Vancouver, British Columbia – Pacific salmon are in a long-term decline, with many runs on the verge of collapse. The Government of Canada is taking decisive steps under the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI) to combat these steep declines and give salmon a fighting chance at survival. The decades-long declines are due to a complex combination of climate change, habitat degradation, and harvesting impacts, and bold action is needed now to stabilize and rebuild the stocks before it is too late.
Today, the Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, announced an initial step towards longer-term reductions in fishing pressure on stocks of conservation concern with significant commercial salmon closures for the 2021 season. These closures, affecting Commercial salmon fisheries and First Nations Communal Commercial fisheries, will further reduce pressure on salmon stocks and will be included in the 2021-22 Pacific Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan. These conservation-driven management decisions will provide strong protection for the most fragile stocks of concern across the Pacific region.
New data from the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission (NPAFC), for which Canada is a member, shows that the global catch of Pacific salmon in 2020 was the lowest since 1982. Strong management measures will be in place for all salmon fishing sectors in 2021, and are in line with a precautionary approach based on conservation and sustainability. These plans are outlined in the 2021-2022 Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan and will result in closures to nearly 60 per cent of commercial salmon fisheries for the 2021 season.
Understanding that stocks may need multiple generations to stabilize and rebuild, and that these closures will have an economic impact on harvesters, the Minister is also announcing the Pacific Salmon Commercial Transition Program. This voluntary salmon licence retirement program will provide harvesters with the option to retire their licences for fair market value and will facilitate the transition to a smaller commercial harvesting sector. Permanently removing fishing effort will support the economic viability of the fishery in the long term, while closures will protect salmon stocks and give them an opportunity to stabilize.
For First Nations communal-commercial harvesters, the Department will meaningfully consult on options to shift to more selective fishing gear or, where available, to licences for other non-salmon species. These mitigation measures allow for continued economic opportunity agreements under the communal-commercial licence, while helping reduce interactions with at-risk stocks.
Indigenous partners, harvesting groups and stakeholders have been calling for change. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been listening – the many proposed projects in the PSSI answer that call for change. DFO has already begun consultations, using the vast knowledge that already exists on how best to bring about these changes and make the greatest impact on Pacific salmon sustainability.
The Department will also be engaging immediately with First Nations, harvesters, industry members and partners across the Pacific region on the impacts of the commercial closures and the collaborative development of the mitigation program. These much needed steps towards a new, modernized commercial salmon management system are part of the Harvest Transformation pillar under the $647.1 million PSSI – the largest, most transformative investment Canada has ever made to save wild salmon.
The loss of salmon populations would be disastrous not just for the people and wildlife that depend on them as a food source, but also for the many BC communities whose jobs and ways of life depend on salmon. That’s why the Government of Canada has taken, and will continue to take urgent and concrete actions to ensure that salmon are protected for future generations.
“What cannot be debated is that most wild Pacific salmon stocks continue to decline at unprecedented rates – we are pulling the emergency break to give these salmon populations the best chance at survival. The decisions to implement new long term closures and permanently remove effort from the commercial salmon fishery were not easy, as they impact people, communities, and livelihoods. But with fewer and fewer returning every year – disappearing before our eyes – we have to act now. We will continue working closely with industry, Indigenous communities, and partners as we move forward with these initiatives and do everything in our collective power to save pacific salmon and ensure a sustainable future. Together, we will turn the corner.”
The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
The Government of Canada’s $647.1-million Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative investment is the largest-ever government investment in efforts to save Pacific salmon. Through this investment, Canada will guide a strategic and coordinated long-term response, rooted in collaborative action, to stabilize and protect Pacific salmon for the ecosystems, people, and communities that depend upon their sustainability.