Fisheries Department announces conservation measures to protect chinook in B.C.

Full story in the Times Colonist

via The Canadian Press

April 16, 2019

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.

Read the full story at the Times Colonist

Chinook fishing restrictions increased in effort to protect B.C.’s southern resident killer whales

Full Story in The Star Vancouver

by Wanyee Li

April 16, 2019

VANCOUVER—The critically endangered southern resident killer whales may have more chinook salmon to eat this summer, as Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced stricter fishing quotas for British Columbia’s coast on Tuesday.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada — often called the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or DFO — already reduced harvesting quotas for B.C. chinook by a third last summer, but staff admitted Tuesday that those measures have not been as effective as they hoped.

The DFO is now setting a new goal of reducing chinook salmon mortality to five per cent for 2019. The new restrictions are aimed specifically at protecting the Fraser chinook fisheries.

Current mortality levels for chinook returning to the Fraser River before July are closer to 20 per cent, according to Misty MacDuffee, wild salmon program co-ordinator at Raincoast Conservation Foundation. The southern resident orcas rely heavily on this specific cohort of fish, she said.

Visit The Star Vancouver for the full story.

 

Ottawa announces stronger preservation measures for chinook

Globe and Mail, April 16 2019

Story by Brenda Owen

Ottawa has announced stronger measures to preserve endangered populations of Fraser River chinook salmon, placing new restrictions on commercial and recreational fishing.

Last year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans aimed to restrict wild chinook harvesting across B.C. by 25 per cent to 35 per cent. But Rebecca Reid, DFO’s regional director general for the Pacific region, said these reductions were not enough to protect the rapidly declining salmon stocks.

“Unfortunately, we are at the point where bold action is required,” Ms. Reid said.

For the news release and backgrounder from DFO, visit here.

Read the full story.

 

Government of Canada takes action to address Fraser River Chinook decline

Today, Fisheries and Oceans Minister the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson announced management actions for 2019 to help address the decline in Fraser River chinook salmon.

Fisheries and Oceans has released a news release and backgrounder on the issue.

Fisheries management measures for the 2019 fishing season will include:

Commercial fishing: Commercial troll fisheries for Chinook will be closed until August 20 to avoid impacting Fraser Chinook stocks and to support conservation priorities.

Recreational fishing: The 2019 management measures for recreational fisheries where at risk Chinook stocks may be encountered are designed to maximize returns of these at risk Chinook to their spawning grounds. Opportunities to harvest Chinook will be provided later in the season to support the long-term viability of the recreational industry. The 2019 measures include:

  • Non-retention of Chinook in Southern BC (including West Coast Vancouver Island offshore, Johnstone Strait and Northern Strait of Georgia) until July 14; a daily limit of one (1) Chinook per person per day after July 15 until December 31.
  • Non-retention of Chinook in the Strait Juan de Fuca and Southern Strait of Georgia until July 31; retention of one (1) Chinook per person per day as of August 1until December 31.
  • West Coast Vancouver Island offshore areas will have non-retention of Chinook until July 14 followed by a limit of two (2) Chinook per day from July 15 to December 31. West Coast Vancouver Island inshore waters will remain at two (2) Chinook per day for the season once at-risk Chinook stocks have passed through, to support the long term viability of the salmon and of the recreational fishery.
  • Fraser River recreational fisheries will remain closed to salmon fishing until at least August 23, and opportunities will be informed by any other conservation issues (coho, steelhead, etc).
  • Retention of two (2) Chinook per day continues to be permitted in Northern BC and inshore areas of the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Other opportunities may be identified and announced in season where abundance permits.
  • An overall reduction in the total annual limit for Chinook that can be retained per person in a season from 30 fish to 10. Recreational fisheries for other species will continue. Please see the Department’s web-site for local regulations.

First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries: these fisheries, which have a constitutionally protected priority, will not commence until July 15 – concurrent with the opening of the recreational retention fishery.

Many BC south coast Chinook populations listed under COSEWIC

COSEWIC released it most recent wildlife Species Assessment today. The assessment covers south coast Chinook including Fraser River, Thompson River, Vancouver Island and Southern Mainland populations.

Eight populations of Chinook were listed as endangered, four populations were listed as threatened, one population was listed as special concern, two as data deficient and one as not at risk.

From the COSEWIC press release:

Along with other species, COSEWIC also examined the status of Chinook Salmon, the king of the Pacific Coast salmon species. Mainly a migratory species, these large-bodied fish were historically abundant. Chinook Salmon are important culturally and as a food source for diverse groups of West Coast people, and also provide food for a diversity of wildlife species. The committee found 13 populations to be declining, with 8 assessed as Endangered, 4 as Threatened and one as Special Concern. Only the large population that lives in the Thompson River is stable.

