Federal plan restricts Fraser River chinook fishing for 2019 season
140 DFO officers will patrol by land, air and water to enforce restrictions
The federal government has laid out new commercial and recreational fishing restrictions for chinook salmon in B.C.'s Fraser River, in an effort to restore and protect dwindling stocks there.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) says urgent protection measures include the closure of a commercial fishery involving seven endangered stocks.
Chinook populations in British Columbia have been on the decline as a result of climate change and habitat destruction, according to the DFO, and Fraser River chinook are particularly vulnerable because of increased sedimentation into the river systems.
"This is causing a lot of our freshwater habitats to reach a tipping point," said Sue Grant with DFO's State of the Salmon Program.
Debris accumulation from two back-to-back years of smoke and wildfires, logging and development along the Fraser River has added to the problem.
"This can create blockages of migration for our salmon stocks so they can't get to suitable habitats — or it can smother eggs that are incubating in the spawning gravel," said Grant.
Importantly, chinook salmon are the preferred diet for at-risk southern resident killer whales. More than 98 per cent of their diet is chinook.
The DFO restrictions include:
- Closure of the commercial fishery until Aug. 20, 2019. The usual start date is in June.
- Overall recreational fishery limited to 10 chinook per person.
- First Nations chinook fishing restricted until July 15.
"The science is clear: Pacific chinook salmon are in a critical state," read a statement from Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
"I want to ensure that we do not knowingly put these stocks on a path to extinction."
To ensure the new rules are enforced and to prevent poaching, 140 conservation officers will be patrolling areas of the Fraser River by land, air, and water, according to the DFO.