Government of Canada takes further action to address critical rockslide threat to at-risk Fraser River Chinook
July 12, 2019
Vancouver, British Columbia — In April 2019, Fisheries and Oceans Canada undertook necessary fisheries management measures to protect at-risk Fraser River Chinook salmon in response to significant conservation concerns.
The recent landslide near Big Bar, north of Lillooet, B.C., has created a significant barrier to fish passage and is presently blocking most of these same Chinook from migrating upriver to spawn. At present, only a small percentage of spawning salmon are able to get over and reach spawning areas.
Swift action is necessary to save as many of these salmon as possible.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), in partnership with the Province of British Columbia and external experts, have been working around the clock to assess all options and, as an initial step, have decided to implement temporary fisheries management measures.
The following additional measures build on measures announced in April, and will be put in place for marine recreational fisheries in southern BC that are scheduled to open for limited Chinook retention on July 15, 2019:
- A new maximum size limit of 80 cm for Chinook retention in the areas where Chinook retention is to open on July 15. This will help avoid impacts on larger at-risk Fraser Chinook that are having greater success migrating past the landslide.
- The size limit will be in effect from July 15, with a reassessment of the measure on July 31. At the end of July, the vast majority of the at-risk Fraser Chinook should have migrated past these areas into the Fraser River. Please refer to the Department’s website for specific measures in your area.
- Additionally, to ensure the maximum possible number of Chinook salmon that have managed to pass through the Big Bar landslide barrier successfully reach their spawning grounds, DFO will be working with First Nations in these areas to minimize Chinook harvests above the slide site.
Management plans and restrictions for First Nations Food Social Ceremonial fisheries already in place below the landslide will not be affected.
These measures will be in place on a temporary basis, depending on further assessments of how many fish are able to get past the slide site and on the success of any measures taken.
The emergency measures announced today represent an unquestionably difficult decision in terms of the impacts these measures will have for First Nations communities who rely on Chinook as a food source and for recreational fish harvesters. However, the potential for permanent loss of these Chinook populations represent a greater threat to the livelihoods of all those who depend on salmon for sustenance and economic opportunity as well as for the wildlife that depend on them as a food source.
“Given the current situation, if we do not take action now to ensure as many Fraser Chinook salmon are able to reach their spawning grounds, these runs will face very significant challenges. The barrier caused by the Big Bar Landslide is a real and present danger and we need to be doing everything we can to increase the chances of a reasonable number of these fish getting upriver to spawn. While these measures are difficult, they are necessary. The survival of these runs is critical to the future sustainability of these salmon and to the economic livelihood of many who depend on these stocks.
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
The measures announced today will be in effect for recreational fisheries off the West Coast of Vancouver Island and the Northern Strait of Georgia.
In November 2018, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessed 13 Chinook populations originating in the Fraser River. Seven of the Fraser Chinook populations were assessed as endangered, four as threatened and one as a population of special concern. Only one stock was deemed not at risk.
In 2018, a WWF Living Planet Report showed that around the world, wildlife populations have declined 60% over the past 50 years. The 2017 report by the same group indicated that half of all species in Canada were in decline. In Canada there are 521 plant and animal species at risk that are listed under SARA.
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans
and the Canadian Coast Guard
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
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