Chinook fishing restrictions increased in effort to protect B.C.’s southern resident killer whales

Full Story in The Star Vancouver

by Wanyee Li

April 16, 2019

VANCOUVER—The critically endangered southern resident killer whales may have more chinook salmon to eat this summer, as Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced stricter fishing quotas for British Columbia’s coast on Tuesday.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada — often called the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or DFO — already reduced harvesting quotas for B.C. chinook by a third last summer, but staff admitted Tuesday that those measures have not been as effective as they hoped.

The DFO is now setting a new goal of reducing chinook salmon mortality to five per cent for 2019. The new restrictions are aimed specifically at protecting the Fraser chinook fisheries.

Current mortality levels for chinook returning to the Fraser River before July are closer to 20 per cent, according to Misty MacDuffee, wild salmon program co-ordinator at Raincoast Conservation Foundation. The southern resident orcas rely heavily on this specific cohort of fish, she said.

Visit The Star Vancouver for the full story.

 

Canada’s salmon hold the key to saving its killer whales

Desperate efforts to save the whales – and the Chinook salmon on which they depend – risk fishing communities losing a way of life.

The Guardian, 12 November 2018

Days before the start of the summer fishing season, when guides and outfitters on Canada’s west coast gamble their financial prospects for the year, fishing lodge owner Ryan Chamberland received devastating news.

The coastal waters of Vancouver Island, which he and four generations of his family had fished for salmon, would be out of bounds. The unexpected closure was part of a desperate effort by the Canadian government to save an endangered population of killer whales.

That same summer, Tahlequah, one of the threatened whales, nudged the lifeless body of her newborn calf for 17 days of mourning. Shortly after, the once-playful Scarlet, a three-year-old female orca, succumbed to a bacterial infection as scientists from the Canadian and US governments worked desperately to save her.

The unfolding tragedy of the southern resident killer whales – and the government response – has exposed a complex ecosystem in crisis. Chinook salmon, the whale’s main prey, are also disappearing. In an area heavily reliant on tourism and fishing, an impending collapse of the two species has led to feuding over how to stave off an ecological disaster.

To read the full story visit the Guardian website here.

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.

 

MCC sends letter on Chinook and Killer Whale Management

On January 30th, 2018, the MCC sent a letter to Minister Dominic Leblanc detailing our concerns on Chinook salmon management with respect to the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs).

The letter included a 12-page report with 4 main recommendations for Chinook and vessel management actions for 2018. These actions are consistent with the ‘immediate’ actions recommended in the 2017 Science Review to address lack of Chinook, vessel noise and disturbance.

Recommendations detailed in the attached paper include:
1. Implement SRKW Feeding Refuges that will allow SRKWs to successfully forage in critical feeding habitats without noise and disturbance from recreational fishing and whale watching activities.
2. Implement commercial and recreational fishing restrictions to increase the abundance of Chinook in habitats identified as critical to SRKW, other important SRKW feeding areas, and for Chinook populations known to be important in the diets of SRKWs.
3. Manage Chinook in accordance with 1) and 2) until the health of SRKWs (as determined by photogrammetry, pregnancies, hormones, vital rates or other proxies) indicates a high likelihood whales are recovering.
4. Implement recovery plans consistent with Canada’s Guidance for the Development of Rebuilding Plans under the Precautionary Approach Framework to rebuild B.C. Chinook populations (i.e. Conservation Units below their Spawner Maximum Sustainable Yield (Smsy) with the objective of
maximizing Chinook recruitment to terminal areas and spawning grounds (Rmax).

To read the letter: January 30 MCC letter to Leblanc Orcas and Chinook 2018 IFMP (PDF)

To read the full report: 2018 IFMP MCC input on Chinook and SRKW management (PDF)

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)

Science Based Review of Recovery Actions for Southern Resident Killer Whales

In 2017, DFO released their Action Plan for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales. Later in 2017, another document was released – Southern Resident killer whale: A science-based review of recovery actions for three
at-risk whale populations. The Southern Resident Killer Whales are listed as Endangered under the Species at Risk Act.

Action Plan2017_Effectiveness-of-Recovery-Measures-for-SRKW DFO_Action Plan_ResidentKillerWhales2017Mar-Eng (PDF)

Science Review2017_Effectiveness-of-Recovery-Measures-for-SRKW (PDF)