Salmon-Net: new online portal of science for salmon

A new online portal was just launched to improve public access to science relevant to salmon management and conservation–Salmon-Net.

Introduction email below:

The primary goal of the website is to showcase recent and emerging science that is relevant to the conservation and management of Pacific salmon via a series of Science Spotlights. These spotlights provide a lay-person summary of the key findings of each paper, as well as access to an original copy. For featured articles that would otherwise be behind journal paywalls, we have paid for open access so that the articles can be more widely available for diverse readers. The initial Spotlights range from the role of beavers as natural engineers of high productivity habitat to the influence of the North Pacific Current on salmon survival at sea. We will continue to roll out new Spotlights over time as new exciting science is published and welcome your suggestions of papers to spotlight. The website also features galleries of pictures and slidesof salmon and their ecosystems.

This portal is part of the Salmon Science Network, a collaborative initiative intended to help connect salmon scientists with each other as well as help link the broader network of salmon managers, conservationists, and stakeholders. With this in mind, we are also organizing a series of workshops and small conferences to focus on particularly salient issues relevant to salmon conservation science. This initiative is supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

We are hopeful that you are interested in this initiative and help spread the word. If you are into this kind of thing, please also follow us on twitter at @salmon_net.

Thank you!

Peter Westley, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Daniel Schindler, University of Washington
Jonathan Moore, Simon Fraser University


Visit Salmon-Net here.

Conflicts of interest in DFO’s Science Advisory Process?

Apparent conflicts of interest between Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s science advisory process must be resolved to save endangered wild salmon stocks.

Does Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFOs) science advisory process have integrity when tasked with answering questions on salmon farming? If there is any hope of changing the trajectory of many iconic but endangered wild salmon stocks, there must be a resolution to political and industrial interference that continues to influence fisheries science advice at the federal level.

Since 2001, a scientific debate has been active in British Columbia around parasitic salmon lice from open-net salmon farms and their impacts on wild fish. Two “camps” of scientific opinion have been obvious. On one side, academics and NGO scientists have published articles in peer-reviewed journals detailing the negative effects parasites from salmon farms can have on migrating wild salmon. On the other, government and industry-supported scientists have published papers that cast doubt on these conclusions, thereby fuelling the debate and encouraging the continued operation of salmon farms on wild fish migration routes.

For the full article visit Policy Options here

Is it possible that there are too many salmon in the Pacific Ocean?

In early April, a new science research article was released in the journal Marine and Coastal Fisheries detailing the numbers and biomass of salmon in the North Pacific Ocean. While total abundance is at a record high, much of that is comprised of hatchery origin fish. Many wild populations across BC and the Pacific Coast remain in highly depressed states.

Press Release:

Numbers and Biomass of Natural- and Hatchery-Origin Pink, Chum, and Sockeye Salmon in the North Pacific Ocean, 1925-2015

Is it possible that there are too many salmon in the Pacific Ocean? Is high salmon abundance causing reduced growth and lower survival of some salmon populations? The idea of too many salmon may seem preposterous for many people that frequently hear about declining numbers of salmon. Yet a new Featured Article published by the American Fisheries Society in its peer review journal Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science demonstrates that total abundance of Pacific salmon is at record high levels, and Pink, Chum, and Sockeye Salmon have been more abundant during the past 25 years than any time since 1925. In this article, Drs. Ruggerone and Irvine estimate the annual numerical abundance and biomass of the three most populous species (Pink, Chum, and Sockeye Salmon) from 1925 to 2015. Abundances of hatchery-origin and natural-origin salmon are estimated for each oceanic region of North America and Asia so that scientists and managers can examine relationships between hatchery releases of salmon and growth and survival of these and other species of salmon. Highlights of the manuscript include:

  • There are more Pacific salmon now than ever before since comprehensive statistics began to be collected in 1925 (i.e., catch plus spawning escapement).  However, Chinook and Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout are depressed throughout much of their range, representing only 4% of total salmon catch.
  • Numbers of Pink Salmon, Chum Salmon and Sockeye Salmon averaged 721 million salmon each year during 2005-2015 or approximately 36% more salmon than in the previous peak in the late 1930s.
  • Pink Salmon represent nearly 70% by numbers of all three species.
  • High overall salmon abundances primarily reflect high numbers of natural-origin and hatchery salmon in northern regions where habitat is less degraded and warming ocean conditions have been generally favorable for Pink, Chum, and Sockeye Salmon.
  • Hatchery salmon now constitute ~40% of the total biomass of adult and immature salmon in the ocean, largely because of Chum Salmon that spend more years at sea.
  • Major hatchery production for these three species occurs in Alaska (Prince William Sound, Southeast Alaska), the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands (Russia), and Japan.  In Alaska, up to 48% of total commercial salmon harvest is from hatchery salmon according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
  • Salmon migrate 1000s of kilometers at sea and compete for food with salmon from both Asia and North America. High salmon abundances can lead to reduced body size and survival of salmon and lower survival of seabirds. The ocean carrying capacity for Pacific salmon may have been reached in recent decades. Research is needed to better understand the impacts of high salmon abundance on the offshore marine ecosystem, including depleted wild species such as Chinook and Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout, and some populations of Sockeye and Chum Salmon.
  • The authors recommend the following changes in salmon management: 1) mark or tag all hatchery salmon so they can be identified after release, 2) estimate hatchery- and natural-origin salmon in catches and escapement, and 3) maintain this information in publicly accessible databases.

