Pacific Salmon: Responses to Changing Climate and Habitats

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.

Read the abstract below, or download the full article.

Report Abstract:

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.

Alaska MSC Re-Certification Final Report Released

The MSC released its Final Report and Determination today on the Alaskan Salmon Fishery.

The Final Report and Determination provides information on the re-certification process and sets out the results of the recent assessment of the Alaskan Salmon Fishery. This is the fourth full assessment of the fishery and the first re-assessment of the Prince William Sound Unit of Certification.

For more information on the Alaskan Fishery certification visit the MSC website here.

MSC Releases Surveillance Audit for BC Salmon

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) released its Surveillance Audit Final Report in December 2018 on British Columbia pink, chum and sockeye fisheries.

The report covers the clients progress on conditions laid out in the original re-assessment in 2016. BC Salmon. The MCC participated in stakeholder meetings on Oct. 18th in Vancouver with comments and advice related to many of the conditions.

Of the 22 conditions assessed, 9 were behind target, 10 were on target and 3 were ahead of target in terms of client progress in meeting the condition requirements.

Read the full report or visit the MSC fishery website for more documentation.







Salmon Outlook for 2019

DFO has released its Preliminary 2019 Salmon Outlook.

The Outlook provides information on the forecasted stock status for 2019 across BC’s coast and for all species of Pacific Salmon (pink, chum, sockeye, coho and Chinook).

The outlook is considered preliminary and there is considerable uncertainty in environmental conditions and returns per spawner for most populations.

Read the full report or listen and watch to the webinar including a presentation from DFO’s State of the Salmon Program that looks at broad scale environmental conditions over the past generation that may influence salmon returns in 2019.

Draft Groundfish Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for review

Comments due by January 8, 2019

The Groundfish Management Unit has prepared a draft Pacific Region Groundfish Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) for the 2019/20 fishing season. We invite your input to this draft IFMP. The updated draft IFMP has now been posted to an ftp site and is available for review at the address listed below.

Read the consultation letter here.

Download the draft IFMP here.

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


  • 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

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

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