Wild Salmon Policy 2018 to 2022 Implementation Plan

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has released the final version of the Wild Salmon Policy 2018 to 2022 Implementation Plan.

Message from the minister:

As Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, it is my pleasure to present the Wild Salmon Policy 2018-2022 Implementation Plan. This Plan does not focus on actions taken, but rather represents Canada’s plan forward and commitment over the next five years towards continuing to restore and maintain wild Pacific salmon populations and their habitats.

When Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon was released in 2005, it was considered a ground-breaking document developed over five years of consultations with Canadians. It put a new priority on conserving the rich biological diversity of Pacific salmon, while supporting the sustainable use of one of Canada’s cherished natural resources – wild Pacific salmon.

Thirteen years later, salmon science and conservation work has been advanced, the goals and objectives of the policy remain pertinent, and the passion of Canadians is stronger than ever. The need to focus increase on this important keystone species continues as we face changing ocean and freshwater habitat conditions, less predictable returns and declines in some stocks.

We must find ways to continue to safeguard the genetic diversity of wild salmon and maintain habitat and ecosystem integrity; this is critical to both ensuring their conservation and continuing to provide opportunities for economic benefits that Pacific salmon generates for many Canadians – including BC and Yukon First Nations, commercial and recreational fishers and many small communities. I am committed to working with the BC and Yukon governments to enhance and deepen our collaboration going forward to protect Pacific salmon and salmon habitat.

I would like to thank the hundreds of dedicated Canadians who participated in our consultations in 2016 and 2017 and who provided valuable feedback in person or in writing. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has listened to the comments and considered all the recommendations in building this Plan. My Department is fully committed to the Pacific Wild Salmon Policy, and I am confident that by working with our dedicated partners, including collaboration with the government of BC and First Nations on an integrated strategy, we will secure a brighter future for wild Pacific salmon.

Full report here:

Wild Salmon Advisory Council report published in support of B.C.’s wild salmon

BC’s Wild Salmon Advisory Council Report was released today.

News Release posted on the Province of British Columbia’s website:

The first step in the development of a renewed provincial approach to protecting and enhancing wild salmon, the Wild Salmon Advisory Council report, was made public to coincide with the start of the International Year of the Salmon.

“Wild salmon are a vital part of the lives of thousands of British Columbians, from Indigenous communities to commercial and recreational fishers. They are integral to our environment, our history, our economy and our way of life in B.C.,” said Premier John Horgan. “The advisory council worked tirelessly examining the impacts of wild salmon on B.C.’s communities, economy and Indigenous peoples. These recommendations will help B.C. protect and enhance wild salmon for future generations.”

The report provides key insights and guidance on protecting wild salmon and maximizing the value of this important resource for British Columbia. Premier Horgan announced the report’s publication while speaking at the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission’s launch of the International Year of the Salmon.

“The report released today details the important role wild salmon play in B.C.’s ecosystem and economy,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture. “As we enter the International Year of the Salmon, we are committed to working in partnership with the federal government to help restore and sustain B.C.’s salmon population.”

The report provides 14 recommendations that support the health, habitat and management of wild salmon, as well as the sustainability of the wild salmon industry in British Columbia. It will be submitted to the legislative assembly’s Select Standing Committee of Agriculture, Fish and Food in the coming weeks. The committee has been tasked with leading a public consultation process with British Columbians on the advisory council’s report in the new year, which will inform the development of a renewed provincial approach to protecting wild salmon.

The Wild Salmon Advisory Council consists of 14 British Columbians, including co-chairs Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, and Chief Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk First Nation. Thanks to their hard work and expertise, British Columbians will now have a broader understanding of the role that salmon play within B.C.’s environment, for coastal and inland Indigenous communities and local economies up and down the coast. Restoration and protection of wild salmon is a shared priority with the B.C. Green Party caucus — Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, also participated on the Premier’s advisory council.

Find the full report here.

Learn More:

To learn about the International Year of the Salmon, visit: https://yearofthesalmon.org/

To read the Wild Salmon Advisory Council’s report, visit: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/app/uploads/sites/121/2018/10/Wild-Salmon-Strategy-Options-Paper.pdf

To find out more about the Wild Salmon Advisory Council, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2018PREM0045-001204

Will new fisheries minister respect salmon science?

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson should support changes to the way his department treats the science around salmon.

