Going with the Flow: How Embracing Nature-based Policies Can Save Cities AND Salmon

April 22, 2021

Would you support urban development policies that save governments money, filter toxic runoff, reduce heat stress, improve mental health and build resilience to climate change? And if we told you these policies could do all that while protecting wild salmon, would you want to implement them immediately? 

Using green infrastructure which relies on nature for solving urban and climate challenges could achieve this. The Salmon-Safe BC program has been promoting this solution to protect wild salmon and enhance water quality for years through their eco-certification. With support from the Fraser Basin Council and SFU’s Pacific Water Research Centre in the Faculty of Environment, researchers compared government policies and regulations to the stricter requirements of Salmon-Safe and identified significant gaps that could be addressed with updated policy and increased education. 

Lead author Andrea McDonald shares that “the current patchwork of policies and lack of enforceable sustainable development standards hinders our progress on this front.” The study found existing policies need to be strengthened while upper-level governments enforce more uniform and complimentary policies. 

Raising awareness about the numerous and affordable benefits green infrastructure provides will garner public, political, and developer support. 

“We need to invite nature back into our cities. We have been working against it for too long and unlike salmon, need to go with the flow by embracing green infrastructure” continues McDonald. 

Salmon are declining due to overfishing, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change. Designing with nature to reduce additional stressors from human development is essential. Metro Vancouver is situated at the mouth of one of the world’s most productive salmon river networks. As the most urbanized watershed in the province, impacts of development activities drain directly into salmon habitats. However, stronger policy and enforcement promoting a ‘design with nature’ approach can mitigate adverse side-effects of urbanization while providing multiple societal, cultural, economic, and environmental benefits. As noted by experts, we know what to do, we know how to do it, we just need to actually do it. 

Read the entire report here.