What does Salmon-Safe mean?

Salmon-Safe is an eco-logo that demonstrates environmental best practice and commitment to sustainable land and water management.

Salmon-Safe land management involves practices that benefit the watershed where the property is located.  Land managers can do many things to promote healthy landscapes for salmon by planting trees along riparian areas, improving irrigation systems, controlling sediment during construction or earthworks, minimizing erosion and infiltrating rainwater onsite.

Salmon-Safe works to educate land users, retailers and consumers about the importance of protecting healthy and functioning ecosystems and watersheds that are essential to Pacific salmon. Participants in the Salmon-Safe program include many different land-users, such as vineyards, organic vegetable farms, cattle ranch or a corporate campus in an urban area, but they all share the common interest in sustaining Pacific salmon.

What are the origins of Salmon-Safe B.C.?

The demand for Salmon-Safe in British Columbia initially came from B.C. farmers and volunteers involved with watershed conservation. During a province-wide gathering of the Fraser Salmon and Watershed Program in 2007, it became clear that farmers and landowners who were already employing practices that protected Pacific salmon and their habitat needed a mechanism to differentiate their products in local food markets, as well as to encourage other farms to adopt agricultural practices that protect Pacific salmon. Salmon-Safe Agriculture was officially introduced to BC in 2011.

Following the support for Salmon-Safe certification in the agricultural realm, the Salmon-Safe certification standard for urban sites, such as municipal parks and institutional properties, academic campuses and residential development, was introduced to BC in 2013.

Salmon-Safe was founded by the Oregon-based Pacific Rivers Council in 1997, and has since spun off as a separate non-profit organization that works with farmers and urban land managers throughout the Northwest to promote conservation practices and habitat restoration. The Salmon-Safe program is active in Oregon, Washington, Northern California and now British Columbia.

Who is Salmon-Safe certified in B.C.?

More than 40 properties have been certified to date in B.C., across a range of land-use types. (See Certified Sites).

Why do we need to be concerned about protecting and conserving Pacific salmon?

Pacific salmon are not simply an “iconic symbol” of the past: they must be valued and sustained for their economic, environmental, and cultural significance. To recognize their importance and iconic status, Pacific salmon were collectively recognized as an official emblem by the Province of British Columbia in 2013.

Economically: Seafood processing and commercial and recreational fishing bring in almost $2 billion a year in provincial revenue and $500 million in GDP

Environmentally: Wild salmon are a keystone or indicator species, central to plants and animals from algae, fungi, and mosses to insects, birds, large mammals, and the forest. More than 130 species depend on salmon abundance for survival.

Culturally:  First Nations people relied on salmon for thousands of years. The annual return of Pacific salmon was so important each year that it became central to First Nations religion, culture and way of life.

Why have FBC and PSF joined forces to deliver Salmon-Safe in B.C.? 

Pacific Salmon Foundation and Fraser Basin Council share a commitment to protecting Pacific salmon and have co-delivered the Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program since 2006. 

Some of our most inspiring champions and leaders for salmon-habitat stewardship are from the agricultural sector: farmers, ranchers and associations that are dedicated to a stewardship ethic. In addition, some of our partners from the agricultural community have expressed the desire for a tool for communicating their high level of environmental best practices in the market. 

We recognize an opportunity to engage professionals, decision makers and developers in the urban context broaden the green-building conversation beyond energy efficiency and source materials to include water management, efficiency and quality.

ABOUT SALMON-SAFE AGRICULTURE: How can farmers help protect salmon?

How does agriculture affect the health of our rivers in B.C.?

Salmon require clean, cool rivers to thrive and spawn. Poorly managed farms can have a major impact on water quality and habitat. For example, erosion and runoff can bring silt into the rivers, covering the spawning gravels where salmon eggs hatch, leaving them exposed and unprotected. Chemicals can wash into the waterways, causing damage to young fish. Excessive irrigation can deplete streams and rivers. The lack of vegetation along stream banks can increase stream temperature, resulting in the absence of habitat structures for salmon as well as other fish and wildlife.

Much of British Columbia’s agriculture land, which is the basis of B.C’s food production, is located in valley bottoms. These agriculture lands surround the rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands, which are the foundations of many B.C.’s most valuable fish habitats. In addition to land pressures, there are also competing interests in water resources. Farmers and farmland have an important role in protecting and preserving fish and wildlife habitat.

