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.

MCC Sends Letter to Minister Wilkinson re:Fraser River Chinook Management

On April 15th, the MCC Salmon Subcommittee sent a letter to the Honourable Jonathon Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, detailing measures required to protect endangered, threatened and at risk Fraser River chinook salmon.

Background: In 2018, COSEWIC identified seven populations of Fraser Chinook salmon as endangered, four as threatened and one as special concern. Based on data to 2015, the only Fraser Chinook Conservation Unit that COSEWIC considered ‘stable’ was the South Thompson population. DFO has identified this population as a stock of concern and recommended harvest reductions because of its declining productivity. At this time, there are no wild populations of Chinook salmon in the Fraser River considered healthy.

In the letter the MCC proposes measures that would protect Fraser River chinook. Chinook management for 2019 must address the serious conservation concerns that exist for early timed Fraser fish, broader conservation concerns for all wild Fraser Chinook, and the recovery objectives for Southern Resident killer whales.

MCC letter 2019: Management actions to protect Fraser River chinook


$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.

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.


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.


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.”