What we saw in DFO’s Salmon Outlook for 2024

February 9, 2024

By: Aaron Hill

Part two of a two-part recap.

Earlier this month, Watershed Watch staff participated in a well-attended DFO update on anticipated salmon returns in 2024 and how environmental conditions in recent years may impact returns.

In part one we summarized DFO’s presentation on how environmental conditions from 2019 – 2022 impact wild salmon. Here, we summarize our key takeaways and concerns for wild salmon in the year ahead.

Shifting Baselines

As noted by Greg Knox at SkeenaWild, one issue with the outlook rankings is the data being used to quantify an average return. Average run-size data for different populations is variable, starting in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and as recently as the 2000s. 

Executive Director Aaron Hill

This data range does not accurately reflect historical returns, which would have been significantly higher for many salmon populations. This means that many ranks are likely higher than they should be. 

Data Deficiency

Several conservation units are still lacking enough data and DFO’s salmon monitoring efforts continue to erode across the province. To properly manage these salmon populations and any associated fisheries, we need to know the status of these populations. This is essential work that was committed to by the federal government in the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy and has yet to be completed.

The Outlook

Below is a DFO summary of the 2024 Salmon Outlook. As you can see, there’s an awful lot of orange and red, indicating below or well below returns are expected, particularly for many sockeye, chinook and chum populations. 

DFO’s 2024 Salmon Outlook

DFO’s 2024 Salmon Outlook

Protecting and Rebuilding At-risk Populations

We now have dozens of salmon populations in B.C. considered by federally-mandated scientists to be at risk. Under Canada’s updated Fisheries Act, recovery plans are required for endangered fish populations, yet no such plans are in place for B.C. salmon. Canada’s Species At Risk Act could also be used to protect and restore our endangered and threatened salmon runs, but this has not happened either.

Our government is slow-walking salmon recovery and they must be held to account for this inaction. 

Credit: Tavish Campbell

What about steelhead?

Steelhead are ocean-going rainbow trout that look like salmon and swim alongside them. This means they are killed in fisheries targeting salmon and many steelhead populations are already in crisis due to overfishing and climate change. One big challenge with steelhead is that they are managed by the provincial government while the other salmon species are managed by the feds.

The exclusion of steelhead from this outlook is one of many examples of the siloed approach that is hampering effective management and recovery of our steelhead populations.

Tackling threats

The outlook is not good but we at Watershed Watch will not settle for just bemoaning the bad news.

Over the coming year we are tackling the following threats to wild salmon and steelhead:

  • Overfishing in various fisheries (commercial, recreational, Indigenous and IUU), with a particular focus on Alaska’s interception fisheries that continue to take a disproportionate toll on B.C. salmon runs. Check out AlaskasDirtySecret.com.
  • Salmon farms that are spreading harmful viruses, parasites and bacteria to wild salmon. The feds are backsliding on their promise to get all open net-pen salmon farms out of the water by 2025 and we are pushing back hard.
  • Reconnecting and restoring salmon habitats that have been disconnected and degraded, defending intact habitats from being lost or degraded, and pushing for improvements to water and watershed management through our CodeBlue BC campaign and the BC Watershed Security Coalition.
  • Demanding science-based action on federal commitment to implement recovery plans for endangered salmon populations. 

Action is the best antidote to bad news. Let’s work together to help salmon and steelhead make it through a tough year.

Share This Story!

What we saw in DFO’s Salmon Outlook for 2024

February 9, 2024

By: Aaron Hill

Part two of a two-part recap.

Earlier this month, Watershed Watch staff participated in a well-attended DFO update on anticipated salmon returns in 2024 and how environmental conditions in recent years may impact returns.

In part one we summarized DFO’s presentation on how environmental conditions from 2019 – 2022 impact wild salmon. Here, we summarize our key takeaways and concerns for wild salmon in the year ahead.

Shifting Baselines

As noted by Greg Knox at SkeenaWild, one issue with the outlook rankings is the data being used to quantify an average return. Average run-size data for different populations is variable, starting in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and as recently as the 2000s. 

Executive Director Aaron Hill

This data range does not accurately reflect historical returns, which would have been significantly higher for many salmon populations. This means that many ranks are likely higher than they should be. 

Data Deficiency

Several conservation units are still lacking enough data and DFO’s salmon monitoring efforts continue to erode across the province. To properly manage these salmon populations and any associated fisheries, we need to know the status of these populations. This is essential work that was committed to by the federal government in the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy and has yet to be completed.

The Outlook

Below is a DFO summary of the 2024 Salmon Outlook. As you can see, there’s an awful lot of orange and red, indicating below or well below returns are expected, particularly for many sockeye, chinook and chum populations. 

DFO’s 2024 Salmon Outlook

DFO’s 2024 Salmon Outlook

Protecting and Rebuilding At-risk Populations

We now have dozens of salmon populations in B.C. considered by federally-mandated scientists to be at risk. Under Canada’s updated Fisheries Act, recovery plans are required for endangered fish populations, yet no such plans are in place for B.C. salmon. Canada’s Species At Risk Act could also be used to protect and restore our endangered and threatened salmon runs, but this has not happened either.

Our government is slow-walking salmon recovery and they must be held to account for this inaction. 

Credit: Tavish Campbell

What about steelhead?

Steelhead are ocean-going rainbow trout that look like salmon and swim alongside them. This means they are killed in fisheries targeting salmon and many steelhead populations are already in crisis due to overfishing and climate change. One big challenge with steelhead is that they are managed by the provincial government while the other salmon species are managed by the feds.

The exclusion of steelhead from this outlook is one of many examples of the siloed approach that is hampering effective management and recovery of our steelhead populations.

Tackling threats

The outlook is not good but we at Watershed Watch will not settle for just bemoaning the bad news.

Over the coming year we are tackling the following threats to wild salmon and steelhead:

  • Overfishing in various fisheries (commercial, recreational, Indigenous and IUU), with a particular focus on Alaska’s interception fisheries that continue to take a disproportionate toll on B.C. salmon runs. Check out AlaskasDirtySecret.com.
  • Salmon farms that are spreading harmful viruses, parasites and bacteria to wild salmon. The feds are backsliding on their promise to get all open net-pen salmon farms out of the water by 2025 and we are pushing back hard.
  • Reconnecting and restoring salmon habitats that have been disconnected and degraded, defending intact habitats from being lost or degraded, and pushing for improvements to water and watershed management through our CodeBlue BC campaign and the BC Watershed Security Coalition.
  • Demanding science-based action on federal commitment to implement recovery plans for endangered salmon populations. 

Action is the best antidote to bad news. Let’s work together to help salmon and steelhead make it through a tough year.

Share This Story!

Stand with us to defend wild Pacific salmon

Stand with us to defend wild Pacific salmon

2 Comments

  1. Bob Hooton February 12, 2024 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    The only steelhead left to worry about are from Dean River north. Skeena is the big one. The past five years have seen consistent poor returns of Skeena steelhead. The ocean has been particularly inhospitable and freshwater rearing environments have been drought stricken. Alaska is not going to go away any time soon, nor are First Nations fisheries. The foreseeable future for Skeena steelhead is not bright. The question for our “managers” is what game plan do you have given the highly probable poor returns of Skeena steelhead? Praying for a poor return of Skeena sockeye can’t be the only approach.

  2. brian boys February 13, 2024 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    keep the government promise to get fishfarms out of bc waters .

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