Five ways to reduce your impact on salmon habitat

Image: Two pink sockeye salmon swimming in different directions. Source.

BC is home to several species of salmon, including sockeye, chinook, chum, coho and pink salmon. These fish are a very important part of the ecosystem, providing food for humans and other animals. Salmon are a keystone species, meaning the ecosystems they live in would change drastically without them.

These fish also have unique habitat needs. They spend their adult life in the ocean and travel to freshwater streams to lay their eggs. Unfortunately, salmon habitat is in danger from human activity. Although humans don’t intend to harm salmon (or any part of nature), our impact is still there. To reduce impacts on the freshwater ecosystems needed to preserve salmon, here are five tips to help.

  1. Be careful with what you put down the drain. Water from your home will eventually join the ground water below and make its way to other waterways. Excess chemicals poured down the drain can sometimes end up in freshwater habitats this way. Use household cleaners sparingly and according to directions. Never dispose of things like pesticides, paint, or fertilizer down the drain. Find how to dispose of different substances on the Township of Langley’s website or contact your local municipality.
  2. Compost! Fruit and vegetable scraps, manure and animal bedding can all be composted to create a rich fertilizer for fields or gardens. Composting reduces the volume of waste, keeps it out of landfills, and prevents run-off from entering nearby waterways. If you own horses or a small farm, check out the Land Management Guide for information on how to compost manure.
  3. Cover and secure manure piles to prevent run-off from entering the water. Manure run-off can introduce harmful bacteria to freshwater ecosystems. This also increases the nutrients in the water, causing algae and aquatic plants to grow out of control, choking out fish in a process called eutrophication. Cover manure piles with a tarp or store manure in a roofed structure to prevent it from being washed into waterways by the rain.
  4. Stay on the trail when your go hiking, biking, or walking in nature. It may not feel like you are creating a big impact, but the damage to surrounding ecosystems adds up over time. Human travellers can crush streamside plants and wear down streambanks, leading to erosion and degradation in habitat for salmon and many other species.
  5. Pick up after your pets and dispose of pet waste properly. Not only is it unsightly and unsanitary, but pet waste also introduces harmful bacteria and excess nutrients the same way manure run off can. Even if your faithful companion doesn’t “go” next to a stream, rain can still wash waste into drains, ditches, and waterways.

Following these steps will help protect habitat for wild pacific salmon. If you are a farm owner, consider becoming Salmon-Safe certified to recognize your responsible management of your property. LEPS will be hosting a webinar on Salmon-Safe Certification for farms on March 8, 2022 at 7:00pm. We invite any farm owners in the Langley and Abbotsford area to join us by registering here.