Scientists call for Chinook salmon to be federally protected


WATCH: The future of BC’s Chinook salmon doesn’t look good. A new study says half the fish they studied are endangered. That has some scientists calling for federal intervention. Kori Sidaway reports.

As salmon run continues through Goldstream Provincial Park, a new study has confirmed longstanding worries about the decline of the king of Pacific salmon – the Chinook.

“If we don’t take meaningful action soon, we will be in danger in losing these important fish stocks,” said Aaron Hill, executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

A study found that some B.C. Chinook stocks are at risk of disappearing.

Measuring 16 southern B.C. Chinook populations out of the approximate 68 total across the province, eight have been flagged as endangered, four are threatened, one population is of special concern, and 1 – the Thompson River population is stable, with two populations with unknown.

“This suggests what many of us already feared, that a number of salmon are really struggling these days,” said Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) Chair Dr. John Reynolds.

And many are saying the time is now, for Chinook’s to be federally protected.

“We can save these Chinook stocks, but we need to act now and we need to list them under the Species At Risk Act,” said Hill.

But the government indicated in a statement they may not quite be there.

“We have already moved forward with significant measures to support the Chinook salmon stocks through important investments and programs,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in a statement.

The ministry recently announced $100 million over six years for the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, but it’s unclear how those funds will be allocated, leaving many, including local fisherman, with more questions than answers.

“The DFO used to dump half a million baby Chinook off the Esquimalt anglers ramp, that’s no longer happening. A lot of the sports fisherman are wondering why,” said Darren Beasley of Beasley Charters.

“Where are our dollars going? Where’s the license money going?”

While the rollout of those funds clarifies in the days ahead. Right now, there’s one thing both scientists and fisherman can agree on

“We need to try and bring our rivers back to historical levels,” said Beasley.

That something in our oceans needs to change.

“The federal government had a real test here as to how serious they are about protecting and rebuilding our salmon runs. Will they list them under the species at risk act or will they kick the can down the road and take half measures?” asked Hill.


Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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