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DFO inadequately rebuilding B.C. salmon stocks: Audit

Less than a 6th of B.C. salmon stocks have been assigned a health status per legislation
Salmon during the Invisible Migration in a tributary in B.C.’s northwest. (Photo: Tavish Campbell)

Oceana Canada’s annual Fisheries Audit found that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is not doing an adequate job rebuilding Canada’s fisheries.

In an announcement Nov. 22, Oceana Canada stated that for the sixth year in a row, less than a third of wild fish and invertebrate populations in Canadian waters can be considered healthy.

The new Fisheries Act passed in April 2022 legally requires the DFO to rebuild Canada’s critical fish populations to support fisheries, coastal communities and the ocean. However, 37 per cent of stocks have not been assigned a health status, which means there is no legal requirement to rebuild them.

Oceana Canada estimates that likely 25 per cent of the unassigned fish are critically depleted.

In B.C., less than one-sixth of salmon populations have a stock status under the Wild Salmon Policy that Canada introduced in 2005. Furthermore, assessments show salmon spawning grounds for 47 per cent of populations are at high risk from cumulative pressures, the audit report states.

In the report, Oceana Canada explains that management issues for salmon include not having reference points, inadequate monitoring and slow policy implementation.

The status of most salmon populations is unknown and for those that do have enough data, few are considered healthy, the audit report states.

“For the first time in millennia, we can no longer reliably depend on salmon as a food source,” Christine Smith-Martin, CEO of Coastal First Nations said. “The legendary runs of wild sockeye, chinook, pinks, chum and coho that once filled our inlets, bays and estuaries are severely depleted.”

In the audit, Oceana Canada recommends that the federal government work collaboratively with Indigenous people to develop lasting solutions.

 Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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