The federal government has announced commercial and recreational fishing restrictions in British Columbia as a way to conserve chinook salmon returning to the Fraser River this season.
The Fisheries Department’s regional director general Rebecca Reid says urgent protection measures include the closure of a commercial fishery involving seven endangered stocks.
Reid says an independent committee of wildlife experts and scientists conducted an assessment last November and determined seven chinook populations on the Fraser River are endangered, four are threatened and one is of special concern.
One area salmon was considered not at risk while three others were not assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
Reid says harvest management measures alone won’t deal with declining numbers of chinook in recent years due to multiple factors including warming waters because of climate change and destruction of habitat that must be rebuilt.
She says last year’s catch reduction by one-third to limit pressure on the stocks was not enough and the decrease in chinook also affects southern resident killer whales that depend on the salmon as their preferred prey.
Reid told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has a five-year plan to manage chinook and is committed to working with the B.C. government.
“Collaboration with the B.C. government, Indigenous groups and stakeholders is a cornerstone of the implementation plan,” she says, adding the department will also consult with the province on land and water-use policies that impact critical habitat.
“Community advisers and DFO work alongside the stewardship community, building partnerships with the community to support salmon and salmon protection and education activities at the local level across British Columbia.”
Regional resource manager Jeff Grout says protection measures for the commercial sector in the northern community of Haida Gwaii mean no retention of chinook until August 20, a delay of about two months from the normal start of that fishery.
Nicole Gallant, chief of enforcement operations for the department’s Pacific region, says 140 fisheries officers will be conducting patrols by land, air and water in order to monitor compliance.
She urges the public to report poachers.
The department says it will work with recreational and fish harvesters to look for additional fishing opportunities for stocks such as coho and halibut.
Other limitations include:
– On the west coast of Vancouver Island, the troll fishery that typically starts in May has been closed until August 1 to allow stocks of high concern to migrate there.
– A small fishery that harvests chinook for sale in Kamloops Lake has been closed for the season.
– A mix of management measures in the recreational sector on the west coast of Vancouver Island mean chinook can be retained starting this week and until July 14, after which there will be a return to the normal limit of two chinook a day.
– In the southern Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, measures to protect chinook stocks of concern will include no retention of the salmon until July 31 before one chinook a day will be allowed in August, followed by an increase to two chinook daily.
– For the recreational fishery in the Fraser River, no fishing for chinook will be allowed until late August and then no chinook can be retained for the season.
– No new measures have been announced for the northern B.C. recreational sector, where the normal limit is two chinook per day.
The federal government has announced new restrictions on fishing for chinook salmon. (NOAA)