Fraser River Chinook salmon have been in decline for many years as a result of a number of factors including habitat destruction, harvest, and the effects of climate change. Of the thirteen wild Fraser River Chinook salmon populations assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), only one is not at risk.
In Canada, the rate of warming has been double the global average, because climate change is occurring at greater rates at northern latitudes. BC air temperatures are also warming, and snow packs by May have been anomalously low in recent years. Consequently, Fraser River temperatures are warming, and in summer months have been increasingly exceeding upper thermal tolerances for salmon. Other climate-related changes include more droughts, and extreme precipitation that are occurring more frequently in recent years.
Northeast Pacific Ocean temperatures are also warming. An unprecedented marine heatwave was present from late-2013 to 2019. This included water temperatures 3-5 degrees Celsius above average extending down to 100 m depths. This had profound influences on salmon food webs. One key example is the shift from usually predominant northern zooplankton species with high fat content, to a greater proportion of southern zooplankton species, with lower fat content, considered poorer quality food for salmon.
Changes in climate are synergizing with habitat changes in the Fraser watershed, particularly deforestation from human activities like logging, agriculture and development, and two back-to-back years of record forest fires in BC in 2017 and 2018. These effects are increasing sedimentation and landslides in BC, and resulting in less productive salmon habitat in freshwater for some areas and populations.
Today, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is releasing the 2020 fishing plans for Fraser River Chinook. The department will implement measures similar to 2019 with additional restrictions to strengthen conservation and some flexibility for additional fisheries for all harvesters in areas where impacts to stocks of concern will be very low. Working with harvesters, we are confident we have found creative and flexible ways to have small, targeted fisheries that will protect endangered Fraser River Chinook while providing opportunities to fish for healthier stocks.
The department is building on last year’s measures to protect Fraser Chinook. These include:
- Chinook non-retention in the Area F Northern Troll fishery until August 15, 2020 and the Area G West Coast of Vancouver Island Troll fishery will be delayed until August 1st.
- Recreational fisheries in Southern BC will not be permitted to retain Chinook until July 15th in most areas and August 1st in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Southern Strait of Georgia given the higher prevalence of endangered Fraser Chinook. A maximum size limit of 80cm will also be in place in southern BC recreational fisheries through July/August depending on area. Portions of the southern Strait of Georgia, Howe Sound and Burrard Inlet, covering an area off the mouth of the Fraser River, will also be closed to fishing for Chinook though August, to further reduce mortalities on stocks of concern.
- Recreational fisheries along the West Coast of Vancouver Island along a corridor shoreward of a boundary 1 nautical mile from the surfline and Areas 21 to 27 remain open to Chinook retention. In addition, several small subareas that are away from the main migratory corridors will be permitted to retain Chinook — these openings will be announced separately.
- Recreational fisheries in the Fraser River will be closed to fishing for salmon until November 1. Fishing opportunities for specific stocks may be considered at a later date.
- Recreational fishing for other species continues to be permitted (see our website for details).
- First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries (FSC) that have constitutionally protected priority, will be provided for First Nations Treaty and FSC harvests in South Coast marine waters and the Fraser River. South Coast FSC fisheries opportunities on mixed stocks will be permitted in marine areas with the exception of the approaches to the Fraser River (Subareas 29-6, 29-7, 29-9 and 29-10). Very limited Fraser River FSC fisheries will be permitted into July to reduce encounters of at-risk Fraser Chinook, with opportunities to target healthy Summer 4(1) Chinook in August. DFO will be working with Fraser River First Nations on specific fishing opportunities.
For more detailed information, please check our website for fishery notices at:
DFO will also continue to assess fish passage at the Big Bar landslide and consider these circumstances in making fisheries management decisions as the season progresses.
Maps on DFO website: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/salmon-saumon/fraser-chin-mgmt-gest-quin-eng.html