Fraser River sockeye salmon populations recommended for listing under COSEWIC

(Globe and Mail, December 4th, 2017, by Ivan Semeniuk)

For centuries, sockeye salmon have raced up British Columbia’s Fraser River to spawn in the millions, completing an astonishing life cycle that spans four years and thousands of kilometres.

Now, scientists have determined that many populations of Fraser River sockeye are in such alarming decline that they should be listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

The recommendation, announced Monday by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, an independent scientific body that advises the federal government, is the most significant acknowledgment to date of the jeopardy facing the iconic red-bodied fish that was once the mainstay of British Columbia’s salmon industry.

For the full story visit the Globe and Mail here.

DFO study links virus, heart disease in farmed fish

(Business in Vancouver, February 27, 2017)

A new study by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans suggests a link between the Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) and a disease of the heart in farmed Atlantic salmon from B.C. fish farms. The study, led by DFO scientist Kristina Miller, confirmed heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) disease in Atlantic salmon at a fish farm where the study was conducted over one entire production cycle.

Full story here.

Public Open House – Wild Salmon Policy Implementation Plan

Fisheries and Oceans is hosting a Public Open House on the development of a Wild Salmon Policy implementation plan between 6:30 and 8:30 pm in the Gallery Room at UBC Robson Square.

The MCC has expressed concerns with the proposed approach that are detailed in our December 22, 2016 letter to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc.

Letter to Minster LeBlanc from MCC regarding Wild Salmon Policy

At this session you will have the opportunity to:
1. Learn about highlights of progress on Wild Salmon Policy implementation and DFO’s approach to changing the Wild Salmon Policy and developing an implementation plan.
2. Share your experiences and activities with stewardship and conservation of wild salmon.

Please attend to voice your opinion on changes to the Wild Salmon Policy.

Public Open House
March 16, 2017 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
UBC Robson Square, Gallery Room (1.15), 800 Robson St., Vancouver

Wild Salmon Policy Vancouver Open House March 16, 2017



Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans Released

After public consultation in the Fall of 2016, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has released their review report on changes to the Fisheries Act that were made in 2012.

In this report, the Standing Committee makes 32 recommendations to the federal government based on the testimony and submissions of study participants.

The full report can be downloaded below.

Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

MCC Salmon Committee sends letter to Terry Beech

On February 8, the MCC Salmon Committee sent a letter to Terry Beech, MP, and recently appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard.

The letter introduces the MCC to Terry Beech and our current priorities in salmon management:

  • Ensuring recovery of at-risk salmon species
  • Improving transparency and openness, ensuring precautionary management, and reducing overfishing of at-risk stocks in Pacific salmon fisheries
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Cohen Inquiry
  • Implementing Canada’s Policy for the Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon (a.k.a., the Wild Salmon Policy or WSP), which is a key focus of the Cohen recommendations
  • Improving compliance and monitoring in Pacific salmon fisheries

We have also asked for a meeting with him to discuss two particularly pressing matters: (1) DFO’s current efforts to weaken the Wild Salmon Policy, which was brought in by the previous Liberal government, and (2) the coastwide crisis in stock assessment funding for Pacific salmon, which hit a historic low in 2016.

Read the full letter: 2017-02-08 MCC SC letter to Terry Beech

Pacific Wild Salmon Policy under threat

On December 22nd, 2016, the MCC Salmon Committee sent a letter to the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. This letter states:

We are writing to you with respect to the process underway in the Pacific region of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to develop an implementation plan for the Pacific Wild Salmon Policy as a means of meeting the top priority in your mandate letter to Act on the
recommendations of the Cohen Commission. We support this objective but are concerned it is being re-directed for unjustified reasons. As such, we are calling on you to immediately direct Pacific region staff to focus on developing an implementation plan with stakeholders, rather than changing the very policy they are being directed to implement. 

We have asked for a meeting with the Minister to discuss this further and will report back.

Full letter:

Letter to Minster LeBlanc from MCC regarding Wild Salmon Policy

Species and population diversity in Pacific salmon fisheries underpin indigenous food security

A study just published by Holly Nesbit and Jonathon Moore at Simon Fraser University highlights the importance of population diversity in Pacific salmon fisheries.