Policy Options, October 4

by Stan Proboszcz and Craig Orr

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled several cabinet positions in July, including the fisheries portfolio. Jonathan Wilkinson, MP for North Vancouver, BC, is now the first West Coast member of Parliament to hold that position in 16 years. Promptly after assuming the posting, Wilkinson publicly committed “to a science-based approach to addressing issues relating to restoring salmon stocks.”

While the Minister’s statement is laudable, he has inherited a portfolio (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, or DFO) that many believe is beset with problems around how science is interpreted and applied. Using salmon farming as a case study, we provide examples that suggest there are serious concerns with DFO’s use of science and its response to external peer-reviewed scientific research. It is imperative that the Minister recognize and rectify these problems promptly, if he truly is committed to a science-based approach to salmon management and conservation. A science-based approach implies enacting policy that is based on rigorous scientific studies, and adjusting practices and policies as new scientific evidence emerges.

PRV as a threat to wild salmon

In 2011, during the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, it was revealed that piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), a pathogen causing havoc in farmed salmon in Europe, is also present in British Columbia. Subsequent research identified PRV as the causative agent for a disease in farmed salmon known as heart and skeletal muscle inflammation. More recently it was revealed that wild salmon sampled near BC fish farms had high incidences of positive tests for the virus and that the presence of the virus in wild salmon may impede their ability to migrate upstream to spawn. Another 2018 study concluded that PRV can cause disease in chinook salmon.

Farmed salmon in British Columbia start in land-based hatcheries and are later transferred to open-net pens in the ocean. It was recently discovered that many hatchery-farmed salmon tested positive for PRV, and two parallel legal challenges were launched trying to stop the transfer of virus-positive fish to the ocean, due to the risk to wild salmon.

The looming possibility of a court-ordered stop to the stocking of farmed salmon has apparently prompted a new type of response by DFO staff, in the form of a document called “Rapid Science Response.” The Rapid Science Response on PRV was produced by DFO staff, and it concluded that the published evidence that there was more than a minimal risk to BC chinook salmon was “unsubstantiated.”

The Rapid Science Response is not peer-reviewed science — it is not vetted by independent experts or published as a rebuttal in a peer-reviewed journal. Nor did the response receive input from the senior DFO scientist leading the genomics work on PRV, as detailed in a letter by a principal investigator on the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative.

DFO aquaculture research programs

DFO’s history of salmon farming promotion is another source of potentially weak science policy. The department’s Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR) is purportedly designed to increase our scientific knowledge about aquaculture, thus informing regulatory decision-making and policy development. Between 2008 and 2017, DFO spent $4 million on salmon farming-related research (on parasitic lice, pathogens and benthic habitat) in the Pacific region in this program (figure 1). Counting provincial and other federal dollars, a total of over $5 million was provided for research related to salmon farming by PARR in the Pacific region.

But what does this research achieve? Nearly $1.7 million was spent on research on parasitic lice alone, yet we are not aware of any resultant changes in the regulation of lice on fish farms. In contrast, numerous studies by academics and NGOs have identified parasitic lice from farmed salmon as a threat to wild salmon, mainly because of the link between the lice and decreases in wild salmon productivity. This suggests the need for regulatory changes.

The Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program(ACRDP) is another DFO research initiative geared to “improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian aquaculture industry.” The research and development activities that ACRDP pursues are funded partially by the private sector. This arrangement has the potential to foster a conflict of interest that may affect DFO’s scientific objectivity. Due to conflict of interest concerns related to the industry promotion mandate, we think research projects that examine the effects of salmon farms on wild fish should not be housed within ACRDP.

Approximately $4.5 million per year is allocated to ACRDP projects. As DFO aquaculture science is once again being reviewed, this time by an independent expert panel led by Canada’s chief science advisor, Mona Nemer, we question whether taxpayers are getting the best unbiased science from these DFO-managed research programs.

Recommendations

The Minister should commit to making the results of the aquaculture science review public and should apply its findings to improve DFO’s use of science and the use of the precautionary principle. In the absence of scientific certainty, conservation measures should be taken when there is knowledge of a risk of serious or irreversible harm to wild stocks. Academic scientists from outside government and industry should be consulted regularly. There should also be an independent review of DFO salmon farming research programs such as PARR and ACRDP to ensure a lack of industry bias and sound use of funding.

