While the Federal Fisheries Minister was misleading Canadians in 2019 by stating that chinook salmon are on the brink of extinction, public fishers experienced some of the best chinook salmon fishing in over a decade in Southern BC marine waters. From January to December, many areas on the coast, especially Georgia Strait, gave anglers and chinook salmon lovers many reasons to celebrate. They were everywhere! Anglers were also scratching their heads in confusion and frustration at the same time as a blanket closure prohibited the retention of chinook, including hatchery fish. As a result the socio economic impacts to the coast were devastating. Why were chinook in such abundant numbers if the Fisheries Minister was publicly stating that the species could be lost forever?
“The science is clear: Pacific Chinook are in a critical state. Without immediate action, this species could be lost forever” (Jonathan Wilkinson, April 2019)
From Campbell River to Victoria, the majority of the chinook caught in public fisheries are fish that spend most of their lives in the Salish Sea. These fish that contribute to a year round fishery do not venture offshore as much as the troubled stream type Early Fraser chinook . Rivers like the Chilliwack, Puntledge, Capilano, Cheakamus, Cowichan had excellent returns in 2019. Puget Sound hatchery chinook and Fraser 4-1 chinook also had good returns and had significant contribution to the robust Georgia Strait chinook fishery.
Please have a look at the graphs, quotes and escapement numbers below. Similar trends have been evident for a number if years now in Georgia Strait.
It must be noted that Early Timed Fraser River Chinook did not do well last and they have struggled for the last numbers of years. They need help. Unlike the stocks that support the Georgia Strait public fishery, endangered early chinook quickly transit the Salish Sea from open ocean and follow predictable migration patterns. As a result they have low encounter rates in marine fisheries in Georgia Strait.
It is imperative to support fair, science based measures to protect and avoid these stream type chinook. All sectors and stakeholders need accountability.
Hoping for a future that includes sustainable access to healthy chinook stocks and effective measures that conserve and protect stocks of concern.