Rebuilding endangered runs while harvesting the healthy ones
Summer is in full swing and discussions about wild salmon is in the news. Here is an update on how BC’s salmon runs are doing so far this year, compiled by our Fisheries Advisor Greg Taylor. Hopefully this will help provide an overall picture of returning salmon in 2016, along with some perspectives on how the new federal government is managing our wild salmon since taking power last fall.
We started this year with the “warm blob” in the Pacific and related El Nino weather conditions making things tough for salmon, both in the ocean and freshwater. Despite those challenges we are still seeing a few bright spots.
Returns Below Expectations
Returns to the Fraser, Skeena, and Nass Rivers—usually BC’s biggest producers—are all coming back well below expectations so far this year. Somass and Okanagan sockeye are doing fairly well while Smith Inlet sockeye, on the central coast, are coming back their strongest in about three decades. Pink and some chum salmon on the north coast are also coming back stronger than expected. Chinook returns have been poor on many rivers, particularly the Fraser, where First Nations have just launched a court case over mismanagement concerns. Cool weather in many parts of the province has softened the blow from low snowpacks creating lower and warmer than average river conditions. (Those are just some highlights; here is the link to Greg’s full summary).
And how about that new government? Despite some rock star moves early on—like un-muzzling federal scientists, and increasing science budgets—it has mostly been business as usual over at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. DFO still seems to be putting fishing interests ahead of BC’s First Nations and other citizens. Here are a few examples:
- Opening commercial fisheries when First Nations’ food needs aren’t being met.
- Not meeting minimum standards for at-sea compliance monitoring.
- Refusing to acknowledge that they misinformed the public last year about a controversial commercial fishery near Vancouver even after we caught them red-handed.