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.

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’s Recommendations for Monitoring in SC Rec Fisheries

The MCC Salmon Subcommittee has released a letter to Fisheries and Oceans Canada with recommendations for monitoring in SC recreational fisheries. In summary, with management measures moving to non-retention of chinook in many areas, there are concerns around the Fisheries Related Incidental Mortality (FRIM) still being high and impacting stocks of concern like Fraser River 42/52 chinook. As the non-retention of chinook increases, total mortalities will decrease (e.g. some fish that would have been kept are now released) however FRIM will increase. Our recent discussion paper illustrates that new guidance for the derivation of FRIM suggests that estimates using current methodology from DFO and PSC managers may underestimate the actual FRIM in these fisheries, and likely by a large margin.

This letter calls for increased monitoring in recreational fisheries specifically in regards to genetic sampling of released fish, as well as kept chinook, so that managers can determine the stock composition of both released and kept chinook. Additionally the MCC is requesting that DFO incorporate the guidance provided by Patterson et al. (2017) in future FRIM and total mortality estimates.

Read the letter.

The following figure shows that the median estimate of FRIM in the full non-retention scenario (bottom-left panel – based on 2018 catch and release data) is about 9000 using guidance from Patterson et al. (2017) – nearly 4-fold higher than DFO’s estimate and double that using PSC methods.

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