“It’s been a lifelong passion and dream”: Fisheries technician focuses her expertise on salmon in peril

Uu-a-thluk’s newest team member will be shining a spotlight on salmon with the support of Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI) funding.

Kayley Hollyer joined Uu-a-thluk in early January as a term (until April 2025) Fisheries Technician. She will specialize in assisting Uu-a-thluk’s three regional fisheries biologists and Nuu-chah-nulth Nations’ Fisheries staff with fisheries management activities centred on salmon.

Projects will include the monitoring, enhancement, and stock and habitat assessment of local Pacific salmon populations.

Hollyer was born and raised in North Vancouver and graduated with a Bachelor of Environment in Resource and Environmental Management and First Nation Studies from Simon Fraser University (SFU) in 2020.

Her environmental education started well before her formal training, as Hollyer recalls frequent forest walks and beachcombing with her parents throughout her formative years.

“My mom especially is a hardcore environmentalist, which furthered my interest in the outdoors and led to my realization that the environment is important and needs to be protected,” said Hollyer.

A co-op placement with the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve during her undergraduate training ignited Hollyer’s fascination with fisheries-specific science. As a wildlife ambassador for the park, she conducted fieldwork alongside the ecological integrity team and travelled to the Broken Group Islands while surveying crab.

The year she spent working in a salmon lab at SFU reinforced the foundation that had been built in the field.

“Being surrounded by so many passionate master’s students and Ph.D.’s who were all focused on marine science, I knew, this is what I want to do,” said Hollyer.

Hollyer has been prolific in applying her skills in various roles, and with multiple organizations, in the few short years since completing her degree.

She has built relationships throughout West Coast Vancouver Island communities while working fisheries-related contracts with, or alongside, Uu-a-thluk, Ha’oom Fisheries Society, Maaqtusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society, Ecotrust Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Thornton Creek Enhancement Society.

From 2020 to 2022, Hollyer researched and led projects surrounding the population dynamics of Pacific salmon, whales, bats and wolves at the Cedar Coast Field Station (a remote facility on Vargas Island in Clayoquot Sound).

As a Station field technician/biologist, she designed and implemented long-term ecological monitoring protocols and educational programs while collaborating with the local Nuu-chah-nulth Nations whose Ha-ha-houlthee (chiefly territories) the research was being conducted on.

When asked what her favourite aspect of fieldwork is, Hollyer is quick to mention fish identification.

“Seeing the fish itself is the most exciting part for me. When a seine net comes up, my heart starts racing…it’s so exciting,” she said with a laugh.

“If it’s salmon, I’ll probably know them all.”

This passion for fish, and salmon specifically, is what made Hollyer the perfect candidate for the PSSI-backed contract with Uu-a-thluk.

The Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative is a long-term strategy that was launched by the federal government in June 2021. It aims to curb the devastating historic declines in key Pacific salmon stocks and rebuild the stocks by implementing a series of solutions that focus on four key areas, or ‘pillars’:

  • Conservation and stewardship
  • Harvest transformation
  • Salmon enhancement
  • Integration and collaboration

Pacific salmon populations face multiple threats to their survival that include habitat degradation, climate change and harvest pressures.

First Nations have been sounding the alarm about Pacific salmon for decades, especially Nuu-chah-nulth Nations in Clayoquot Sound who have been reporting drastically reduced numbers of salmon returning to their streams since the early 2000s.

“Salmon are the backbone of the West Coast, and the success of life on the West Coast, and those are good reasons for me to want to help enhance and protect them, and help others do the same,” said Hollyer, when asked why she was drawn to the salmon-focused contract.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has recognized the need to work with Indigenous communities in the context of the PSSI.

In an email to Uu-a-thluk, the Department stated that, “DFO is committed to collaborating with Indigenous partners on the delivery of the PSSI. Indigenous communities and organizations often have deep expertise in Pacific salmon and the habitats that are critical to their survival.”

“We [DFO] have initiated an Indigenous Salmon Stewardship Capacity Program which supports Indigenous groups in building technical capacity to plan and undertake salmon conservation, integrated ecosystem planning and rebuilding efforts.”

The Department added that, “PSSI supports First Nations led-projects and capacity to monitor salmon habitat and explore innovative approaches to harvesting that avoid stocks of concern.”

Kayley Hollyer's salmon-focused work will include the monitoring of migrating juvenile salmon using a Rotary Screw Trap, like the one pictured here in the Stamp River.

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