road construction, infrastructure planning, forestry activity and other activities that affect freshwater salmon streams. The data is then brought together as an overview for the specific areas, and can be used to compare different parts of the province.

“One surprise was how decentralized the information really is,” Connors said. “For us, it’s been a pretty significant barrier to do this in an efficient way. At the same time, we’re kind of trying to work towards systems that allow us, and others, to leverage this out-front effort to bring it all together so it’s easier to maintain.”

Once the data was compiled, PSF worked with local people to help vet the data and ensure collaboration across the board.

Also emphasized was the disparities between regions in terms of focus and funding. Connors said that the main target for research and conservation dollars has been the Fraser River, but the Pacific Salmon Explorer will help spread some of that funding to other areas that may be effective and improve conservation as a whole.

“We’re looking at salmon and salmon conservation broadly, thinking about where are those places that salmon are doing relatively well where maybe fishery impacts are quite minimal and where we can make those investments in conservation to protect the resilience of salmon as a whole,” Connors said. “It’s useful information and especially with climate change having an impact on salmon.”

As the team is continuing to collect and analyze data, and they are collaborating with stakeholders and other groups along watersheds to expand the tool to the remaining salmon-bearing watersheds in B.C.

“I hope that this really can help inform conservation and recovery planning,” Connors said. “I hope the next phase will be using that information to see what we can actually do on the ground to support the recovery or protect the risk in salmon populations.”

To take a deep dive into the data around salmon in B.C., take a look at the Pacific Salmon Explorer tool at https://www.salmonexplorer.ca.

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marc.kitteringham@campbellrivermirror.com

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