Fraser Chinook — “Recipe for Extinction” website

Saturday’s Globe and Mail had the following advertisement on page 2 of the B.C. section:

The accompanying website is here.

Recipe for Extinction

3 cups of Department of Fisheries & Oceans inaction.

1 cup of refusing to close marine sport fisheries impacting Fraser River early-timed Chinook.

1 cup of lowest amt of spawners since 1975 (in 2007, parents of this year’s run, less than 2000 Chinook returned).

1 cup of only 500 spawners the 2009 returns to Nicola River & tributaries (estimates suggest there needs to be 20,000 spawners to sustain any harvest).

1 cup of chasing the last fish…

Mix vigorously with lack of political will to protect habitat and enforce the Fisheries Act.

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Can’t say I disagree… this is a Recipe for Extinction. Here is a graph from a Department of Fisheries ‘death by PowerPoint’ presentation last year.

Fraser early-timed Chinook survival and exploitation rate

Chinook 4-2 refers to a group of Chinook stocks that spawn largely in the Thompson River, most in the Nicola River watershed. The “4” means these Chinook are 4 years old when they return. The small “2”, refers to how many years these fish spend in fresh water as juveniles.

The graph above shows the estimated exploitation rate of these Chinook (% of total estimated run size — this is the percentage on the right hand side) overlaid on the estimated survival of these Chinook (% of adults returning — this is the percentage on the left).

The boxes in the graph represent the survival rate. You can see that the survival rate is decent in the mid to late 1990s and then it becomes a train-wreck

With the exception of 2004, the survival rate has generally been less than 1%.

But do you see a problem?

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That dark black line is the exploitation rate of these populations. In 1998, the rate is way down, somewhere around 20% — most likely due to the heavy coho protection that year (e.g. 0% Coho exploitation — 0% mortality).

But after that, the exploitation rate more than doubles. And in fact missing from this graph is 2009 — exploitation rate: 53%.

An almost tripling of exploitation rates in just over ten years.

But wait… do you see the survival rates?

They fell by 8 – 9 times.

So survival falls by multiples of 8 to 9… and exploitation rates triple

…and this on populations that are already in deep trouble. Even DFO numbers suggest that this population needs at least 20,000 fish to sustain any exploitation… those sorts of numbers haven’t been seen in decades.

[This is also a good example of how you use graphs to skew data – the black line looks so innocuous in comparison to the boxes]

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Do you see the last bullet point circled in pencil?

Sustainable exploitation rates currently estimated at 8 – 11% range for low survival period; populations declining at current exploitation rates.

Worse yet, in 2007 — the parents of this year’s returns — were some of the lowest returns seen since the mid-1970s with less than 2000 spawners…

And yet… and yet… just like last year, marine sport fisheries for Chinook have been open 24-7.

Pre-season forecasts for Chinook 4-2s this year are brutal; and there won’t even be confirmation of approximate run sizes until the Albion test fishery starts this month. Meanwhile, coastal-marine sport fisheries have been open for months while these fish arrive from their ocean migration and head up to the Thompson River.

(First Nations on the Fraser voluntarily closed Chinook fisheries last year, and are again this year — even though DFO insists on keeping those fisheries open as well…)

Hmmm… I think maybe this is why it’s called a Recipe for Extinction.

The website has a “Take Action” page…

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4 thoughts on “Fraser Chinook — “Recipe for Extinction” website

  1. kd

    so, Dave have you examined what exactly is different from this ‘chinook crisis’ to the ‘coho crisis’ of the late ’90’s? Why would one precipitate a huge response from DFO versus the non-response we are seeing now?
    Is it just different politicains…i.e. no David Anderson around now?

  2. Dave Barnes

    Good points kd. For sure Anderson was a great Minister who put fish as far in front as he could.
    I didn’t see her name anywhere in the article but I’ll bet a pension cheque Tracy Sampson had a large part in this. Kudos Tracy!

  3. kd

    kind of a poorly phrased advert…instead of taking the pure conservation road of ‘these fish are heading towards extinction’ and all measures should be taken to stop that…it takes the route of asserting First Nations priority usage in the hierarchy..And while that is obviously entrenched (sect35 etc) the ‘we are next in line’ approach tends to take away from the overall message rather than add to the issue I feel.
    It seems to reinforce the idea that why should a sportfishermen agree to harsh restrictions if the natives are only going to kill them anyway (yes, I read the nativer harvest has been stopped for a cuple of years now).
    Just trying to look at this issue from afar….I would have ran with the ‘extinction’ idea. Time for COSIWEC or SARA or whatever those processes that (supposedly) protect endangered species?

  4. salmon guy Post author

    thanks kd,
    no haven’t done any in-depth analysis other than wracking my memory of the ol’98 zero mortality on coho closures.

    i’d certainly suggest one of the biggest barriers to salmon is lack of political will.
    Mr. Anderson certainly has some curious views on a few things, but he most certainly stepped up on the coho issue. Unfortunately, like so many things. Too little, too late — and nothing sustained.

    And now, some coho sit on the SARA listing — yet so little teeth being exerted. Similar to the Nechako sturgeon issue — SARA-listing (Species at risk Act) as well; yet, DFO wants to run around and host several thousand dollar meetings to discuss by-catch of juvenile sturgeon in First Nation food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) fisheries. Of which, 3 white sturgeon is the estimate of by-catch in over 20 FSC fisheries.

    twisted priorities, and lack of political will. And before breaking into another election… a Minister from PEI, not Victoria, BC… and a governing party not all that interested in fettering economic priorities for protecting dwindling species…

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