To read or download the full open-access article visit:

MCC Submits Advice to DFO for 2018 Salmon IFMP

On April 6th, the MCC submitted an 18-page document containing many recommendations for the 2018/19 north and south coast salmon Integrated Fishing and Management Plans (IFMPs).

Our letter discusses issues around Chinook exploitation rates, Interior Fraser Steelhead, Southern Resident Killer Whales, the Commercial Salmon Allocation Framework, Fraser River sockeye, Interior Fraser Coho, the Strategic Framework for Fishery Monitoring and Catch Reporting and Monitoring and Compliance.

Read the full letter here: MCC advice for draft 2018 Salmon IFMP April 6 Final (PDF)

MCC sends letter on Chinook and Killer Whale Management

On January 30th, 2018, the MCC sent a letter to Minister Dominic Leblanc detailing our concerns on Chinook salmon management with respect to the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs).

The letter included a 12-page report with 4 main recommendations for Chinook and vessel management actions for 2018. These actions are consistent with the ‘immediate’ actions recommended in the 2017 Science Review to address lack of Chinook, vessel noise and disturbance.

Recommendations detailed in the attached paper include:
1. Implement SRKW Feeding Refuges that will allow SRKWs to successfully forage in critical feeding habitats without noise and disturbance from recreational fishing and whale watching activities.
2. Implement commercial and recreational fishing restrictions to increase the abundance of Chinook in habitats identified as critical to SRKW, other important SRKW feeding areas, and for Chinook populations known to be important in the diets of SRKWs.
3. Manage Chinook in accordance with 1) and 2) until the health of SRKWs (as determined by photogrammetry, pregnancies, hormones, vital rates or other proxies) indicates a high likelihood whales are recovering.
4. Implement recovery plans consistent with Canada’s Guidance for the Development of Rebuilding Plans under the Precautionary Approach Framework to rebuild B.C. Chinook populations (i.e. Conservation Units below their Spawner Maximum Sustainable Yield (Smsy) with the objective of
maximizing Chinook recruitment to terminal areas and spawning grounds (Rmax).

To read the letter: January 30 MCC letter to Leblanc Orcas and Chinook 2018 IFMP (PDF)

To read the full report: 2018 IFMP MCC input on Chinook and SRKW management (PDF)

DFO Seeks Input into 2018 IFMP Development

On January 9th, DFO released a letter inviting feedback on the Planning Priorities for the 2018 Integrated Fishing and Management Plans for Salmon, Northern and Southern BC.

Key topics this year include:

  1. COSEWIC and SARA process
  2. Skeena River Chinook
  3. Skeena and Nass River Chinook
  4. Southern Resident Killer Whales
  5. Fraser River Chinook
  6. Interior Fraser River Steelhead
  7. Fraser River Sockeye
  8. Interior Fraser Coho
  9. Commercial Salmon Allocation Framework (CSAF) Demonstration Fisheries

Comments are due February 5th – the MCC will be submitting their comments before then.

For more details on the issues listed above please see the full letter: 2018_2019 IFMP Planning Priorities Letter – January 2018 – Letter from DFO (PDF)

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’s Wild Salmon Policy Implementation Plan – MCC submits comments

The MCC Salmon Subcommittee provided feedback on DFO’s draft Wild Salmon Policy Implementation Plan. The following summary and recommendations are excerpts from the attached letter.

In summary, there are three core deficiencies in the draft plan that need to be addressed:
Conservation Priority – there is a lack of direct actions and focus on the identification and rebuilding of red zone Conservation Units (CUs).
Accountability – the draft plan lacks detail and fails to make anyone directly accountable for implementation or ensuring adequate overall leadership at the Regional and Area levels.
Funding –there needs to be dedicated WSP implementation funding to ensure this plan work.

1. Clearly identify the individuals or teams responsible for specific deliverables.
2. Appoint leaders for coordinating and overseeing work between DFO sections, First Nations, and other partners at the Regional and Area levels. (i.e. implement Cohen recommendation #4).
3. Create an independent science panel (similar to COSEWIC) responsible for prioritizing red zone conservation units, developing rebuilding plans and providing an annual report card on WSP implementation.
4. Add detail that will allow for better evaluation of progress against deliverables, including clearer language on prioritizing red zone CUs for rebuilding plans.
5. When summarizing language from the original policy, ensure that its meaning and intent is not lost or watered down.
6. Provide more direct referencing to sections of the WSP, including Strategies and Action Steps.
7. Incorporate a direct link between the requirement to rebuild CU’s in the Red Zone to Canada’s ‘Guidance for the Development of Rebuilding Plans under the Precautionary Approach Framework: Growing Stocks out of the Critical Zone ‘

For the full letter: MCC letter on draft WSP implementation plan to DFO

Science Based Review of Recovery Actions for Southern Resident Killer Whales

In 2017, DFO released their Action Plan for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales. Later in 2017, another document was released – Southern Resident killer whale: A science-based review of recovery actions for three
at-risk whale populations. The Southern Resident Killer Whales are listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act.

Action Plan2017_Effectiveness-of-Recovery-Measures-for-SRKW DFO_Action Plan_ResidentKillerWhales2017Mar-Eng (PDF)

Science Review2017_Effectiveness-of-Recovery-Measures-for-SRKW (PDF)


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.