DFO’s Rapid Science Response operates outside the normal scientific process, and Wilkinson, as a minister who publicly commits to science-based approaches, should scrap it.

Finally, the recommendations of the 2012 Cohen Commission should be implemented immediately to protect wild stocks. Among other things, the commission called for the prompt removal of salmon farms from the Discovery Islands region of BC if it is determined that they pose more than a minimal risk to wild salmon. The recent chinook salmon study determined exactly that.

Sound risk management of our natural resources should be underpinned by science. Yet Canada’s own fisheries and oceans department appears to actively promote uncertainty and downplay the impacts of salmon farms on wild salmon, via viruses and parasites. Government research programs on the effects of salmon farms have resulted in no meaningful changes to regulations to protect wild salmon in BC, perhaps due to underlying industry promotion objectives. The recent non-peer-reviewed assertions by certain DFO staff denying the link between viruses and disease in chinook salmon raise concerns about conservation, but they could also create uncertainty about the Minister’s commitment to a “science-based approach to addressing issues relating to restoring salmon stocks.”

Science Advisory Report on Chilcotin River and Thompson River Steelhead

Recovery Potential Assessment for Chilcotin River and Thompson River Steelhead Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) designatable units

Summary

  • This Recovery Potential Assessment (RPA) focuses on the Chilcotin and Thompson River Designatable Units (DU) of Steelhead Trout. Both of these DUs were assessed as Endangered by COSEWIC in an emergency assessment in January 2018.
  • The estimated number of mature fish that returned to fresh water from the sea in the fall of 2017 and spawned in the spring of 2018 was 150 for the Thompson DU and 77 for the Chilcotin DU. The estimated decline of Steelhead Trout spawners over the last three generations has been 79% (over 15 years) for the Thompson DU, and 81% (over 18 years) for the Chilcotin DU.
  • Given the shortened timelines required for an emergency assessment, the advice in this RPA only addresses a subset of the elements required in a full RPA. Outstanding elements will be addressed in the future as the Species at Risk Act processes continue.
  • Threats and limiting factors identified to be most relevant to the survival and recovery of Steelhead Trout include changes in the marine environment, fishing mortality, degradation of freshwater and marine habitats, predation and competition. General categories of threats and limiting factors were agreed to, however the rationale and scoring for level of impact, causal certainty, and threat risk had greater uncertainty and will require further input and evaluation.
  • Recommended Distribution Target is to retain the present level of occupancy in freshwater habitats, thereby avoiding contraction of freshwater range. Five spatial sub-areas within the spawning and juvenile rearing areas of the Thompson DU, including the main stem are recommended and two spatial subdivisions are recommended within the Chilcotin DU. These distribution targets are consistent with current level of occupancy in freshwater habitats, and are believed to be sufficient to avoiding contraction of freshwater range.
  • Recommended Abundance Recovery Target for Thompson Steelhead Trout DU is 938 spawners. This value, which also meets the distribution target, is the total escapement to the DU that results in a 95% probability that a minimum of 100 spawners returns to each of its five sub-areas in the same year. Recommended Abundance Recovery Target for Chilcotin Steelhead Trout DU is 562–744 spawners, using a length-standardized requirement of 1.8–2.4 spawners/km. This also meets the distribution target for the Chilcotin DU.
  • Model simulations suggest increases in future abundances of both DUs are conditional on improvements in natural productivity. Exploitation rate (fishing mortality) reduction has the potential to lessen rates of decline if the most recent productivities observed continue in the future. However, eliminating exploitation alone will not result in population recovery.
  • Uncertainties regarding the exploitation rate estimates, unaccounted for fixed rate terminal harvest, and variations in escapement were identified as having the potential to affect the estimated productivity of each population.
  • For the Thompson DU, simulations estimate that if productivity levels from the most recent year persist (recruits/spawner), recovery is not expected regardless of exploitation rate. If productivities double (10 and 5-year time periods), the estimated recovery probability exceeds 47% for all exploitation rates. However, if the 1-year time period productivity doubles, recovery probability estimates are 12% or less under all exploitation rates.
  • For the Chilcotin DU, simulations estimate that recovery probability is zero at all exploitation rates if productivity levels from the most recent year persist, but recovery probability exceeds 39% at all exploitation rates if productivity increases to 5-year mean level. If the 5- and 10- year mean productivities double (10 and 5-year time periods), the estimated recovery probability exceeds 74% at all exploitation rates.
  • Given the declining and very low abundances of both the Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead DUs, any harm will inhibit or delay potential recovery and potentially result in further declines in abundance. Allowable harm should not be permitted to exceed current levels and should be reduced to the maximum extent possible. Preventing and mitigating habitat destruction, restoring damaged habitat, and reducing exploitation rates, to the extent possible, are immediate actions that will increase the likelihood that allowable harm will not exceed current levels and promote recovery if productivity increases.

