Update: Preliminary 2016 Salmon Outlook
We recently attended the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ “Preliminary 2016 Salmon Outlook” for BC. Here’s what we heard:
Overall, it is a mixed bag, although the prospects have worsened for more stocks (19 of them) than for those which have a rosier outlook than they did last year (11 of them). The authors of the Outlook note that salmon returns have been “increasingly variable due to a combination of factors”, mostly stemming from the “extremely warm water temperatures in the central NE Pacific Ocean (the “warm blob”), the forecast El Nino conditions, and the resulting changes in the marine food web…”
The scientists looked at 91 groups of salmon stocks, representing thousands of individual spawning populations. Six of these groups of salmon stocks did not have enough information to make a prediction and one pink salmon group was not applicable because those fish only return on even-numbered years. Of the 84 groups of salmon stocks that had enough information, DFO predicts that 29 are likely to be at or above target abundance, while 32 are expected to be “of some conservation concern”, and the remaining 23 are expected to be somewhere in between.
The Preliminary Outlook is a rough prediction made by DFO scientists using their best professional judgement of how many fish will return to spawn from each group of salmon stocks they looked at. The predictions are mostly based on the number of salmon that spawned in the parental generation for each stock, and the prevailing conditions that the fish experienced during the freshwater and ocean stages of their lives.
With so many stocks in peril due to extreme water temperatures, we will be working hard to ensure that fisheries are managed in a precautionary manner, and that the new government keeps its promises to strengthen protections for salmon habitat and boost funding for science.