How long is your commute? When you head to work, when do you expect to be home, to see your spouse, your kids, your friends? I bet it usually isn’t much longer than a day, and certainly not five years later! But for a crucial component of the BC ecosystem, a five-year journey home is the norm. We’re talking, of course, about wild salmon!
The great abundance of wild salmon was an intrinsic environmental building block that helped the First Nations cultures of the Northwest Coast to flourish. According to many First Nations histories, Salmon is the life source – the provider of food for all animals and humans. Treated with high regard, Salmon is a symbol of immortality and wealth. He reminds us that perseverance wins through in the end, and that it is noble to sacrifice for the young.
There are five species of wild salmon found in the waters off the BC shore – Chinook, Chum, Coho, Sockeye and Pink – and they all have different dominant years for their spawning cycles. For instance, there are incredible Sockeye runs every four years (2014 is the next dominant run), whereas Pinks, the smallest of the West Coast species, surge every two years. And, luckily for us, 2013 is expected to be a huge run for Pinks!
Not only do salmon runs provide entertainment and food for humans, but they are also an integral part of BC’s food chain. The fish return to their freshwater breeding grounds between August and October most years – perfect timing for the bears who need to fatten up before hibernation! In addition to bears, eagles, otters, racoons and other local animals are usually found around the spawning beds, feasting on mature salmon.
It may seem sad that the salmon never get to see their young hatch, but it speaks to their connection to the life cycle that their sacrifice can support their predators through the difficulties of winter.
If you want to see bears and eagles, Squamish and Victoria have incredible wildlife sightings during the salmon runs. Take your family out for the day and enjoy! Personally, I am always floored by the abundance of wild animals so close to the city. It reminds me of how lucky I am and of our responsibility to protect this beautiful place we call home.
If you plan on fishing this year, please be respectful of the environment. Overfishing can cause the population to collapse, and that would have drastic consequences echoing up the ecosystem. Make sure you buy a fishing license (it’s only $28 and it lasts all year!), respect the daily catch limits and always release small fish or spawning females. By doing our part to protect this precious life cycle, we can help sustain it for generations to come.
Of course, if you don’t want to go out to the river and bring back some wild fish, consider any of the Salmon gifts featured in this post. They are all available through our convention gift site, Lions Gate Gifts.
And we want to know: Have you had the chance to watch a salmon run? What was your favourite memory from that experience? Maybe you saw a bear or taught your kids to fish? Tell us in the comments below!