Feds propose increasing commercial exploitation of endangered wild salmon – Have your say!

Commercial salmon fishingOver-fishing of endangered wild salmon runs is being proposed in this year’s official salmon fishing plans. British Columbians overwhelmingly support sustainable fishing practices that don’t damage endangered salmon runs and Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy states that conservation of wild salmon and their habitats is “the highest priority in resource management decision making.” But the proposed changes to fishing plans for 2015 erode protection for dozens of endangered salmon runs.

We don’t have to accept DFO’s unnecessary trade-off between short-term profits and the long-term health of our wild salmon. The solution is simple: We can safely target the abundant salmon runs by shifting to highly selective fisheries that do little or no damage to endangered runs. This shift is already occurring, and the changes proposed for the 2015 fishing plan would be a big step backwards.

HAVE YOUR SAY! We have created the form below to allow you to submit your comments to federal decision makers. Comments will also be posted on our website (anonymously if you prefer), and we will let you know what happens! For more information see the summary of main concerns below the form. Comment Deadline: April 13, 2015

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who provided comments – this form is now closed.


Main Problems with the 2015 Fishing Plan:

Also see the media release Feds propose increased fishing on endangered salmon runs – Salmon society asks British Columbians to speak out.

Fraser River sockeye salmon – DFO proposes an 8.3% increase in the number of sockeye salmon that commercial nets can scoop up.

  • While some large, productive Fraser sockeye runs like the Adams and Shuswap can handle the fishing pressure, the majority of the proposed fishing will take place in areas where fishermen won’t be able to avoid heavily overfishing endangered runs like Cultus and Sakinaw, and many others that are also at risk.
  • DFO tried the same increase on a trial basis last year (2014), resulting in a failure to get enough salmon back to Cultus Lake to meet the meagre goal established by the recovery team. Numerous other stocks would have been overfished if all fishermen had managed to catch their full allocation.
  • Interior Fraser River First Nations who are trying to rebuild at-risk sockeye runs in their territories are opposed to the increased harvest rate.
  • SOLUTION: Allow more fishing to take place in sustainable stock-selective fisheries, closer to the spawning grounds of the wild salmon runs that are healthy and abundant (See our video), rather than allowing more fishing in places where the endangered and healthy runs are all caught indiscriminately.


Endangered Interior Fraser River coho – DFO proposes a more than 3-fold increase in the number of endangered Interior Fraser River coho salmon that can be killed in commercial, sport, and aboriginal fisheries.

  • Following severe declines in the 1990s due to heavy overfishing and unfavourable ocean conditions, Canadian fishermen were limited to killing only 3% of the total return of these endangered coho runs.
  • Most of the fishing impacts on these endangered salmon now occur incidentally in fisheries targeting other more abundant species.
  • Now is not the time allow more of these endangered salmon to be killed:
    • DFO scientists acknowledge that these coho runs are still suffering from low productivity, caused in part by an unfavourable ocean environment.
    • Making matters worse, a large and unprecedented warming event recently began in the North Pacific that is resulting in mass die-offs of marine animals and is likely to present severe challenges to salmon for as long as it persists.
  • SOLUTION: Rather than increasing fishing impacts, DFO should be promoting the use of lower-impact fishing methods that will allow fishermen to reduce their impact on endangered coho without reducing their target catch. In particular, DFO should approve the proposals from the lower Fraser River gillnet fleet to experiment with shallow seine gear.


Early-timed Fraser River chinook – The majority of the Fraser River’s 17 genetically distinct chinook salmon runs are severely depleted.

  • DFO should increase protection of early-timed Fraser chinook, which are an important food resource for endangered southern resident killer whales during a crucial survival period.
  • SOLUTION: Reduce the daily take limit in the recreational fishery in Zone 1 management from 2 to 1 during the spring period.


Skeena River sockeye – Under pressure from the commercial fishing lobby, DFO is proposing to do away with a fishing plan that has been in place since 2009 and was based on advice from an independent panel of fishery scientists.

  • Of the 30 unique sockeye runs that make their way up the Skeena River each year, around 85% of the total sockeye run is the result of artificial enhancement through man-made spawning channels at Babine Lake.
  • While the enhanced portion of the sockeye run can handle heavy fishing pressure, the proposed harvest rate increases would result in the overfishing of several genetically distinct wild runs that are already at risk. These include wild Babine River sockeye, Kitwanga Lake sockeye, and Morice-Nanika sockeye.
  • The First Nations whose territories host these at-risk stocks — Lake Babine, Gitanyow, Gitxsan, and Wet’suwet’en — are opposed to the increased commercial pressure.
  • SOLUTION: The enhanced runs can be harvested in highly sustainable terminal fisheries with no impact on the endangered runs, making these proposed increases unnecessary.


We have made the full fishing plans available here (Even though DFO says the plans are available for public comment, they don’t post them on their own website.):