Chinook Salmon: Designatable Unit 3 (Lower Fraser, Stream, Spring [Birkenhead] Population) - Consultations on listing under the Species at Risk Act

Current status: Open

Opened on February 5, 2024 and will close to new input on April 5, 2024.

Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) provides legal protection for wildlife species at risk to conserve biological diversity. It also acknowledges that all Canadians have a role to play in the conservation of wildlife species. Before deciding whether to add Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawtscha) designatable unit (DU) 3  (Lower Fraser, Stream, Spring [Birkenhead] population; hereafter Birkenhead Chinook) to the List of Species at Risk as Special Concern, we would like to hear your opinion, comments, and suggestions regarding the possible ecological, cultural, social, and economic impacts of listing or not listing this species under SARA.

Join in: How to participate

Share your ideas online

The Government of Canada is engaging with Canadians to potentially add Birkenhead Chinook to the List of Species at Risk as Special Concern.

Please fill out the online survey. Thank you.

Adding a species to the List of Species at Risk

The process of listing a species under SARA consists of several steps. It begins with a status assessment by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and ends with a Governor in Council decision on whether or not to add the species to the List of Species at Risk. Public engagement is conducted to gather the opinions of Canadians, and is an important step in this process.

Facts about Birkenhead Chinook

Chinook Salmon
Figure 1. Chinook Salmon (Credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada).

Birkenhead Chinook were supported by captive breeding at the Birkenhead River hatchery from 1977 to 2003. They are a genetically isolated DU that possesses local adaptations (e.g., far north marine distribution and very early spawner migration) that are an important component of the evolutionary legacy of the species. Chinook salmon is highly significant to Indigenous peoples, both for cultural and  subsistence purposes, and a target species for commercial and recreational fisheries.

Key questions for discussion

Who assigned the Special Concern status to Birkenhead Chinook?

COSEWIC is an independent committee of experts that assesses the status of each wildlife species it considers to be in some danger of disappearing from Canada and identifies existing and potential threats to the species. It conducts its assessments based on the best available information including scientific data, community knowledge, and Indigenous Knowledge. COSEWIC assessed this DU as Special Concern in 2018, initiating the current SARA listing process. This is the first assessment of this DU by COSEWIC and it is currently not listed under SARA. Under SARA, a Special Concern species is defined as one that “may become a threatened or an endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats”.

Why are Birkenhead Chinook at risk?

As a small population, Birkenhead Chinook are especially vulnerable to threats such as those posed by fishery exploitation, climate change, and habitat alteration. Climate change has recently resulted in warmer water temperatures, a reduction in late-summer stream flows, and higher and more variable winter flows which can lead to scouring of the riverbed and poses risks for incubating eggs. Birkenhead Chinook have not shown a marked improvement in returns despite increased fishery management measures implemented as part of the revised Pacific Salmon Treaty in 1999 which targeted Spring 52 Chinook salmon, among others. Most recently, COSEWIC’s assessment  of the DU in 2018 concluded it had declined over the preceding three generations and suggested it may become Threatened if the present low number of mature individuals was to decline further.

If a species is listed under the Species at Risk Act

If this DU is listed as Special Concern, the SARA prohibitions (for example, prohibitions against killing, harming, and capturing) would not apply. However, listing would result in the development of a SARA management plan for the DU and its habitat that would include appropriate conservation measures. Regardless of the SARA listing decision, Birkenhead Chinook will continue to receive protection under the Fisheries Act.

Map, see long description below.

Figure 2. Birkenhead Chinook freshwater extent of occurrence in the Lillooet-Harrison watershed
Long description

Map of the Birkenhead River watershed in British Columbia. The larger scale map of the figure includes a scale bar, north arrow, and polygon outlining the area within the watershed where Chinook salmon DU 3 are found. The Lillooet River, Green River, Birkenhead River, Pemberton, and Whistler are labeled. A smaller scale inset map shows a polygon indicating the area of the larger scale map and includes a label for Vancouver.

Related information

Before completing this survey, you may wish to review the following background information found at the links below:

Contact us

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Species at Risk Program, Pacific Region
200-401 Burrard Street
Vancouver, British Columbia, V6C 3S4

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