Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)  put out their preliminary forecast for 2021 salmon returns. Before providing a summary, I invite you to look at the cover page of their presentation. What do you see? What don’t you see?

All the pictures are of harvest. You don’t see pictures of grizzly bears feeding in a stream full of salmon, or of a family marveling at spawning salmon in a creek near their home, or some of the thousands of people volunteering their time to try and recover wild salmon. DFO’s cover page speaks to their priorities.

As you are aware, the 2020 salmon season was the worst on record for many salmon stocks. In their summary, DFO states, ‘expectations for (2021) salmon returns are low and similar to 2020.’ 

The Fraser River sockeye return is expected to be a bit of a nightmare for First Nations, conservationists and managers alike. Of the 23 sockeye stocks reviewed, five are expected to return near their targets. Managers and harvesters will want to plan fisheries for these five stocks. First Nations and most British Columbians without a direct connection to the fishery will be concerned about the impact these fisheries will have on the other 18 populations expected to have a poor or below average return.

Fraser River spring type chinook are expected to return at very low levels. Conversely, Fraser River ocean type springs (from the 180,000 sq kilometers of Secwepemc territories in south-central British Columbia) are forecast to have an abundant return. Harrison (fall) wild chinook are expected to return below average, again putting Canada offside with their treaty commitments in the Pacific Salmon Treaty. The marine timing of these returns overlaps from mid-summer into the first week of September.

The table below provides a summary of the 2021 summary of returns provided by DFO by area and species. Of the 260 populations (conservation units) captured in the survey, only 7 wild populations are expected to be near, or above their targets.