Government of Canada working to rebuild Pacific salmon populations

News release

December 14, 2022               

Vancouver, British Columbia - Threats like climate change, habitat degradation, pollution, land and water use, acute events like toxic spills and landslides, and fishing pressures have left many Pacific salmon populations at historically low levels. Action is needed to protect and recover this iconic species – for thousands of workers in rural and coastal communities, and hundreds of First Nations communities in British Columbia and Yukon for whom salmon is central to their identity. The Government of Canada is taking decisive action to address challenges facing the species and support conservation through the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI).

Launched in 2021, this $647-million program helps to slow the decline of priority Pacific salmon populations, supports the rebuilding of ecosystems, and transforms the Pacific salmon harvesting sector with the goal of improving the sustainability of a vital fish stock.

Today, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Joyce Murray, announced the next phase of a transformed harvesting sector with the launch of a voluntary Pacific Salmon Commercial Licence Retirement Program. This program will ensure commercial licence holders seeking to exit the sector will receive market value from the Department to retire their licences. In addition to retiring their licences, those who wish to dispose of their commercial fishing vessel and gear in an environmentally responsible way will also be eligible to access Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)’s Derelict Vessel Mitigation and Gear Disposal Program. The Minister also noted the Department will conduct a staged rollout of the Pacific Salmon Indigenous Communal Commercial Licence Alternation Program in the coming months to support holders of this type of licence who wish to shift from salmon to non-salmon commercial licences. This latter program will be introduced once details have been finalized.

Voluntary licence retirement will help drive the transition to a smaller, more financially viable and sustainable fishery for remaining harvesters and reflects the consultations DFO held with commercial and First Nations harvesters throughout the late fall and winter of 2021-22 on the overarching objective of the PSSI to rebuild vulnerable Pacific salmon populations for the benefit of future generations.

Further details on the closures and retirement/alternation programs can be found in the attached backgrounder.


“Climate change, habitat degradation, pollution, land and water use, acute events like toxic spills and landslides, and fishing pressure have wreaked havoc on many Pacific salmon stocks, and we must address this crisis head on. It will take time but, I believe that, with the will and contribution of everyone with a stake in the future of Pacific salmon, we can protect and rebuild their numbers. The PSSI is exploring innovative ways to achieve this objective, while supporting a more sustainable and economically resilient harvesting sector for the long term.”

The Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Quick facts

  • Despite substantially reducing the harvest of weak Pacific salmon stocks over the past decade, many continue to face challenges due to ongoing declines in productivity. Climate change and threats caused by human activities, including deteriorating habitat, pollutants, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, changes in how land and water are used, and international fishing pressures are affecting Pacific salmon negatively at every stage of their lifecycle.

  • In 2019, DFO’s State of Pacific Salmon report outlined how salmon are responding to climate and habitat changes. The planet is warming, and the most recent five years have been the warmest on record. 

  • Many Pacific salmon stocks are declining to historic lows; 60 Pacific salmon populations in Southern BC have been assessed for potential listing under the Species at Risk Act, by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in . Twenty-four have been assessed as Endangered, ten as Threatened, and seven as Special Concern.

  • As with licence retirement programs offered in the past, the Department plans to retire licences based on market values using a voluntary process. The Pacific Salmon Commercial Licence Retirement Program, Pacific Salmon Indigenous Communal Commercial Licence Alternation Program and Derelict Vessel Mitigation and Gear Disposal Program are funded up to a total of $123 million as part of the PSSI. Fund allocation is flexible and based on the extent of interest in each program. There is an additional $8.36 million dollars remaining in the Pacific Salmon Treaty mitigation program that will be used to continue to support retirement of commercial Pacific salmon troll licence eligibilities.

  • The PSSI is building upon previous and ongoing initiatives related to Pacific salmon, in order to transform the harvest sector for greater adaptability and economic viability and to support the many BC communities whose jobs and way of life rely on them. These concurrent initiatives include: the Wild Salmon Policy 2018-2022 Implementation Plan, Coastal Restoration Fund, BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund , Salmon Allocation Policy review, implementation funding for the renewed Pacific Salmon Treaty, and the renewed Fisheries Act.

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Kevin Lemkay                        
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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