Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021 marked two years since I created this website as a way to make information on the conservation status of some key populations of these venerable species more accessible and transparent. Try looking at any BC Government or federal government website on fish and fisheries and you will see what I mean!

Since Dec. 8, 2019 a total of 4,386 users have viewed the page a total of 7,333 times. Canadians (79%) and Americans (17%) have been the most frequent visitors, but folks from Asia, Oceania, Europe, Central and South America have visited the site. Many of the same folks (15%) return to the site again and again.

I am very pleased that so many folks have taken an interest in, and perhaps now have a greater awareness of, the plight of our Pacific salmon and trout.

One visitor has written: "Thank you for your amazing blog. I am currently writing briefings ..., and your links have all the information I need."

Let the information flow continue!

July, 28 2023: 4,386 users/7,333 page views


Below are brief summary statements about updates I receive on the status of particular runs of Pacific salmon and steelhead trout in British Columbia and Yukon waters. To cut to the chase, I have kept commentary to a minimum and just provided numbers and the source where you can find additional information about methods, threats, etc. If these figures bother you, let it be known to your local MLA, MP, the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (Diane Lebouthillier;, the federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change (Steven Guilbeault -; all former Ministers have refused to list salmon and steelhead trout at risk of extinction under Canada's Species at Risk Act, SARA), and the BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (George Heyman -

As each year's final totals come in, I will replace the previous years' totals.

For regular updates, between annual summaries, scroll below and look for .

What are the root causes of these declines and what can be done about them? These are the billion dollar questions that cannot be answered here easily. Certainly climate change and a changing ocean, habitat loss and degradation, disease and pathogens, "freak" accidents like the 2019 Big Bar rockslide, and overharvest (in directed fisheries and from incidental "by-catch") have all contributed to the declines. One recent summary of trends and the particular role of climate change can be found HERE. Not only do these declines result in the loss of "made in BC biodiversity", they have significant economic impacts. The total numbers of salmon of all species caught (commerical and recreational fisheries) in BC waters has declined from almost 15.6 million fish in 2013 to 1.4 million fish in 2019 (commerical catches alone totalled an average of ~23 million fishes annually in the 1970s). Catch statistics over time can be found HERE (look for "Canadian Salmon Catch and Enhanced Salmon Production").

The problem in a nutshell? Today a CBC story appeared about DFO's apparent commitment to rebulit 30 fish "stocks" of concern (including three groups of Pacific salmon). A spokeperson for DFO Minister at the time (Joyce Murray) stated that: "Minister Murray's priority is to grow Canada's fish and seafood sector sustainably." Isn't that really an indication of the fundamental problem: the priority is building sustainable fisheries (the "sector"), instead of rebuilding (self)sustainable salmon populations and THEN allowing fisheries to exploit them sustainably? This shows the oft-repeated criticism of DFO's conflicted mandate of promoting fisheries and fish conservation at the same time (see HERE). You really can only have the former after ensuring the latter. This is the fundamental problem with salmon management by DFO - the fish are primarily viewed as exploitable entities, aka "stocks", and not as biological entities first that if 'managed' properly as such entities as the first priority can then perhaps be sustainably harvested. That said, salmon are managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (emphasis mine) and "Fisheries" means use of fish for commerical, susbsistence, or recreational purposes. Further, politics is the "art of the compromise" and DFO is a government (i.e., political) department so DFO is doing exactly what such an entity is designed to do - compromise between exploitation (of salmon) and conservation. This is why salmon conservation should not be in the perview of DFO - it will always be compromised by considerations of DFO's other mandates, i.e., commerical (including aquaculture), recreational, and subsistence use of salmon. To truly have a chance at salmon conservation that might lead to subsequent exploitation, salmon recovery and conservation needs to be headed by a unit other than DFO.

Thompson/Chilcotin rivers steelhead trout, Nov 20, 2023 The second estimates of late summer run Thompson/Chilcotin steelead trout run sizes is in (these fish will spawn in the spring of 2024). From test fisheries in the lower Fraser River, the estimated abundance of the Thompson River population complex is 228 fish (95% credible interval is 99-708). At this number, there is a 0.89 probability that the Thompson sub-group will be classified as an Extreme Conservation Concern. The estimate for the Chilcotin River population remains at 108 fish and a classification of Extreme Conservation Concern. The forecasts rank as the 3rd lowest in 47-year monitoring time frame, and the 4th-lowest over a 53-year monitoring for the Thompson River and Chilcotin River, respectively. The report can be viewed HERE

Earlier, an update on the 2023 interior Fraser River steelhead spawning numbers has been issued based on estimates of spawning fish. For the Thompson River, the estimate is 371 fish which is slightly above that based on test fishing in the lower Fraser River last fall (339). It is the eighth-lowest estimate since assessments began in 1976. For the Chilcotin River, the spawner estimate is 134 fish, below the test-fishery estimate of November 2022 (166). This is the sixth lowest estimate since monitoring began in 1972. A full report can be seen HERE.

