Urban Salmon Project

Urban Salmon Project

      Urban Salmon is the first documented photography project featuring salmonids in the urban environment. Documenting the fish and their natural habitat in various Metropolitan Vancouver watersheds over two years, the project will publish a coffee table book and connect the viewer not just to salmon, but to a whole ecosystem.

    An image/video-bank is being created and will available to stream-keeper groups related to salmon conservation for their education programs.


     After almost 30 years, millions of dollars and many hours of volunteer work, British Columbians can now claim back such an important symbol to their waters. Coming from the Fraser River every October, the fish swim along the Brunette River, Burnaby Lake and spread through the many creeks, reaching Vancouver from Still Creek.

Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) are bright silver in the sea. Once back in freshwater, they change to pale grey on the back and yellow-white on the belly. Males also develop a big hump on the back. They are usually found in bigger rivers and run on odd years. Here, a male pink salmon is transitioning from sea to freshwater form. Seymour River, North Vancouver, BC


     Although the restoration of the watersheds and Urban Salmon are not unknown to most people and many are aware of the importance of a peaceful existence with wildlife, many don’t realise how close that Urban wildlife is to them.


    There are no more salmon runs like 100 years ago, where “one could walk over fish” in the Brunette River, but Vancouverites can definitely still enjoy a beautiful run, with hundreds - even thousands - of fish, just a few bus stops away from their homes.


Outcomes and Results


      So far, the project has already produced important results in collaboration with different media and stream-keeping groups. Pictures have been shared with many Streamkeeping groups, Conservancies and mainstream media. 


      The project documented all the Salmonids present around Vancouver and a variety of other important species like the Nooksace dace ( Rhinichthys cataractae) and most of the associated ichthyofauna. 



    Since September 2016, the author has been regularly sharing PDF files with images from his latest divings to around 400 people from twelve different organizations involved in research, education and preservation. These people are encouraged to share and spread the pictures. This has generated a lot of media attention and so far the Project has collaborated with most of the media in Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley.


The project was also present in the 2017 River's day, in Burnaby, and  2018 Coho Commotion, in North Vancouver.

Documenting the Chum Salmon in the Brunette creek, Burnaby.

The Nooksack dace (Rhinichthys cataractae) is one of the many endangered species found in our urban streams. They are part of the Chehalis fauna, a unique group of fish that got isolated in the Pleistocene glaciation. They are only found in four rivers in British Columbia and are protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Brunette River, Burnaby, BC


The project also helped organizing a clean up in The Capilano river.

North Shore Streamkeepers rally divers for Capilano River cleanup:

" A group of divers converged at the Cable Pools on the Capilano River on Saturday and pulled out old fishing gear, Kevlar fishing line, fish hooks and other debris, totalling 85 kilograms in weight.

Fernando Lessa, a photographer from Lynn Valley, was taking photos of salmon early last week in the Cable Pools when he noticed the debris and contacted North Shore Streamkeepers to organize a cleanup."

Signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) is the only native species of crayfish in British Columbia. They are more resistant to lower quality water than salmon. They are part of most British Columbian childhood and can be found in good numbers throughout the urban watershed..

A coho salmon egg of around 15 days. Major structures are formed and the embryo is very active inside the egg. This photo is amplified x20 times.

Tynehead Hatchery, Surrey, BC.


The steelhead is an anadromous form of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). They are a threatened species and many southern BC populations are collapsing and are at imminent risk of disappearing. The urban steelhead is even rarer as it needs high-quality waters.

A male steelhead displays its spawning colors in cold alpine wate


 A female pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) in full spawning colors protects its nest from predators.  Seymour River, North Vancouver, BC
When the rain comes by late fall, fish start to swim up the rivers. Urban creeks are greatly affected by rain because of the lack of riparian vegetation and pollution from road wash.  Here, an adventurous chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) swims in a shallow creek in Burnaby.  Stoney Creek, Burnaby, BC
Winter is very important in the salmon’s life cycle since it is when the salmon eggs, buried deep in the gravel, will develop and hatch. Fish will feed on their yolk sacs until late January and February.  Lynn Creek, North Vancouver, BC
A cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii) feeds in the fast waters of Lynn Cree
A big school of coho salmon holds by a pool close to the dam in Capilano River. The coho in the Capilano is unique. Known for its small size, having an early run, and its amazing taste, it helps - at least in the past - to bring the river into the hall of the best fishing spots in the world.  Capilano River, North Vancouver, BC

 A female pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) in full spawning colors protects its nest from predators.  Seymour River, North Vancouver, BC When the rain comes by late fall, fish start to swim up the rivers. Urban creeks are greatly affected by rain because of the lack of riparian vegetation and pollution from road wash.  Here, an adventurous chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) swims in a shallow creek in Burnaby.  Stoney Creek, Burnaby, BC Winter is very important in the salmon’s life cycle since it is when the salmon eggs, buried deep in the gravel, will develop and hatch. Fish will feed on their yolk sacs until late January and February.  Lynn Creek, North Vancouver, BC A cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii clarkii) feeds in the fast waters of Lynn Cree A big school of coho salmon holds by a pool close to the dam in Capilano River. The coho in the Capilano is unique. Known for its small size, having an early run, and its amazing taste, it helps - at least in the past - to bring the river into the hall of the best fishing spots in the world.  Capilano River, North Vancouver, BC
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