More on those interior Steelhead by Bob Hooton

Discussion in 'Conservation, Fishery Politics and Management.' started by OldBlackDog, Feb 3, 2020.

  1. OldBlackDog

    OldBlackDog Well-Known Member

    More on those Interior Fraser Steelhead (aka Thompson and Chilcotin)
    In the fisheries community (and beyond) University of British Columbia Professor of Zoology, Dr. Eric Taylor, is very well known. As a source of knowledge on the many aspects of salmon and steelhead management in this province I can think of no better communicator of the blend of science and politics involved. Dr. Taylor prepared an excellent summary of the status of salmon and steelhead stocks along the Pacific coast a few weeks ago. It was broadly circulated and shared in the days following. Reviews I saw indicated a highly favourable reception. Here is a snapshot of the title and the link to an updated version that arrived yesterday.


    This publication is a treasure trove of background on a broad array of material of consequence to the status of our salmon and steelhead stocks and how they have been managed. Of particular interest to me in the updated version was the link highlighted where “new” is inserted. (Scroll down to about the 1/3 point and look for the Feb 2 update depicted below.) It deals with the process surrounding the review of the conservation status of Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead, in particular the recommendation from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) that those fish be listed as endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Dr. Taylor was the Chair of COSEWIC at the time so he is the expert’s expert on process and product. He pulls no punches in his remarks.


    What I find most instructive (and discouraging) in the outcome of all that is former DFO Minister Wilkinson’s commitment to “restoration” of those endangered fish. (The Province was also involved and represented by Ministry of Agriculture head, Lana Popham, a minor player at best.) As Dr. Taylor pointed out so clearly, the projected Thompson escapement is 134 and the Chilcotin’s 62, both the lowest ever. How’s that for restoration DFO and newly arrived Minister Jordan? What do you have in store for restoring those fish this year?

    Thank you Dr. Taylor for the extensive effort you have obviously gone to in producing your “watch”. You have done a great deal to educate a lot of people who will hopefully take your advice and make their thoughts known to elected representatives
  2. OldBlackDog

    OldBlackDog Well-Known Member

  3. OldBlackDog

    OldBlackDog Well-Known Member

    Below are brief summary statements about updates I receive on the status of particular runs of Pacific salmon and steelhead trout in British Columbia and Yukon waters. To cut to the chase, I have kept commentary to a minimum and just provided numbers and the source where you can find additional information about methods, threats, etc. If these figures bother you, let it be known to your local MLA, MP, the current Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Bernadette Jordan (, the current Minister of the Environment and Climate Change (; all former Ministers have refused to list salmon and steelhead trout at risk of extinction under Canada's Species at Risk Act, SARA), and the BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (

    What are the root causes of these declines and what can be done about it? These are the billion dollar questions that cannot be answered here easily. Certainly climate change and a changing ocean, habitat loss and degradation, disease and pathogens, "freak" accidents like the 2019 Big Bar rockslide, and overharvest (in directed fisheries and from incidental "by-catch") have all contributed to the declines. One recent summary of trends and the particular role of climate change can be found HERE. Not only do these declines result in the loss of "made in BC biodiversity", they have significant economic impacts. The total numbers of salmon of all species caught (commerical and recreational fisheries) in BC waters has declined from almost 15.6 million fish in 2013 to 4.4 million fish in 2018. Catch statistics over time can be found HERE (look for "Canadian Salmon Catch and Enhanced Salmon Production").

    Sockeye salmon and pink salmon, Fraser River, Sept 13, 2019. The final 2019 test fishing results put estimates of sockeye salmon passing by Mission at fewer than 500,000 fish (the lowest in recorded history) and pink salmon at just under 8 million. These are estimates of numbers before many of these fish reached the Big Bar landslide area on the Fraser River upstream of Clinton, BC. For instance, just over 10,000 spawners were estimated to comprise the "early Stuart River" component of the Fraser sockeye salmon run in 2015 and the early 2019 forecast was for at least 25,000 fish. Post-season, however, the actual number of fish on the surveyed spawning grounds was estimated to be only 89 fish, less than 0.5% of the long term average. See HERE and HERE for more information. For some context, in 2019 over 56 million sockeye salmon returned to the Bristol Bay area of western Alaska, the fifth year in a row that the run size exceeded 50 million salmon. A total of 15 groups of Fraser River sockeye salmon (as well as several populations of coho and Chinook salmon) have been assessed at some level of risk by COSEWIC (The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada,, yet to date none have been listed under SARA (click HERE for a summary of non-listings - i.e., "No Status" under the "SARA status" column).

    February 2, 2020 update.[​IMG] Click HERE if you wish to read about how the listing process works and my take on why the rationales given by the Minister are problematic, particularly in terms of Interior Fraser River steelhead trout (see below).

