Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI) Harvest Transformation


The Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI) launched by the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard on June 8, 2021, is the largest, most transformative investment Canada has made in salmon. This $647-million investment aims to stem the devastating historic declines in key Pacific salmon stocks. The Initiative has four key pillars:

  • Conservation and stewardship;
  • Salmon enhancement;
  • Harvest transformation; and
  • Integration and collaboration.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) took immediate steps under the harvest transformation pillar in 2021 by implementing closures to commercial salmon fisheries to support a more precautionary approach in areas with significant stocks of conservation concern. Following the 2021 closures, the Minister committed to consulting with commercial licence holders on long-term closures for salmon stocks that would be implemented in 2022. Final 2022 salmon Integrated Fishery Management Plans (IFMPs) identify commercial fisheries where longer-term commercial closures or additional mitigations for stocks of significant conservation concern are being implemented. These are detailed below.

To mitigate the impact of long-term closures, DFO began consultations in 2022 on the transition to a smaller commercial harvesting sector through a salmon licence retirement program, as well as consulting with First Nations harvesters to shift to more selective fishing gear or, where available, to alternate species access.

Salmon Fishery Closures 2022

From January to May 2022, DFO engaged with Indigenous groups and commercial licence holders on longer-term closures. The Department also sought feedback on proposed longer-term closures during regular consultations on draft IFMPs.

There are over 150 unique commercial fisheries in British Columbia (BC) and Yukon that target all five species of Pacific salmon in different areas. Many use gillnet gear, while the remainder use purse seine, troll, or other gear (e.g., beach seine, fish wheels).

Nearly all of these fisheries encounter mixtures of salmon populations — i.e., their target species as well as incidental harvest or by-catch, which often includes salmon stocks of conservation concern. By-catch is the inadvertent harvest of different species. The inadvertent harvest of stocks of concern within the same species (i.e., Cultus Lake Sockeye when harvesting Summer Run Sockeye) is referred to as incidental harvest. Both by-catch and incidental harvest are factored into the development of fishing plans to manage impacts on stocks of concern.

While selective fishing measures to avoid stocks of concern are required in all commercial fisheries, additional commercial closures were considered where stocks of conservation concern could not easily be avoided. This also addresses mortalities from fish that have been released from fishing gear.

Thirteen new closures were implemented for the 2021 salmon fishing season (no opening was considered for that season). After consultation with stakeholders through the winter and spring, 22 long-term closures have been identified beginning in the 2022 season. These longer-term closures are expected to remain in place until there are clear signs that populations are rebuilding (a minimum of one to two salmon generations or five to 10 years).

  • Long-term closures include two in the Yukon Area, two in the Transboundary Area, eight in the North Coast Area, and 10 in the South Coast Area.
  • Long-term closures are being implemented in fisheries where there are risks to stocks of conservation concern that cannot be protected sufficiently through selective fishing practices. These closures are a precautionary response to protect the most fragile stocks of concern across the Pacific region and support rebuilding in conjunction with other measures.

A full list of fisheries affected in 2022 was included in the salmon IFMPs. A Fishery Notice with a link to the plans can be found online at

All other commercial fisheries remain closed unless conditions are met to permit the fishery to open.  Specific harvest guidelines used to identify commercial fishery opportunities are identified in the salmon IFMPs. If these conditions are not met, the fisheries remain close.

Pacific Salmon Commercial Licence Retirement Program

The Pacific Salmon Commercial Licence Retirement Program is a voluntary program that allows commercial salmon licence eligibility holders to retire their licences for market value. The term ‘retirement’ in relation to the Pacific Salmon Commercial Licence Retirement Program means the commercial salmon licence eligibility will be permanently removed (or ‘retired’). By retiring commercial salmon licence eligibilities, harvesters will no longer be able to participate in the commercial troll, gillnet or seine fishery. All commercial salmon licence eligibility holders who hold full or reduced fee salmon troll, gillnet, or seine licences (i.e., Category A and Category AI) are eligible to participate in this initiative.

This program offers an opportunity for commercial salmon licence eligibility holders to retire from the sector, as declining Pacific salmon returns have made economic viability in this industry a significant challenge. In addition to providing an opportunity for commercial salmon licence eligibility holders to exit the industry, this program will transition the fisheries to a smaller commercial harvesting sector over time which is intended to support the long-term sustainability and financial viability for harvesters who remain in the fisheries.

Pacific Salmon Indigenous Communal Commercial Licence Alternation Program

To mitigate socio-economic impacts on Indigenous commercial harvesters, the Department will soon be rolling out the Pacific Salmon Indigenous Communal Commercial Licence Alternation Program (Alternation Program).

The program will provide the opportunity for First Nations and Indigenous groups to voluntarily exchange their communal commercial salmon licences (Categories F and N) for funding based on equivalent value and other considerations to acquire alternative commercial fisheries access (i.e., non-salmon species).

The funding provided may also be used to support gear, vessel upgrades/modifications, and training linked to the development of capacity to harvest newly acquired access.

Once participants have acquired new access, the exchanged communal commercial salmon licence eligibility/ies will be retired permanently.

The Alternation Program will prioritize funding to Indigenous communal commercial salmon licence eligibility holders who have been affected by the long-term closure of salmon fishing in areas of concern in BC and Yukon. However, all eligible applications received will be evaluated and considered.

Derelict Vessel Mitigation and Gear Disposal Program

Those commercial licence holders who retire the licences issued in their name and wish to dispose of their commercial fishing vessel and gear in an environmentally responsible way may access the Derelict Vessel Mitigation and Gear Disposal Program.

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