By following Salmon-Safe standards, farmers help protect stream habitat and water quality by:

  • Maintaining a buffer of trees and vegetation along the stream banks
  • Controlling erosion by cover cropping bare soil
  • Improving passage for migrating fish
  • Applying natural methods to control weeds and farm pests
  • Using efficient irrigation practices
  • Controlling impacts from breeding and caring for farm animals
  • Protecting wetlands, woodlands, and other natural areas
  • Promoting plant and wildlife diversity on their farms

What is the Salmon-Safe farm certification program?

When a farm is certified, it means the land is managed according to standards that are verified independently.  Based on Salmon-Safe’s certification process, an operation is considered Salmon-Safe when both its impact upon the aquatic ecosystem is assessed and any negative impacts on water quality and fish habitat are minimized.

The Salmon-Safe farm certification program is focused on management practices in six primary areas: riparian area management, water use management, erosion and sediment control, integrated pest management, animal management, and biodiversity conservation.

Salmon-safe certification includes extensive on-site inspection by qualified inspectors to ensure that growers are meeting the standards that have been set.

It is important to note that when displayed on a product, the Salmon-Safe logo refers to how the crop is produced, not to the food or beverage product itself. The Salmon-Safe B.C. eco-label tells consumers that land where the product is grown is managed in a way that helps protect Pacific salmon. 

Why is the Salmon-Safe program important for British Columbia?

Because our major river systems coincide with the most productive agricultural valleys, farmers play a critical role in protecting water quality and restoring the once-abundant salmon populations whose decline has become one of the most pressing environmental concerns facing our region.

Agriculture impacts large tracts of B.C’s land and waterways. Farms and ranches are in an ideal position to help support the health of natural ecosystems, including Pacific salmon.

Many B.C. farmers and ranchers are already leaders in environmentally-friendly practices, and Salmon-Safe helps recognize and encourage this leadership.

All agricultural producers can find advantages in the practices that underlie Salmon-Safe certification (e.g., clean water, land integrity, erosion control and irrigation efficiencies)

Salmon-Safe farms gain competitive advantage in the marketplace through our public education efforts and the marketing efforts of participating farmers.

Why should I buy Salmon-Safe certified products?

When you choose Salmon-Safe certified products, you are using your consumer power to support agricultural practices that protect water quality and help to restore wildlife habitat in salmon watersheds.  You are telling that farmer or producer that yes, their environmentally-friendly practices are appreciated and do make a difference.

Where can I buy Salmon-Safe certified products in B.C.? 

Products from Salmon-Safe certified farms are available at over 25 farmers markets throughout B.C. (including 16 in the Lower Mainland), at major retailers that include Wholefoods, Capers, and Choices, as well as at a range of specialty shops, on-farm stores. Products can also be purchased through membership with farm-specific Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.

How does Salmon-Safe relate to organic certification?

Salmon-Safe is a complementary “overlay” for organics growers. The standards include additional riparian area management, irrigation water use, and erosion control criteria that are either not covered, or are covered only indirectly, under organic certification. Pest management issues are addressed to the extent that inputs approved under organic management are harmful to aquatic ecosystems.

Could a non-organic farm be certified Salmon-Safe?

Yes, they can. Salmon-safe foods may or may not be certified organic.  While organic certification is primarily concerned with chemical inputs used in production, Salmon-Safe certification examines the overall effect of the farming system in its watershed. Salmon-safe farms may use synthetic or naturally occurring pesticides and fertilizers that are chosen with consideration for having the least impact on aquatic ecosystems.

How does Salmon-Safe complement existing certifications, such as Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Ocean Wise? 

Those eco-labels are important because they promote sustainable fisheries, and consumers see them at seafood counters and fish stores.  The Salmon-Safe eco-label can be found in other areas of your local grocery store, and signify that the products –  meat, fruit, vegetables, or dairy products – were produced on a farm or ranch that operate in a way that helps protect Pacific salmon.  It will take time for consumers to learn about the Salmon-Safe eco-label, but we are confident they will appreciate what it represents.

Salmon-Safe is an independent certification program, which means it is not industry driven. Farms are evaluated by independent professional certifiers who are retained by Salmon-Safe to provide an unbiased evaluation.

ABOUT SALMON-SAFE COMMUNITIES CERTIFICATION: How Can Urban Property Owners Help Protect Salmon?

How does urbanization affect the health of our rivers in B.C.?