    Dec 17th update: Representatives of the Pacific Salmon Foundation recently met with DFO officials and MPs in Ottawa to press the case for immediate action to clear the slide at Big Bar on the Fraser River. The slide will continue to severely hinder salmon migration in 2020 if the slide is not cleared and in March the river will start to rise. We all need to make sure the federal fisheries minister, BC MPs and MLAs act on this now. The federal minister said clearing the slide is a "top priority" - we'll see if the political leadership actually exists.

    January 21, 2020 update. South Coast/Fraser River Chinook salmon. Assessments by COSEWIC were completed in November of 2018 for a subset of Canadian Chinook salmon, i.e., those subject to minor influence from hatchery supplementation, and that are located on Vancouver Island, the south coast, and the Fraser River (16 population groups). The population in the Okanagan River has been assessed twice, once in 2006 and again in 2017. Of the former 16 units, 8 were assessed as Endangered, 4 as Threatened, 1 as Special Concern, 2 as Data Deficient, and 1 (South Thompson, Summer, Ocean-type) as Not at Risk. The average decline in the estimated numbers of spawning adults over that last 3 generations (9-13 years) was -45% (range: -91% to +26%). Only one unit had a positive trend over the past 3 generations (the South Thompson, Summer, Ocean-type). The Okanagan River population has not been subject to the same kind of quantitative analysis of spawner number, but the number of spawners ranged from 5-36 in the 2006 assessment (Threatened) and averaged 112 in the 2017 assessment (Endangered). Under SARA, there is actually no mandated timeline for the Minister to refer a proposed listing to the Governor-in-Council (a special sub-group of Cabinet that actually makes listing decisions). That said, former Minister of Environment and Climate Change (ECC) Catherine McKenna committed to making sure such decisions occur within 3 years for commercially-fished species. Optimistically, therefore, the current Minister of ECC has 3 years from the time she received COSEWIC's annual report (October 2019, so she has until October of 2022) to facilititate a decision on the 2018 south coast/Fraser River assessments by COSEWIC (and until Oct 2021 to decide the SARA fate of the 2017 assessed Okanagan River population). That said, despite being assessed as Threatened (and now Endangered) in 2006, various Ministers have not listed the Okanagan River population under SARA in the ensuing 14 years. You can see the status of these fish HERE.

    January 23, 2020 update. Big Bar Landslide. A contract to "immediately" initiate winter work to remove the mid-river obstructions at Big Bar has been awarded. See Minister Jordan's press release HERE.

    Thompson and Chilcotin rivers' steelhead trout, Nov 29th, 2019. The final estimates for 2019 are 134 adult steelhead trout across the Thompson River complex of four spawning areas and a mere 62 fish in the Chilcotin River watershed. These are the lowest numbers since estimates began over 40 years ago. For context, the numbers of spawners ranged up in the several thousand for both of these complexes in the 1980-2000 period. These steelhead were recently denied listing under SARA by the federal government despite their being assessed as Endangered by COSEWIC in February 2018. see HERE for more information.
  4. OldBlackDog

    OldBlackDog Well-Known Member

    North and central coast Pacific salmon. The best source here is the Pacific Salmon Foundation's Pacific Salmon Explorer. This is terrific resource that is long overdue. It has population size trends, habitat trends, water quality, threats, you name it. It is being extended to southern BC (Vancouver Island and the Fraser River). Many populations are rated to be at "moderate" to "high risk".

    Skeena River steelhead trout, Oct 25th, 2019. The final estimate for Skeena River summer-run steelhead is 16,672 fish which is 53% of the long term average to that date and much less than the long term sustainable population size target of 35,000 fish, a population size reached in only 15 of the last 65 years (23%). Source: BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Smithers, BC.

    Yukon River Chinook salmon, August 2019. Yes, there are salmon in the Canadian portion of the Yukon River (Chinook and chum salmon). In fact, these Chinook salmon are the longest migrating salmon in North America, over 3,200 km to upstream of Whitehorse and into northern BC. This year, the final count at the Whitehorse fishway (the longest wooden fishway in the world) totalled just 282Chinook (many of which were hatchery-produced fish) - the lowest number in 40 years) - compared to 690 in 2018 and over 1,200 in 2017. Click HERE for more information.

    January, 2020 update:The particularly sorry state of the transboundary management of Yukon Chinook salmon was recently recounted in this Narwhal article.
  5. Cuba Libre

    Cuba Libre Well-Known Member

    Thanks for posting this-- I know its long and most just want a quick blip that they can respond to........ but if you fish salmon , I suggest you sit down and give a serious look at the info that Dr. Taylor has put together. Its not good.
    IronNoggin likes this.
  6. wildmanyeah

    wildmanyeah Crew Member

    There is nothing new that has not already been posted on here a lot of times. Odds are the same people will read it that have already read it before and it will not reach a new audience.

    Then in May when fishery restrictions are put in place it will be long buried . People will come on here and post and complain that they were blind sided by dfo.

    Kinda a pessimistic view but it’s what I’ve seen over the last few years.
    fishinforever likes this.

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