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Salmon fisheries in the Pacific region

Salmon fisheries are coordinated regionally with many management decisions occurring in area and field offices. Key to salmon management is the development and implementation of integrated fisheries management plans that meet specified objectives focusing on conservation, allocation and obligations to First Nations and international treaties.


Although the Pacific coast provided a diversity of resources, historically salmon were the staple of many First Nations people inhabiting the region. The archaeological record indicates that many permanent village sites were situated adjacent to the main salmon producing streams or rivers, and that salmon were central to Aboriginal communities in terms of culture, trade and sustenance. Salmon continues to be an important resource in Indigenous communities today.

In 1992 the Department initiated the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS) in response to a Supreme Court ruling which affirmed the right of First Nations people to fish for food, social and ceremonial (FSC) purposes.

Today, FSC fisheries have priority over all other fisheries. Harvest opportunities are developed through consultation with Indigenous communities, and then authorized via a Communal Licence. The First Nation in turn issues designations to individual members, designating them to fish for the group. Today, many Indigenous individuals also participate in the commercial fisheries. Other fisheries with a commercial element in which Indigenous groups participate include pilot sales fisheries and at some enhancement facilities where surplus stocks not required for enhancement are made available to Indigenous groups.


The Pacific Region has been long-established as a haven for recreational fishers who come for the salmon fishing, though the primary value for many people is not the salmon harvested but the angling experience. Catch-and-release, as well as retention fisheries are enjoyed every year by tens of thousands of people from BC and around the world.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada regulates recreational fishing for Pacific salmon in both tidal and non-tidal waters. Unlike the commercial salmon fishery, entry to the recreational fishery is not limited, although all recreational fishers must possess a valid sport fishing licence. Anglers wishing to retain salmon taken from either tidal or non-tidal waters must have a valid salmon conservation stamp affixed to their licence. Part of the proceeds from the sale of stamps is used to fund salmon restoration projects supported by the non-profit Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Fishing techniques used in the recreational fishery include trolling, mooching and casting with bait, lures and artificial flies. Boats are most commonly used, but anglers also fish from piers, shores or beaches. By law, only barbless hooks may be used when fishing for salmon in marine waters. Barbless hooks are also required by regulation when fishing in most freshwater streams in the province.

Sport Anglers are encouraged to participate in the Salmon Sport Head Recovery Program to recover coded wire tags implanted in juvenile salmon for stock assessment and research purposes. The recovery of all heads from adipose clipped salmon caught by sport anglers is critical to the management of stocks in British Columbia. Please see the above link for further information on how to participate.


Commercial fishing for salmon began shortly after the arrival of Europeans on the West Coast and has continued into the present. Commercial openings can occur anywhere along the coast depending on local run timing (May-October), distribution and stock strength. Salmon management is informed by a number of policies and programs in place, including the New Direction series instituted in 1998.

Commercial salmon licences are issued for three gear types: seine, gillnet and troll. Trollers employ hooks and lines which are suspended from large poles extending from the fishing vessel. Altering the type and arrangement of lures used on lines allows various species to be targeted. Trollers catch approximately 25 per cent of the commercial harvest. Seine nets are set from fishing boats with the assistance of a small skiff. Nets are set in a circle around aggregations of fish. The bottom edges of the net are then drawn together into a “purse” to prevent escape of the fish. Seiners take approximately 50 per cent of the commercial catch. Salmon gill nets are rectangular nets that hang in the water and are set from either the stern or bow of the vessel. Fish swim headfirst into the net, entangling their gills in the mesh. Altering mesh size and the way in which nets are suspended in the water allows nets to target selectively on certain species and sizes of fish. Gill netters generally fish near coastal rivers and inlets, taking about 25 per cent of the commercial catch. Licence conditions and commercial fishing plans lay out allowable gear characteristics such as hook styles, mesh size, net dimensions and the methods by which gear may be used.

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