Summary of the paper:

1. Indigenous people are considered to be among the most vulnerable to food insecurity and biodiversity loss. Biodiversity is cited as a key component of indigenous food security; however, quantitative examples of this linkage are limited.

2. We examined how species and population diversity influence the food security of indigenous fisheries for Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus species). We compared two dimensions of food security – catch stability (interannual variability) and access (season length) – across a salmon diversity gradient for 21 fisheries on the Fraser River, Canada, over 30 years, using linear regression models. We used population diversity proxies derived from a range of existing measures because population-specific data were unavailable.

3. While both population and species diversity were generally associated with higher catch stability and temporal access, population diversity had a stronger signal. Fisheries with access to high species diversity had up to 14 times more stable catch than predicted by the portfolio effect and up to 12 times longer fishing seasons than fisheries with access to fewer species. Fisheries with access to high population diversity had up to 38 times more stable catch and three times longer seasons than fisheries with access to fewer populations.

4. Catch stability of Chinook Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and sockeye Oncorhynchus nerka fisheries was best explained by the number of populations and conservation units, respectively, that migrate past a fishery en route to spawning grounds. Similar population diversity metrics were important explanatory variables for season length of sockeye, pink Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, coho Oncorhynchus kisutch and chum Oncorhynchus keta fisheries.

5. Synthesis and applications. We show an empirical example of how multiple scales of biodiversity support food security across a large watershed and suggest that protecting fine-scale salmon diversity will help promote food security for indigenous people. The scales of environmental assessments need to match the scales of the socio-ecological processes that will be affected by development. We illustrate that upstream projects that damage salmon habitat could degrade the food security of downstream indigenous fisheries, with implications to Canadian indigenous people and to watersheds around the world where migratory fishes support local fisheries.

For the full paper, visit the Journal of Applied Ecology website.

United call for action – letter from First Nations, conservation and fishing organizations

The following letter from First Nations, conservation and fishing organizations, and esteemed British Columbians regarding key items in Minister Tootoo’s mandate letter pertaining to wild Pacific salmon was forwarded to the Minister on May 18, 2016. Endorsements will continue to be added over the next few weeks.

May 18, 2016

The Honourable Hunter Tootoo, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6
Sent via email to

Dear Minister Tootoo,

We commend you and your government for recognizing the cultural, ecological, and economic importance of wild Pacific salmon to First Nations and other citizens of British Columbia.

The undersigned groups and individuals are united in our support for key elements in your mandate letter that we wish to see fulfilled. Doing so without delay will help restore public confidence in federal management of BC’s wild salmon, and signal a commitment to renewing relationships with First Nations.

  1. “Act on recommendations of the Cohen Commission”. At a cost of $37 million, the Cohen Commission is the most comprehensive review of Pacific salmon management ever undertaken. We support Justice Cohen’s sensible recommendations and urge you to embrace their principles and fully implement the recommendations by the end of your current mandate.
  2. Fully implement all six strategies of Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon by the end of your mandate: (1) Standardized monitoring of wild salmon runs; (2) Assessment of habitat status; (3) Inclusion of ecosystem values and monitoring; (4) Integrated strategic planning; (5) Annual program delivery; and (6) Performance review. Brought in by the previous Liberal government in 2005, and neglected but left intact during the Harper years, the Wild Salmon Policy remains a foundational public policy with broad support from First Nations, fishing and conservation groups, and other British Columbians. Moreover, several of Justice Cohen’s recommendations focus on fully implementing the Policy as written.
  3. “Work with the Minister of Transport to review the previous government’s changes to the Fisheries and Navigable Waters Protection Acts, restore lost protections, and incorporate modern safeguards.” You have a mandate and broad support for immediately reinstating the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act that were removed through omnibus bills C-38 and C-45 despite significant opposition from First Nations and the general public. Please do so, and provide adequate resources for monitoring and enforcement. Once habitat protections are restored, we support a thorough review and full consultations to further improve this essential Canadian law.

We stand ready to work with your government and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in accomplishing these critical tasks.