“Many of these populations are in trouble”, stated John Neilson, Co-chair of the Marine Fishes subcommittee. “This may impact many species, including Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale, which rely on Chinook Salmon for food.”

To see the full list of assessed species visit the COSEWIC website here, or view a PDF table.

$105 million for Restoration and Innovation

Statement of PSF President and CEO Dr. Brian Riddell

Regarding Fall Economic Update, New Wild Salmon Investments

Wild salmon and those of us who care deeply about them got some great news in federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s Fall Economic Update. We were delighted to hear Minister Morneau announce major new investments to sustain Canada’s fish stocks. The creation of a British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund – an investment of $105 million over six years – will include a $5 million contribution to the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund (PSEF) in 2018-19. PSEF plays a vital role by investing in the on-going work of the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) and our hundreds of non-profit partners that work in communities across British Columbia to conserve wild salmon. We were also delighted to learn that significant new investments will be made in stock assessment as part of the new fisheries act. PSF has highlighted for many years the need for improved collection and analysis and sharing of data on salmon stocks – particularly critical are Chinook, coho, sockeye and steelhead stocks that have been in serious decline for many years. PSF and our partners, including DFO, have focused significant resources on improving science and data collection in recent years and it is extremely heartening to see new dollars announced on this front. On behalf of PSF, I commend Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government for investments during the last three years that benefit Pacific salmon through renewed support for Fisheries and Oceans Canada but especially for those that help enable the success of non-profits like the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund and Pacific Salmon Foundation. Minister Morneau rightly noted, “that the best solutions for Canada’s big challenges come from Canadians themselves.” On behalf of the thousands of volunteers and donors to PSF and in the broader “Salmon Community,” we agree and say thank you!

Sustaining Canada’s Wild Fish Stocks – Fall Economic Update 2018

From coast to coast to coast, Canada is privileged to enjoy an abundance of rich natural resources. With this privilege comes the responsibility to ensure that these resources are managed sustainably and protected wisely, to ensure that Canadians can continue to benefit from them for years to come.

In 2012, the final report of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River was released, including broad recommendations on how to address factors leading to the decline of that species. The Government has now taken action to address all of the report’s recommendations, which represents a significant step toward protecting Fraser River sockeye salmon.

Government efforts to sustain Canada’s oceans and wild fish stocks have been reinforced through significant investments, including:

  • $197.1 million over five years of incremental funding for ocean and freshwater science.
  • $1.5 billion over five years to launch an ambitious and wide-ranging Oceans Protection Plan.
  • $284.2 million over five years to restore lost protections and incorporate modern safeguards into the Fisheries Act, which would support new legislative and regulatory tools.
  • $164.7 million over five years to protect, preserve and recover endangered whales, which includes research on salmon populations.
  • $61.5 million over five years to implement a suite of measures to protect and recover the Southern Resident Killer Whale, including funding that will support the conservation of wild pacific salmon.

The Government remains committed to the sustainability of wild Pacific salmon and recognizes that this commitment requires ongoing and incremental action in order to succeed. To support stock assessment and rebuilding efforts for priority Pacific salmon stocks, as well as other priority fish stocks across Canada, the Government proposes to invest $107.4 million over five years, starting in 2019–20, and $17.6 million per year ongoing, to support the implementation of stock assessment and rebuilding provisions in a renewed Fisheries Act.

Recognizing the importance of fisheries as a source of good, middle class jobs in coastal communities, as well as their importance to Canada’s economy as a whole, the Government is expanding on the success of the Atlantic Fisheries Fund, and proposes to invest $105 million over six years, starting in 2018–19, to create a British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, which includes a contribution to the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund of $5 million in 2018–19, as well as $30 million over five years, starting in 2019–20 for a Quebec Fisheries Fund. The B.C. and Quebec funds will support projects focused on innovation, clean technology adoption, infrastructure investments that improve productivity, sustainability and safety, and science partnerships.

Canada’s salmon hold the key to saving its killer whales

Desperate efforts to save the whales – and the Chinook salmon on which they depend – risk fishing communities losing a way of life.

The Guardian, 12 November 2018

Days before the start of the summer fishing season, when guides and outfitters on Canada’s west coast gamble their financial prospects for the year, fishing lodge owner Ryan Chamberland received devastating news.

The coastal waters of Vancouver Island, which he and four generations of his family had fished for salmon, would be out of bounds. The unexpected closure was part of a desperate effort by the Canadian government to save an endangered population of killer whales.

