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.
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.
ESTIMATING TOTAL MORTALITIES ON ENDANGERED CHINOOK
February 6, 2020
Abstract Fisheries managers, First Nations, and stakeholders are becoming more aware that Fisheries Related Incidental Mortality (FRIM) can contribute significantly to Total Mortalities (TM) in fisheries. As a case study on one fishery, we examine potential FRIM and TMs in Spring and Summer Fraser River Chinook populations designated as ‘Endangered’ by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) (Table 1).
The South Coast Juan de Fuca recreational fishery encounters Spring and Summer Fraser River (42 and 52) Chinook from Southwest Vancouver Island to the mouth of the Fraser River (DFO fishery management areas 18,19,20,29,121). As the largest and oldest Chinook that return to the Fraser River, these fish are important to endangered Southern Resident killer whales and as a source of food for interior First Nations.
We apply the guidance provided in Patterson et al. (2017b) and interviews with anglers to identify risk factor ranges for Capture, Injury, Handling, and Predation Mortality. These are combined with drop-out mortality and a Monte Carlo simulation to estimate a range of FRIM. Other factors that may affect estimates of FRIM, such as the stock composition of releases, are also investigated.
Our results suggest that current methods for estimating FRIM employed by both DFO (15% x releases) and the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) Chinook Technical Committee (15% drop-out mortality on catch and 10% immediate mortality on releases) likely underestimate FRIM when compared to the Patterson et al. (2017b) approach.
In conclusion, we discuss management recommendations for improved monitoring and identify information needs in both this fishery and others that effect endangered chinook.
Conservation groups released information today that provides evidence that more endangered Fraser River Chinook were killed in fisheries last year than promised by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Despite a commitment to reduce Fraser spring and summer Chinook mortality to less than five per cent, recent analyses using the federal government’s own data suggest this limit was far exceeded and that a full fisheries closure would have allowed at least 25 per cent more endangered Chinook salmon to spawn. Last year marked the lowest return of Fraser River spring and summer Chinook on record: fewer than 14,500 reached their spawning grounds.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada lacks adequate monitoring to fully assess fishing mortality of Chinook, but for three of the 10 fishing areas, there is enough data to show that at least 4,000 spring and summer Fraser Chinook were killed. The number of spring and summer Fraser River Chinook that successfully made it to their spawning grounds in 2019 was less than 14,500 — the lowest number on record.
Read the press release and the backgrounder for more information.
The MCC recently submitted comments on the 2019/2020 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries and Management Plan, recommending considerations towards a “low risk” ecosystem based management fishery.
The growing public concern reflects a perspective that the fishery imposes too large a risk to herring populations and the associated ecosystem linkages than what is deemed appropriate through the lens of an ecosystem based fishery. Many of these concerns are the same ones that were raised over a decade ago.
The following recommendations are included in the letter:
Increase the lower reference point to reflect an ecosystem based conservation objective.
Lower the exploitation rate.
Plan for a lower biomass and harvest rate until validated with in-season management.
Assume there is a mechanism for persistent geographic population structure.
On August 22nd, the DFO released a new report examining broad scale trends in Pacific salmon. They found that species that spend more time in freshwater (chinook, coho, sockeye) are declining more than those that do not (chum, pink), in general.
At DFO’s first State of the Salmon meeting in 2018, scientists concluded that Canadian Pacific salmon and their ecosystems are already responding to climate change. Northeast Pacific Ocean warming trends and marine heatwaves like “The Blob” are affecting ocean food webs. British Columbia and Yukon air and water temperatures are increasing and precipitation patterns are changing, altering freshwater habitats. The effects of climate change in freshwater are compounded by natural and human-caused landscape change, which can lead to differences in hydrology, and increases in sediment loads and frequencies of landslides. These marine and freshwater ecosystem changes are impacting Pacific salmon at every stage of their life-cycle.
Some general patterns in Canadian Pacific salmon abundances are emerging, concurrent with climate and habitat changes. Chinook numbers are declining throughout their B.C. and Yukon range, and Sockeye and Coho numbers are declining, most notably at southern latitudes. Salmon that spend less time in freshwater, like Pink, Chum, river-type Sockeye, and ocean-type Chinook, are generally not exhibiting declines. These recent observations suggest that not all salmon are equally vulnerable to climate and habitat change.
Improving information on salmon vulnerability to changing climate and habitats will help ensure our fisheries management, salmon recovery, and habitat restoration actions are aligned to future salmon production and biodiversity. To accomplish this, we must integrate and develop new research across disciplines and organizations. One mechanism to improve integration of salmon-ecosystem science across organizations is the formation of a Pacific Salmon-Ecosystem Climate Consortium, which has been recently initiated by DFO’s State of the Salmon Program.
The MCC Salmon Subcommittee has released a letter to Fisheries and Oceans Canada with recommendations for monitoring in SC recreational fisheries. In summary, with management measures moving to non-retention of chinook in many areas, there are concerns around the Fisheries Related Incidental Mortality (FRIM) still being high and impacting stocks of concern like Fraser River 42/52 chinook. As the non-retention of chinook increases, total mortalities will decrease (e.g. some fish that would have been kept are now released) however FRIM will increase. Our recent discussion paper illustrates that new guidance for the derivation of FRIM suggests that estimates using current methodology from DFO and PSC managers may underestimate the actual FRIM in these fisheries, and likely by a large margin.
This letter calls for increased monitoring in recreational fisheries specifically in regards to genetic sampling of released fish, as well as kept chinook, so that managers can determine the stock composition of both released and kept chinook. Additionally the MCC is requesting that DFO incorporate the guidance provided by Patterson et al. (2017) in future FRIM and total mortality estimates.
The following figure shows that the median estimate of FRIM in the full non-retention scenario (bottom-left panel – based on 2018 catch and release data) is about 9000 using guidance from Patterson et al. (2017) – nearly 4-fold higher than DFO’s estimate and double that using PSC methods.
VANCOUVER — The federal government has announced commercial and recreational fishing restrictions in British Columbia as a way to conserve chinook salmon returning to the Fraser River this season.
The Fisheries Department’s regional director general Rebecca Reid says urgent protection measures include the closure of a commercial fishery involving seven endangered stocks.
Reid says an independent committee of wildlife experts and scientists conducted an assessment last November and determined seven chinook populations on the Fraser River are endangered, four are threatened and one is of special concern.
One area salmon was considered not at risk while three others were not assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
Reid says harvest management measures alone won’t deal with declining numbers of chinook in recent years due to multiple factors including warming waters because of climate change and destruction of habitat that must be rebuilt.