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 provides feedback on Thompson and Chilcotin River steelhead

Subject: Support for listing Thompson & Chilcotin River steelhead under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

Released: November 29, 2018

To: Species at Risk Program, Pacific Region

On November 29th, 2018, the MCC Salmon Committee provided support for listing Thompson & Chilcotin River steelhead under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

The submission provides answers to the questions listed in the “Survey on the emergency listing of the Steelhead Trout (Thompson and Chilcotin populations) under the Species at Risk Act”, which we accessed online at http://isdm.gc.ca/survey-enquete/eng/7d003481.

The submission contains the following points:

  1. We believe that listing would have significant economic, environmental, cultural and social benefits;
  2. Recovery is unlikely without listing. Any economic costs directly related to listing are short-term and are low relative to the costs of not listing and thereby forgoing recovery options.

The full submission can be found here:

Thompson Chilcotin consultation survey answers from MCC


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

Feedback required on Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead Trout: potential emergency listing under SARA

Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead Trout: consultation on the potential emergency listing under the Species at Risk Act

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has performed an emergency assessment of both the Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead Trout populations (or Designatable Units [DUs]) and found them to be endangered.

Following an emergency assessment, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) must form an opinion on whether imminent threat to survival exists. If the Minister is of the opinion there is an imminent threat to one or both populations of Steelhead Trout, she must recommend to Governor in Council (GiC) that the population(s) be listed on an emergency basis. Following such a recommendation, GiC would make a listing decision based on information provided by the Minister, and may consider additional information, such as socio-economic impacts and the results of consultations with Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders.

To inform the GiC’s decision, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is conducting consultations on the potential impacts of listing Thompson and Chilcotin Steelhead, and collecting any additional information submitted for GiC to consider.

Visit the consultation website to complete a survey on the emergency listing.

To view the full report visit here.

DFO Seeks Input into 2018 IFMP Development

On January 9th, DFO released a letter inviting feedback on the Planning Priorities for the 2018 Integrated Fishing and Management Plans for Salmon, Northern and Southern BC.

Key topics this year include:

  1. COSEWIC and SARA process
  2. Skeena River Chinook
  3. Skeena and Nass River Chinook
  4. Southern Resident Killer Whales
  5. Fraser River Chinook
  6. Interior Fraser River Steelhead
  7. Fraser River Sockeye
  8. Interior Fraser Coho
  9. Commercial Salmon Allocation Framework (CSAF) Demonstration Fisheries

Comments are due February 5th – the MCC will be submitting their comments before then.

For more details on the issues listed above please see the full letter: 2018_2019 IFMP Planning Priorities Letter – January 2018 – Letter from DFO (PDF)