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BC residents attribute declining salmon stocks to open-net pens, stream habitat destruction, ocean contamination, overfishing, and climate change.

Vancouver, BC — A new poll from Insights West, The Pacific Salmon Foundation, and Wild First shows that the decline of the wild salmon stocks is one of the most pressing environmental concerns in British Columbia, as most residents believe that our natural salmon stocks are at significant risk due to open-net-pens and harmful effects of climate change and overfishing.

Of the five major environmental issues facing the province that we asked BC residents about, British Columbians are most concerned about declining salmon stocks and endangered species, even more so than climate change and single-use plastics. The level of concern about declining salmon stocks (86%) and endangered species and at-risk ecosystems (82%) are the top two concerns, concern for climate change (76%) and single-use plastics (75%) rate 10 points below. The negative impact of logging on nature and climate (72%) also rates highly but below the others.

The concern about declining salmon stocks is a universal issue that unites all of us in British Columbia, as the issue tops the list across all demographic segments as well as those from different political spectrums. It unifies all regions of the province as well, as the concern is equally high in Metro Vancouver (85%) as it is in the Interior of BC (88%), as well as coastal regions such as the South Vancouver Island and the North/Central Island (both at 89%).

When BC residents are asked about the state of BC’s wild Pacific salmon population, the vast majority understand the significant risk that they face. Most British Columbians feel wild Pacific salmon are either significantly at risk/significantly declining (41%), or at risk (40%) and 5% believe they face imminent extinction. Only 5% believe salmon stocks are doing OK, while a further 8% are not sure. Females and those 55+ years of age are far more likely to perceive the risk and threat to be higher.

When BC residents are asked about 13 known contributing factors to declining salmon stocks, there are a wide variety of reasons people believe they are declining, but issues relating to open-net-pen salmon farming, overfishing, and climate change top the list. When asked to choose the number one reason for the decline of BC salmon stocks, issues relating to open-net pens constitute 24% of the number one reasons, followed by climate change (18%), overfishing (18%), and stream habitat destruction (11%).

Climate change issues are more likely to be viewed as contributing factors among those 18-34 years of age, while those aged 55+ are more likely to think issues related to open-net pen salmon farms are the major cause.

Recently, the Canadian government mandated all open-net fish farms be transitioned to closed containment pens by 2025, and the vast majority (75%) of BC residents support this decision (46% “strongly support” and 29% “moderately support”), while 1-in-10 (11%) oppose it, and 15% are not sure. A smaller number, but still a majority (66%), supports the idea that the transition away from open-net pen fish farms needs to happen immediately, while a larger number (75%) believes that the transition should support local workers and communities.

Currently, impressions of open-net pen fish farms are quite negative in British Columbia—but the opposite is true about land-based closed containment farms. The vast majority of British Columbians (74%) have unfavourable views of open-net pen fish farms (43% “not at all favourable” and 30% “not very favourable”). Only 18% of BC residents have a favourable opinion about open-net pen fish farms (4% “very favourable” and 14% “somewhat favourable”), while only 9% aren’t sure. When asked about land-based closed containment farms, the number increases significantly to 63% favourable (25% “very” and 38% “somewhat favourable”), with one-quarter (26%) awarding an unfavourable rating and 11% being unsure.

“The decline of wild Pacific salmon stocks in British Columbia is an issue that is near and dear to us, and supersedes other environmental issues”, says Steve Mossop, President of Insights West. “Our polling results show that perceptions of open-net pen fish farms are very negative, and the vast majority would like to see the transition to land-based fish farming in BC.”

“These findings affirm that a large cross section of British Columbians care deeply about the state of Pacific salmon and appreciate the complex risk-factors contributing to serious declines of many salmon populations. They also show that people understand that Pacific salmon need our help urgently and that we must do everything we can to advance coordinated recovery plans,” says Michael Meneer, President of Pacific Salmon Foundation.

“This poll from Insights West is a powerful statement on the importance that British Columbians throughout the province and across partisan affiliation place on protecting wild Pacific salmon,” says Tony Allard, Chair of Wild First. “Concern for declining salmon stocks is 10 points higher than other well known environmental issues in BC at 86%. Importantly, British Columbians express very high support, at 75%, for transitioning away from open net pen fish farms now. I couldn’t agree more.”

About Insights West:
Insights West is a full-service marketing research firm based in Western Canada. Since 2012, the company has conducted over one million surveys, executed 2,000 studies, and issued over 350 press releases on a variety of topics, correctly predicting the outcomes of 25 out of 26 elections and plebiscites. Insights West is a team of passionate, truth-seeking researchers who question everything to uncover the truth and what is emerging for a diverse set of clients. With an understanding of shifting markets, consumer and societal trends, and commitment to uncovering truths through a proprietary toolkit and innovative research approaches, Insights West helps organizations make better decisions.

About this Release:
Results are based on an online study conducted June 14 to 22, 2021 among a sample of 2,064 residents across BC. Respondents are part of Insights West’s Feedback Community, a panel of BC residents recruited from a variety of sources and backgrounds who share their views and opinions on an ongoing basis, and from other panels provided by partner providers. The margin of error with the total sample—which measures sample variability—is +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding. Click HERE to view the detailed data tabulations.

For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
Insights West


Elayne Sun
Communications Manager
Pacific Salmon Foundation


Shalina Kajani
Media contact
Wild First