Environmental Conditions: State of the Salmon for 2021

DFO’s State of the Salmon Program gave a presentation at the Preliminary Salmon Outlook Meeting on Dec. 17, 2020. It details environmental conditions that will inform salmon returns in 2021.

In summary, given broadly similar conditions in recent years it is expected that there will be below average survival for many Fraser stocks, coast-wide declines in Chinook with smaller sizes and younger age-at-maturity, and greater variability in salmon production.

View the presentation below.

2021-2022 IFMP Key Planning Priorities

In preparation for development of the 2021-2022 Integrated Fisheries Management Plans for Northern and Southern BC, the DFO has released a letter intended to communicate the Department’s key planning priorities.

The letter details priorities for First Nations FSC fisheries, COSEWIC and SARA processes, the Big Bar landslide, and CSAF demonstration fisheries. For southern BC, priorities are for Southern BC Chinook, Southern Resident Killer Whales, Interior Fraser River Steelhead/Chum Management, Fraser RIver sockeye and pink salmon, and Southern BC Coho. For Northern BC, priorities are for Northern BC Coho and Skeena Chinook.

2020 Chinook Management Proposal

On March 2, 2020, Fisheries and Oceans Canada released a letter that intended to communicate their approach for developing fisheries management actions to address conservation concerns for Fraser River Chinook over the next year.

On April 9, the MCC submitted a letter in response detailing our Management Recommendations, Rationale and Evaluation. In it we detail management, monitoring, and assessment actions that should be in place for 2020 fisheries across the coast that contribute to Fraser River Chinook Total Mortalities. We also provide a rationale and context underlying our recommendations, and have provided feedback into the Management Measure Evaluation Framework.

The MCC’s proposed 2020 Management Actions for conserving and rebuilding Fraser 5-2 endangered and threatened chinook are in recognition that the 5% total mortality cap for these SMUs was exceeded in 2019, possibly by over 100% in some instances (see Appendix A). This is based on evaluating 2019 total mortalities relative to terminal abundance. If 2019 total mortalities are evaluated relative to escapements, the cap was exceeded by 400 to 600%, depending on the SMU. The absence of GSI make similar estimates for 4-2 Chinook difficult. Indications are that that 2019 impacts on 4-2 Chinook were lower, but likely still exceeded the cap.

Clarification – Mortalities of Fraser Chinook in South Coast Rec Fisheries

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.

2020 Fraser River Chinook Management Approach

Deadline for comments extended until April 9.

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.

Incorporating Research into Management

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.

Read the full report for more details.

Federal government measures failed to protect endangered Chinook salmon in 2019

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.

MCC Comments on 2020 Herring IFMP

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:

  1. Increase the lower reference point to reflect an ecosystem based conservation objective.
  2. Lower the exploitation rate.
  3. Plan for a lower biomass and harvest rate until validated with in-season management.
  4. Assume there is a mechanism for persistent geographic population structure.
  5. Consider ecosystem and economy trade-offs.

MCC Letter to Prime Minister

On November 12, 2019, the salmon committee of the MCC submitted a letter to the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau detailing Pacific mandate priorities.

Key components of the mandate are detailed below:

  1. Review and update DFO management structures and processes to account for unprecedented low returns, increasing climate change impacts, and implementation of First Nations co-management
  2. Restore stock assessment capacity, including spawning ground counts, to advance in-season stock identification tools
  3. Implement the restored habitat protection provisions and new rebuilding requirements under the Fisheries Act
  4. Develop emergency recovery strategies for salmon Conservation Units identified as threatened or endangered
  5. Complete comprehensive, peer-reviewed biological risk assessments of salmonid hatchery facilities, and make this an ongoing requirement under the new Aquaculture Act