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Indigenous systems of salmon fisheries and management offer lessons for resilience


A recent review of Indigenous systems of fisheries management—co-authored by members of the Salmon Watersheds Lab alongside Indigenous leaders and conservation scientists—argues that a return to the use of these technologies, harvest strategies and governance systems may hold hope for restoring the resilience of declining Pacific Northwest salmon fisheries.

The study explains how, from southeastern Alaska to California, for thousands of years Indigenous Peoples managed their salmon fisheries in close, reciprocal relationships with salmon.


Then, in the mid-19th century, the selective harvest technologies that supported these place-based management systems were, in many places, suppressed, outlawed, or destroyed, and replaced with colonial fishing systems; namely, centrally managed, mixed-stock marine fisheries harvesting salmon from hundreds of populations of often unknown origin and conservation status.

The paper reviews case studies of recent revivals of Indigenous harvest technologies, such as weirs, fish traps, reef nets and dip nets, as examples of what a return to Indigenous systems of management could look like.

One such example is the Koeye weir, near Bella Bella on the Central Coast of British Columbia. The weir, a fence spanning the Koeye River with a central trap for capturing and counting fish, was reconstructed in 2013 to monitor and manage the largest sockeye run in Haíłzaqv (Heiltsuk) territory.


The Salmon Watersheds Lab played a key role in assisting Heiltsuk leaders in fisheries management to revive this technology, which is now the cornerstone of the Lab's Koeye Salmon Ecosystem Study. 

Media: The Narwhal, Wild Salmon Center.

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Latest News

Jul 1, 2021 - Check out this article from KOUW Public Radio where Jon discusses the effects of BC's recent heatwave on salmon populations. 

Jun 30, 2021 - The SWL's Watershed Futures Initiative helped an Indigenous Planning Committee to host the Sharing Stories on Climate Change and Cumulative Effects webinar. View the presentation recordings here.

Jun 1, 2021 - We're hiring for a Postdoc Position working on Fish Migration. Position is open until filled. View the full description here.

May 19, 2021 - Congratulations to Daniella LoScerbo who successfully defended her Masters thesis!

May 13, 2021 - Check out some early season fieldwork pics in our gallery.

May 7, 2021 - Jon has a new paper out in Fish and Fisheries on the costs and benefits of diversity in mixed-stock fisheries. Learn more in this Science News story.

May 1, 2021 - We welcome two new members to the lab: PhD candidate Marta Ulaski and former RA and now Co-Advised Masters student, Kirsten Bradford.


Apr 22, 2021 - A new SWL paper is out in FACETS exploring Haíłzaqv (Heiltsuk) fisher satisfaction with  salmon fisheries management, and access rights.

Apr 19, 2021 - Congratulations to PhD candidate Sam Wilson on the successful defense of your thesis! Sam will be staying on with the lab as a Postdoctoral Researcher.

Apr 12, 2021 - Congrats to Sam Wilson and Jon on the publication of your paper on phenological mismatch and marine survival in steelhead trout.

Apr 7, 2021 - Elissa Sweeney-Bergen and Jon had a paper published in Environmental Biology of Fishes today.

Feb 10, 2021 - We're excited to announce a new Salmon Watersheds Lab collaborative research project to improve genomics tools for assigning central coast sockeye caught in mixed stock fisheries to their population of origin. 

Jan 28, 2021 - Congrats to former lab member Will Atlas, as well as Karl Seitz and Jon on the publication of their paper on temperature-mediated mortality and migration delays in the Koeye estuary.

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Without the support of the following partners, our research would not be possible. Thank you!

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