Environmental Conditions: State of the Salmon for 2021

DFO’s State of the Salmon Program gave a presentation at the Preliminary Salmon Outlook Meeting on Dec. 17, 2020. It details environmental conditions that will inform salmon returns in 2021.

In summary, given broadly similar conditions in recent years it is expected that there will be below average survival for many Fraser stocks, coast-wide declines in Chinook with smaller sizes and younger age-at-maturity, and greater variability in salmon production.

View the presentation below.

2021-2022 IFMP Key Planning Priorities

In preparation for development of the 2021-2022 Integrated Fisheries Management Plans for Northern and Southern BC, the DFO has released a letter intended to communicate the Department’s key planning priorities.

The letter details priorities for First Nations FSC fisheries, COSEWIC and SARA processes, the Big Bar landslide, and CSAF demonstration fisheries. For southern BC, priorities are for Southern BC Chinook, Southern Resident Killer Whales, Interior Fraser River Steelhead/Chum Management, Fraser RIver sockeye and pink salmon, and Southern BC Coho. For Northern BC, priorities are for Northern BC Coho and Skeena Chinook.

COSEWIC Releases new assessments

COSEWIC has released its new assessments for South Coast BC Chinook populations most impacted by hatcheries: four were designated Endangered, three Threatened, and one Special Concern, while one was deemed Not at Risk. Three remote populations were determined to be Data Deficient, and will require additional research before being re-assessed.

The two Thompson River steelhead populations that were subject to an emergency assessment in 2018 were confirmed as endangered.

For the press release – visit here.

For the list of salmon Conservation Units/populations and steelhead populations, as well as other species assessed, visit COSEWIC’s website here.

Proposed Changes for 2020 Chinook Fisheries

On March 2, the DFO sent a letter to stakeholders and First Nations soliciting feedback on proposed management measures for South Coast Chinook. The Department received feedback on the March 2 letter from approximately 15 groups providing recommendations on possible changes to the 2019 Chinook fishery restrictions for the upcoming year, including 9 from First Nations, 2 from the Commercial sector, 1 from the Sport Fishing Advisory Board and 3 others including ENGO’s and the Province of BC. The Marine Conservation Caucus also submitted feedback.

Today the DFO released a summary of the feedback as well as the full package of letters.

MCC Salmon Committee submits comments to IFMP

Comments on the North and South Coast Integrated Fishing Management Plans for Salmon were due on April 20. We (the MCC Salmon committee) submitted comments on the IFMPs.

Our comments cover Chinook, sockeye, coho, pink and chum fisheries management across the province of BC, as well as on catch monitoring and compliance, hatcheries, total mortalities and Fisheries Related Incidental Mortalities, Big Bar and COVID-19 implications.

Our Chinook comments are based on feedback we provided on April 9th. The Salmon Committee of the Pacific Marine Conservation Caucus (MCC) submitted comments April 9 on fisheries affecting threatened and endangered early-timed Fraser stream types. The recommendations herein address other aspects of managing these threatened and endangered Fraser CUs, other at-risk Chinook Conservation Units in BC, the failure to meet the Wild Salmon Policy principles 1, 2, 4 and 6 which aim to protect unique attributes of Chinook diversity, abundance and distribution, and the failure to consider fishery impacts limiting the abundance of Chinook within SRKW critical habitat.

For information on the other aspects of our submission and recommendations, download the full letter.

2020 Chinook Management Proposal

On March 2, 2020, Fisheries and Oceans Canada released a letter that intended to communicate their approach for developing fisheries management actions to address conservation concerns for Fraser River Chinook over the next year.

On April 9, the MCC submitted a letter in response detailing our Management Recommendations, Rationale and Evaluation. In it we detail management, monitoring, and assessment actions that should be in place for 2020 fisheries across the coast that contribute to Fraser River Chinook Total Mortalities. We also provide a rationale and context underlying our recommendations, and have provided feedback into the Management Measure Evaluation Framework.

The MCC’s proposed 2020 Management Actions for conserving and rebuilding Fraser 5-2 endangered and threatened chinook are in recognition that the 5% total mortality cap for these SMUs was exceeded in 2019, possibly by over 100% in some instances (see Appendix A). This is based on evaluating 2019 total mortalities relative to terminal abundance. If 2019 total mortalities are evaluated relative to escapements, the cap was exceeded by 400 to 600%, depending on the SMU. The absence of GSI make similar estimates for 4-2 Chinook difficult. Indications are that that 2019 impacts on 4-2 Chinook were lower, but likely still exceeded the cap.

Clarification – Mortalities of Fraser Chinook in South Coast Rec Fisheries

In a press release and backgrounder sent out on February 5th, 2020, the MCC provided an estimate of total mortalities of endangered and threatened Fraser 42 and 52 Chinook in south coast recreational fisheries. This estimate was based on the recreational fishery in Areas 17, 18, 19, 20, 29 and 121 (roughly Juan de Fuca, Victoria through to the entrance of the Fraser River and south Strait of Georgia) and its potential impacts on Fraser 52 and 42 Chinook stocks of concern (early timed Chinook which spend several months in freshwater before migrating into the marine environment).

Since those preliminary estimates were released, the authors of the original discussion paper have invested considerable time refining input data (genetic stock ID information) in collaboration with DFO. We also incorporated additional information and perspectives to inform the model’s ‘risk factors’. During the review of the genetic stock ID data, it was decided to drop Fraser 42 Chinook from the new analysis as GSI estimates for 42 were highly uncertain. It is therefore difficult to directly compare the February 5th estimate to the current estimate.

The new estimate of total mortalities applies only to Fraser 52 Chinook. The elimination of 42 from the analysis, in addition to the refined model inputs, reduces the estimated number of total mortalities attributed to the south coast recreational fishery to between 1,000 and 2,000, from the February 5th estimate for both 42 and 52 Chinook of 3,500. Click below to read the full clarification.

2020 Fraser River Chinook Management Approach

Deadline for comments extended until April 9.

DFO released a letter detailing their 2020 Fraser River Chinook Management Approach on March 2. Comments are due by March 27th, 2020.

This letter is intended to communicate the Department’s approach for developing fisheries management actions to address conservation concerns for Fraser River Chinook over the next year.

Given the early run timing of some Fraser Chinook populations, the Department plans to implement management measures that were announced for the 2019 season beginning April 1st, 2020 as interim measures to provide time for a technical review of the 2019 fishery management measures and completion of consultations on possible adjustments to these management measures. The Department plans to meet with First Nations and established advisory groups during consultations in March and April to discuss potential adjustments to management measures, evaluate outcomes and document support for alternative management measures to support decision making. Interim measures beginning April 1st, 2020, will be in place until a decision is made surrounding future measures.