First Nations Wild Salmon
Alliance Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Pacific Streamkeepers Federation
BC Federation of Fly Fishers
BC Federation of Drift Fishers
The Honourable David Anderson, P.C., O.C., former Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and former Minister of Environment
The Honourable John Fraser, P.C., O.C., O.B.C., C.D., Q.C., LL.D.(Hon.), and former Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Watershed Watch Salmon Society
David Suzuki Foundation
Wild Salmon Forever
Raincoast Conservation Foundation
SkeenaWild Conservation Trust
Neskonlith Indian Band
Steelhead Society of BC
Kingfishers Rod and Gun Club
West Coast Environmental Law
Living Oceans Society
Squamish Lillooet Sportfish Advisory Committee
Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable
Squamish River Watershed Society
Vicky Husband, C.M., O.B.C.
Mark Angelo, C.M., O.B.C.
Dr. Patricia Gallaugher
Squamish Streamkeepers Society
Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition
Georgia Strait Alliance
Clayoquot Action
Fraser Riverkeeper
Totem Flyfishers
Friends of Clayoquot Sound

C.c. Kevin Stringer, Sylvie Lapointe, Rebecca Reid, and Members of Parliament Mark Strahl, Fin Donnelly, Elizabeth May, Hon. Hedy Fry, Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, Hon. Harjit Sajjan, Hon. Carla Qualtrough, Ken Hardie, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, Joyce Murray, Dan Ruimy, Jonathan Wilkinson, Joe Peschisolido, Randeep Sarai, Jati Sidhu, Ron McKinnon, John Aldag, Terry Beech, Sukh Dhaliwal, and Stephen Fuhr.

MCC Salmon Committee Visits Ottawa

On April 12th, 2016, members of the salmon committee visited Ottawa to introduce our group and provide advice to the new fisheries minister, the Honourable Hunter Tootoo.

Along with our introduction letter, the MCC provided nine recommendations as listed below:

1. Commission an independent report on progress towards implementation of Cohen Commission recommendations (Cohen recommendation 75).

2. (a) Dedicate the resources to ensure full, robust WSP implementation (Cohen rec. 6); (b) hire an Associate Regional Director responsible for WSP implementation (Cohen rec. 4); and (c) provide sufficient resources to meet monitoring, assessment, and stakeholder engagement objectives.

3. Establish an independent body of experts on Pacific salmon, appointed by the Minister, to provide reports on the status of Canada’s wild Pacific salmon populations and whether they are being managed in a manner consistent with federal policies, international commitments, and public expectations.

4. Revise and apply salmon farming siting criteria developed through meaningful consultation with First Nations and stakeholders and an independent scientific peer review process (Cohen rec. 15-­‐17).

5. Develop a stock monitoring and assessment plan and make it available to the public (along with relevant science and research as per Cohen rec. 73) through a central, independent repository, similar to the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Skeena Salmon Program.

6. (a) Require the Strategic Framework for Fishery Monitoring and Catch Reporting be fully implemented within two years; and (b) review the role, membership, and funding of the Monitoring & Compliance Panel.

7. Establish formal arrangements with other government agencies (federal and provincial) responsible for monitoring ecosystems and habitats and integrate them into WSP implementation and climate change monitoring programs.

8. Increase core funding for DFO science to support policy implementation and engagement with external stakeholders.

9. Increase resources to support collaborations and engagement with First Nations, academics, and other stakeholders (e.g., WSP Strategy 4).

Read the full briefing note here.

MCC submits letter to the Minister of Fisheries and Minster of Transport

The Pacific Marine Conservation Caucus has sent a letter to the Honourable Hunter Tootoo (Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard) and the Honourable Marc Garneau (Minister of Transportation) asking for strengthened environmental legislation.

This would occur through a two-step process:

1) Table as law the previous pre‐C‐38 and pre‐C‐45 NWPA and habitat provisions of
the Fisheries Act, followed by re‐enactment and removal of regulations as needed.

2) Engage in a robust, multi‐stakeholder consultation for long‐term strengthening of the Fisheries Act and NWPA.

Click here to read the full letter