Salmon require clean, cool rivers to thrive and spawn. Urbanization, transportation infrastructure and industrialization have had major impacts on riparian function, water quality and Salmon habitat. For example, cities and communities have been built over historic Salmon-spawning creeks and streams. Impervious surfaces throughout our communities have significantly reduced infiltration of rainwater into the ground, increasing runoff to nearby streams and waterways. Furthermore, traditional approaches to urban development have included stormwater infrastructure to pipe and convey rainwater off site as quickly as possible, rather than allow it to infiltrate on site, or be re-used for non-potable purposes, such as irrigation. In addition, common actions, such as fertilizer application or vehicle use can result in significant amount of pollutants being transported into waterways as urban run-off, causing damage to habitat and wildlife that depends on it.

Much of British Columbia’s agriculture land, which is the basis of B.C.’s food production, is located in valley bottoms. These agriculture lands surround the rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands, which are the foundations of many B.C.’s most valuable fish habitats. In addition to land pressures, there are also competing interests in water resources. Farmers and farmland have an important role in protecting and preserving fish and wildlife habitat.

How can urban property owners, developers and managers help protect salmon?

By adhering to Salmon-Safe standards, land in urban realm can significantly improve water quality and salmon habitat by:

  • capturing and infiltrating rainwater on site through the use of bioswales, pervious pavement and raingardens
  • Committing to zero sedimentation or erosion during construction and maintenance activities
  • reduce impervious surfaces and minimizing or capturing any run-off from pervious surfaces such as parking areas and driveways
  • maintaining a buffer of trees and vegetation along streambanks and watercourses
  • Installing drought tolerant landscaping and if irrigation is required, ensuring it is efficient and well maintained
  • Implementing an integrated pest management plan to eliminate use of pesticides and herbicides; utilizing a natural, organic approach to landscape fertilizer application.
  • Protecting wetlands, woodlands, and other natural areas as biodiversity corridors

Salmon-Safe Urban Assessment Process

When a property is Salmon-Safe certified, it means the land – and water – is managed according to rigorous standards as verified by independent Salmon-Safe experts.

The Salmon-Safe Communities certification program is focused on management practices across six primary areas: stormwater management, water use management, erosion and sediment control, pesticide reduction and water quality protection, enhancement of urban ecological function and, if applicable to the site, riparian habitat protection or restoration.

Salmon-safe certification includes extensive on-site inspection by a team of qualified assessors to ensure that land and water management practices meet, or exceed, the Salmon-Safe standards.


What have we accomplished in BC in to date? 

More than 40 farms are Salmon-Safe certified in different sub-sectors of agriculture, including mixed fruit and vegetable, poultry, beef, hops, hazelnuts, and wine grapes. This includes both organic and non-organic farms. Certified farms are primarily located in the lower Fraser Valley and the Okanagan-Similkameen areas

Salmon-Safe Communities was introduced to BC in 2014, with the MEC Head Office in Vancouver becoming the first urban site to achieve Salmon-Safe certification. Numerous sites – both urban and rural – are currently undergoing Salmon-Safe assessment to confirm if they meet the Salmon-Safe standards.

Who supports Salmon-Safe work in B.C.?

The Salmon-Safe program in B.C. has been supported with multi-year funding from the RBC Bluewater Grant, the Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program and Tides Canada. In addition, financial support for the Salmon-Safe Communities Initiative has been received from Real Estate Foundation of BC, Keurig Canada and Sitka Foundation.

How do Salmon-Safe standards relate to existing government regulations and programs?

Salmon-Safe certification is intended to be complementary to regulatory mandates by inspiring landowners to do more to protect water quality, wildlife and habitat. Existing Federal, Provincial and Local Government regulatory requirements must be met in advance of Salmon-Safe assessment taking place.

In 2010, a technical review was conducted that found strong alignment between Salmon-Safe agricultural standards and both BC/Canadian legislation as well as the BC Environmental Farm Planning (EFP) process.  Salmon-Safe provides a market incentive to adopt best management practices, and builds on the EFP by providing additional specifications in areas that include restrictions on chemical inputs on-farm biodiversity.

In 2014, a team of technical advisors and practitioners conducted a review of the Salmon-Safe Urban standards and concluded that the standards exceeded existing requirements for stormwater management, water quality and urban land management practices. Salmon-Safe is well placed to encourage and incentivize environmentally innovative practices across multiple land-use types.