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Report makes data public on the importance and vulnerability of northern BC’s Skeena River estuary


A collaborative report by scientists from the Lax Kw’alaams Fisheries Program, Skeena Fisheries Commission, and Salmon Watersheds Lab publicly reveals the importance of the Skeena River estuary, near Prince Rupert, northern British Columbia, for high-value fish and crustaceans and its vulnerability to climate change.

The Skeena River is British Columbia’s second-largest salmon-producing watershed, after the Fraser River. Draining freshwater from an area the size of Switzerland into the ocean, the estuary provides nursery habitat for juvenile salmon of all species, as well as the oil-rich Eulachon (candlefish), Dungeness crab, surf smelt and Pacific herring; all of significant ecological, cultural, and economic importance.

Despite this, the Skeena River estuary has remained poorly studied compared to its southern counterpart, the Fraser River estuary; and much of the research that has been done to assess the impact of proposed industrial projects remains under lock and key.

This report is the first to synthesize historical and recent research on the estuary and its trajectory under climate change. For example, the report revealed the importance of the Flora Bank region and its eelgrass beds, near the mouth of the Skeena River for young coho, Chinook and sockeye salmon. Each year, as many as 1 billion juvenile salmon may swim through the estuary on their way to the ocean.


It is hoped that this information, now publicly available, will provide a scientific foundation for decision-making or planning in future. 

Media: SFU News.

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Latest News

May 21, 2022 - With particular focus on the collaborative research from the Salmon Watersheds Lab, the recently released SMOLT film shares imagery and science of the outmigration of young salmon from freshwaters to estuaries and beyond. Watch the video here

Jan 21, 2022 - A study led by Simon Fraser University researchers has discovered that sufficient water flows during summer can be critical to a Chinook salmon population in the interior of British Columbia. Read more here.

Dec 7, 2021 - A groundbreaking study led by the SWL has found that glacier retreat could produce more than 6,000 km of potential new Pacific salmon habitat by the year 2100. Read more here.

Nov 6, 2021 - Jon participated in a panel discussion on 'Climate Resilient Salmon' for Salmon Nation's Festival of What Works. You can watch the recording here.

Oct 28, 2021 - Check out the Watershed Futures Initiative monthly newsletter. You can sign up for updates here.

Oct 20, 2021 - Lab alumni, Kyle Wilson (Postdoc), Jon and Colin Bailey (PhD candidate) have a paper out today in Global Change Biology on freshwater and marine influences of salmonid declines. 

Oct 18, 2021 - Welcome to incoming Lab Manager, Emma Griggs, and Koeye tech and lab Fieldwork Coordinator, Dan Scurfield!


Oct 3, 2021 - Jon provided input on the Cheakamus River pink salmon strandings this week, check out his tv appearance on Global News.

Oct 1, 2021 - Congratulations lab Spatial Analyst Kara Pitman, who's paper in Environmental Biology of Fishes received the Editor's Choice.

Sep 27, 2021 - Check out the latest pics from the 2021 field season in our Gallery.

Sep 14, 2021 - Read our new collaborative report synthesizing information on the Skeena River Estuary.

Aug 17, 2021 - We are recruiting for a Masters student to work on our collaborative Estuary Resilience project. Learn more and apply here by September 30.

Aug 12, 2021 - MSc students Julian Gan and Alex Sawyer shared stories about sampling juvenile salmon in the Cluxewe estuary this Summer in this blog.

Jul 30, 2021 - We are seeking a Lab Manager with a keen interest in project management and applied aquatic science to serve as an administrator and coordinator to the lab’s many members and diverse projects. See the full job description here. Applications close August 30.

Jul 21, 2021 - We're also hiring for a Salmon ID and Field Coordination position. View the full job description here and apply by August 20, latest.

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

Current & Past Partners

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