That same summer, Tahlequah, one of the threatened whales, nudged the lifeless body of her newborn calf for 17 days of mourning. Shortly after, the once-playful Scarlet, a three-year-old female orca, succumbed to a bacterial infection as scientists from the Canadian and US governments worked desperately to save her.

The unfolding tragedy of the southern resident killer whales – and the government response – has exposed a complex ecosystem in crisis. Chinook salmon, the whale’s main prey, are also disappearing. In an area heavily reliant on tourism and fishing, an impending collapse of the two species has led to feuding over how to stave off an ecological disaster.

To read the full story visit the Guardian website here.

Federal government rejects emergency order to protect killer whales

The Canadian Press

November 2, 2018

Story from the Times Colonist

VANCOUVER — The federal government has declined to issue an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act that would further protect the endangered killer whales off British Columbia’s coast.

An order-in-council issued Thursday said the government has already taken several measures to ensure the recovery of the southern resident killer whales.

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in a statement Friday that the government “carefully weighed various options” to protect the whales, and it does not believe an emergency order would be helpful.

“An emergency order does not contain measures in of itself, it is only a tool governments can use as an implementation mechanism,” he said.

Wilkinson said the government announced new measures on Wednesday to ensure that when the whales return to the waters in greater numbers in spring, they have cleaner water to swim in, more Chinook salmon to eat and a quieter place to call home.

To read the full story on the Times Colonist website click here.

 

Federal government announces new measures for killer whale protection

The National Post, October 31, 2018

VANCOUVER — The federal government wants to create new ocean sanctuaries in British Columbia as part of an additional $61.5 million it is spending to protect endangered killer whales.

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Wednesday the government also wants to create new areas of critical habitat off the west coast of Vancouver Island for southern resident killer whales.

The protected areas of Swiftsure in the Juan de Fuca Strait between Vancouver Island and Washington state, and Le Perouse Banks off Tofino will be areas that the whales can call home, he said.

For the full story visit the National Post website.

Bureaucrats express concern about BC salmon stock tracking

Original story in the Globe and Mail, October 14

Available online here.

Rick Collins/The Globe and Mail

Senior public servants in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are worried the department has lost the ability to keep track of salmon species other than sockeye – including the Chinook critical to the survival of the endangered southern resident killer whale.

In the July letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail, area directors in B.C. expressed “collective concerns with the continued under-resourcing of salmon stock assessment programs.”

Area directors wrote that they appreciate that under-resourcing is not simply because of reduced science funding in recent years, but the result of “eroded regional funding” from various sources over the past 15 years.

“The regional ability to meet well-established core salmon assessment programs is no longer possible with allocated funding,” said the letter. Recently, there have been concerns about dismal returns for Chinook salmon on the Fraser River, raising new concerns for the endangered southern resident killer whales that rely on these fish for their survival.

The perilous state of the whales was also a significant factor in the decision by the Federal Court of Appeal on Aug. 30 to halt the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Carmel Lowe, the regional science director for the department, was the recipient of the letter. She said since the letter was written, the department has committed to spending an extra $4-million on its monitoring responsibilities. That would bring its budget this year up to approximately $11.2-million for salmon stock assessment, about $1-million more than in each of the past four years.

“We have secured or anticipate having secured the funding required to allow all of the priority assessment programs to be undertaken,” Ms. Lowe said.

In an e-mail exchange subsequent to the interview, Ms. Lowe said internal and external sources of funds for salmon stock assessment have varied over the years, with declines in, for example, Pacific Salmon Treaty implementation funds, but increases in other sources of funding such as for implementing the recommendations of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.

Still, the letter makes plain that the authors are concerned about dwindling resources over more than a dozen years, combined with increasing responsibilities.

Ms. Lowe said the department lacks the resources to “go out and assess every fish,” but, rather prioritizes. That means a focus on Fraser River sockeye, given Indigenous interest in the fish and their higher market value, and Chinook given the dependence of killer whales on them.

In May, the federal government announced a reduction of roughly one third in the harvest of Chinook and closured fishing in some key whale foraging areas after declaring that the southern resident killer whales face an imminent threat to their survival. The federal government has acknowledged that lack of prey is one of the critical factors affecting the whales’ recovery.

A spokesman for the First Nations Fisheries Council of B.C., which works with and on behalf of B.C. First Nations to protect First Nations fisheries rights and title, said he was not surprised by the area directors’ letter.

“I think it’s something that those who work with fisheries here in B.C. [have] all expected and known,” council operations manager Janson Wong said in an interview.

The result, he said, is that DFO is often “guessing” about what returns and spawning might be.

“A lack of data means a lack of good management,” Mr. Wong said.