This Science Advisory Report is from the September 20-21, 2018 regional peer review meeting on Recovery Potential Assessment – Chilcotin River and Thompson River Steelhead Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) Designatable Units. Additional publications from this Regional Peer Review will be posted on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Science Advisory Schedule as they become available.

The report can be found here: Recovery Potential Assessment for Chilcotin and Thompson Steelhead

Feedback required on Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead Trout: potential emergency listing under SARA

Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead Trout: consultation on the potential emergency listing under the Species at Risk Act

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has performed an emergency assessment of both the Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead Trout populations (or Designatable Units [DUs]) and found them to be endangered.

Following an emergency assessment, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) must form an opinion on whether imminent threat to survival exists. If the Minister is of the opinion there is an imminent threat to one or both populations of Steelhead Trout, she must recommend to Governor in Council (GiC) that the population(s) be listed on an emergency basis. Following such a recommendation, GiC would make a listing decision based on information provided by the Minister, and may consider additional information, such as socio-economic impacts and the results of consultations with Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders.

To inform the GiC’s decision, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is conducting consultations on the potential impacts of listing Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead, and collecting any additional information submitted for GiC to consider.

Visit the consultation website to complete a survey on the emergency listing.

To view the full report visit here.

DFO releases Final 2018-2019 Integrated Fisheries Management Plans

Today the Department of Fisheries and Oceans released the final versions of the Northern and Southern Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs). These documents contain information on the management approaches and decision guidelines for all species, management unites and major fishery areas.

Northern IFMP Letter 2018.

For the full IFMPs:

North Coast IFMP

South Coast IFMP

New study suggests migratory Chinook salmon may be at risk from salmon farms

A recently released paper in the journal Facets on Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) in farmed Atlantic and Chinook salmon. The paper suggests that migratory Chinook salmon may be at more than a minimal risk of disease from exposure to high levels of PRV occurring in salmon farms.

Title: The same strain of Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV-1) is involved in the development of different, but related, diseases in Atlantic and Pacific Salmon in British Columbia

Authors:  Emiliano Di Cicco, Hugh W. Ferguson, Karia H. Kaukinen, Angela D. Schulze, Shaorong Li, Amy Tabata, Oliver P. Gunther, Gideon Mordecai, Curtis A. Suttle, Kristina M. Miller

Abstract

Piscine orthoreovirus Strain PRV-1 is the causative agent of heart and skeletal muscle inflammation (HSMI) in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar Linnaeus, 1758). Given its high prevalence in net pen salmon, debate has arisen on whether PRV poses a risk to migratory salmon, especially in British Columbia (BC) where commercially important wild Pacific salmon are in decline. Various strains of PRV have been associated with diseases in Pacific salmon, including erythrocytic inclusion body syndrome (EIBS), HSMI-like disease, and jaundice/anemia in Japan, Norway, Chile and Canada. We examined the developmental pathway of HSMI and jaundice/anemia associated with PRV-1 in farmed Atlantic and chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (Walbaum, 1792)) salmon in BC, respectively. In situ hybridization localized PRV-1 within developing lesions in both diseases. The two diseases showed dissimilar pathological pathways, with inflammatory lesions in heart and skeletal muscle in Atlantic salmon and degenerative-necrotic lesions in kidney and liver in chinook salmon, plausibly explained by differences in PRV load tolerance in red blood cells. Viral genome sequencing revealed no consistent differences in PRV-1 variants intimately involved in the development of both diseases suggesting that migratory chinook salmon may be at more than a minimal risk of disease from exposure to the high levels of PRV occurring in salmon farms.

Full article (PDF)

CTV News Story from May 7, 2018

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: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/mcf2.10023