There are over 250 populations of wild salmon and steelhead spread out across seven fisheries management regions in our beautiful province. Each year, I take a look at the forecasts provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and make some predictions about what commercial fishers can expect from the season ahead.
My outlook for the 2022 salmon season is a mixed bag. While certainly better than the dour outlooks of the past two years; it supports the fisheries minister’s conclusion that ‘business as usual’ is over for the commercial fishery.
DFO classifies expected returns of wild salmon into four categories: ‘expected to return well below target,’ ‘below target,’ ‘around target,’ and ‘abundant’. This year, almost every recreational and commercial fishery will catch a mix of salmon populations and species, running the gamut from ‘well below target’ to ‘around target’, with very few being ‘abundant.’
This requires managers to emphasize fishing techniques and practices that catch the target population while avoiding salmon populations expected to return below targets, and to ensure salmon discarded in these fisheries to survive to spawn.
Take this year’s Fraser sockeye return, for example. Of the 23 populations expected to be encountered in the fishery, 11 are projected to return ‘well below target’ and 7 ‘abundant,’ with the balance somewhere in between. It is impossible–under the current management, monitoring, and enforcement regime–to protect weak stocks while harvesting the abundant ones. Presumably, this is why the minister included the Fraser sockeye fishery on the list of fisheries to be closed in 2021.
In 2021 DFO fisheries managers went rogue, ignoring the fisheries minister’s announcement of sweeping closures. And in 2022, it appears we can expect more of the same. 2022 is the dominant year for several of the 23 Fraser sockeye populations. Managers have already said they intend to open the fishery in 2022, even though many Fraser sockeye populations are forecast to return well below target, and some have been classified as ‘endangered.’ It is unclear what DFO intends to do in regards to the many other fisheries the minister slated for closure in 2021.
So, here we are facing a fishing season with a mixed bag of returns and a department as yet unwilling to reduce impacts on salmon and steelhead populations that are expected to return below their biological targets, monitor fisheries for compliance, or embrace the minister’s commitments to closures for conservation purposes. Watershed Watch is currently engaged, on behalf of the Pacific Marine Conservation Caucus, in discussions with DFO to encourage them to implement the minister’s commitments.
So what are my predictions? DFO has given little indication thus far that there will be significant changes in this year’s fishing plans. In fact, there is some concern the few fisheries closed as per the minister’s announcement in 2021, may actually be opened again in 2022.
Unless the minister is willing to make sure DFO’s regional managers fall in line, I predict mostly business as usual for B.C.’s fisheries, with a few tweaks, lots of positive press releases and announcements, but little relief for struggling wild salmon populations.
Much of the above speaks to the commercial fishery, which for many species and populations, has a relatively minor impact compared to First Nations, Alaskan, and recreational fisheries. There has been little discussion of any changes in these fisheries.
Do you have any data regarding salmon for the Alsek River and Tatshenshini River ?? This is of importance to the Champagne Aishihik First Nation.
Lets give the new fisheries minister a possible chance to make much needed conservation changes ! Did not too bad on herring !
Terry as a retired older herring fisherman I have seen years like this before with lots fish but small and hard to catch by the looks of the spawn stocks look strong
Greg i think area 8 might have some surprises with a surplus of chum salmon the model we use has worked here in the past. In season we have the options of using mesh restrictions if necessary we do not impact sockeye and if the chums show well we should have the opportunity to harvest. Question for Terry was it the right call the minster made on herring or was it one of the years were the herring were small and uncatchable as a old retired veteran of herring fisheries. I firmly believe a precautionary approach should be used in all fisheries
Best thing is to urge no commercial this year for sockeye. Rec guys barely catch fish compared to nets. The nets in the ocean you don’t know what fish you are getting. 9.8 million is the forecast and there is no room for a TAC on sockeye. They need the fish to spawn this year. The allowable TAC commercial if there is one is at 9.8 million is 800000 for commercial
Buy the looks of the meager returns in all areas it is time for a total closure of all net fisheries in BC waters . We are facing complete extinction of the west coast salmon runs . I have personally been sport fishing in BC for over 50 years and every year the stocks decline.
We can no longer fool ourselves and say that a commercial fisheries can be managed . The sport fishing industry creates thousands of jobs in BC and generates hundreds of millions of dollars of income for the people of BC .
The commercial fisheries has plundered this precious resource for far too long making a select few very wealthy and not returning any resource management effort .
I agree with John Harbidge 100%. I have been going to B.C. (Terrace area) for over 40 years to camp and fish with family and friends. We fish in the rivers and have witnessed a dramatic decline in numbers. Some of rivers we fished were so plentiful but now are barren. How tragic. As we stay there for our 2 week trip we help with the local economy.
We need the wisdom of our leaders to surface and make decisions that will strengthen the foundations of the fisheries in the long term. Selfish short term decisions need to end.
The facade of managing/supporting our natural resources(nature), is epidemic. I truly hope the wise and compassionate will lead the way.
The demise of the salmon is models and management processes in the last 50 years. It started with the Davies plan to the Muffin plan. Reducting the fleet,fishing time and area licencing did more damage than been admited by DFO. The fishing schemes were developed by Dfo and rubber stamped by commercial fishermen just to go fishing. I put the blame squarely on the lap of dfo. Global warming is the easy way out for dfo. Dfo is not flexible enough to correct its mistakes in management. Blame the fishermen and global warming. The ignorance in dfo management is obvious and budget driven management processes don’t work. I recommend that dfo be restructed to involve the commercial fishermen that have impacted by their bad decisions and also hold the corporate memory on management that dfo has done in the last 50 years to correct the management of the future of commercial fishing. We need to build commercial hatcheries all up and down the coast. Good examples are Barkley sound and the Bristol bay fishery are prime examples of survival at sea. Get rid of the politics of dfo