Skeena River summer steelhead trout, Sept 29, 2023 The Tyee test fishery began operations on June 10. So far, the cumulative Skeena River summer steelhead index to Sept 28 is 41.1 well below the average of 140.6 (range: 22.3 (2021) to 262.5 (1998)). The escapement for Skeena summer run steelhead to Sept 12 is estimated to be 10,060; the average to this date = 34,442 (range: 5,461 to 64,301). Returns of summer run steelheaad to the Sustut River high in the watershed (50) are less than 10% of the average to this date with some of the shortfall likely due to low water levels and associated delayed migration. To this date, the 2023 summer steelhead abundance in the Skeena River estimate ranks as the fourth lowest year out of 69 years of operation. Source: Ministry of Forests, Smithers, BC.

Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon, Sept 15, 2023 Expectations for the 2023 sockeye salmon runs into the Fraser River were low given the low return of sockeye salmon in 2019 (the major parent group for most of the 2023 run) and owing to the impacts of the Big Bar Rock slide of June 2019. The estimated (p50) total run size for this year is about 1.5 million fish (with a 50% chance of it being lower or higher) with most of those (~73%) being comprised of the summer run fish (principally Quesnel and Chilko rivers' sockeye salmon). To date, results have exceeded expectations suggesting improved productivity of runs (that's good news!) with a total run size close that that predicted (but slightly higher). A total of 40,900 Early Stuart River fish have passed the hydroacoustic sensor at Mission in the lower river which is above the p50 forecast for this run of 23,000 fish, but well below the escapement target of 108,000 fish that would allow possible fisheries. Early Summer run fish passed through the lower Fraser River at numbers (326,600) above the preseason forecast (186,000). An estimated 905,100 Summer Run and 309,800 Late fish have passed Mission so far with more to come (1.58 million total Fraser sockeye). Run timimg seems to be a week or more earlier than forecast and the majority of fish are passing though Johnstone Strait rather than the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The run size estimate for pink salmon has been reduced slightly to 15 million fish and 7,510,800 have passed Mission so far. Flows in the Fraser River at Hope are running near the historical minimum, and water temperatures near the seasonal historical maximum of 17.1C for this date. Migration conditions, thus, remain challenging, but are expected to improve for the remaining Late run sockeye salmon. All sockeye must be released if captured in fisheries both in Canadian and US Panel waters except for a few thousand fish in US Tribal ceremonial and subsistence fisheries. About 14,000 sockeye have been harvested in "unauthorized retention". The full details can be seen in the final report for the seasonHERE.

In-season estimates as of Sept 7, 2023 for cumulative number of sockeye salmon that have passed the Mission hydroacoustic site in the lower Fraser River. Source: Pacific Salmon Commission.

In-season estimates as of Sept 7, 2023 for cumulative number of pink salmon that have passed the Mission hydroacoustic site in the lower Fraser River. Source: Pacific Salmon Commission.

Yukon River Chinook and chum salmon, Nov 2, 2023. The FINAL counts for Fall-run chum salmon counts at Pilot Station amount to 289,734 about 47,000 more fish than at the same time year, and well below one-half the recent 10-year average (757,116). This means that the Fall run is below the minimum, basinwide sustainable level of 300,000 fish that would permit some fishing in either Canada or Alaska. The escapement goal for the Fishing Branch River (Porcupine River system) is between 22,000 and 49,000 Fall run chum salmon. With 100% of the run now completed, some 11,098 fish have entered the system - four times last year's run (but still well below the most recent 10 year average).

With 100% of the run complete in the lower river, the *basinwide* Chinook run is very low - 58,487 fish at the Pilot Station sonar site. This is up ten thousand from last year at the same time, but only a bit more than one-third of the most recent 10 year average count (see chart below). A total of 15,304 "Canadian-origin" fish (100% of run complete; ~3,000 more than in 2022; 30% of the recent 10-year average number) have passed the Eagle Sonar site just downstream of the US:Canada border and about 1,500 km upstream from the sea. There is no fishing of any kind anticipated for this year in Canada or the US as the forecast numbers of fish that will enter Canada to spawn was well below the 55,000 fish threshold. This week's FINAL report for the season can be viewed HERE.

In-season estimates as of Oct 26, 2023 for Chinook salmon (CHNK) and fall chum salmon (CHUM) at Pilot Stn (PS), Eagle Sonar (ES), Klondike River Sonar (KS, to Aug 18), Porcupine River (PoR, to Oct 4 [complete]), and Fishing Branch River (FB, Oct 18). The red bars represent the escapement goals, or the range of escapement goals, for Canadian-origin fish (e.g., at least 55,000 Chinook salmon passed Eagle Station Sonar, ES).

March 18, 2023. Parliamentary Committee Report on DFO Science released.

An all federal party parliamentary committee was struck to investigate how DFO conducts and communicates scientific research in the service of making decisions regarding Canada's public fishery resources.

It does not make for pretty reading.

The report is very critical of how DFO conducts some research (other aspects of its research program are justifiably laudable) and, most importantly, how such information is reviewed and transmitted to both the public and the Minister in order to make decisions on various fisheries. The overall conclusion is that the current processes are quite damaging to efforts to sustain wild Pacific salmon populations, particularly with respect to DFO Aquaculture Management's overly 'cosy' releationship with the fish-farming industry. You can read the report (and its 49 recommendations) HERE. Regional DFO Director General Rebecca Reid's response to the committee's conclusion of DFO's conflicted mandate (made by others many times - see HERE) that DFO: "...understands its role and responsibilities for the management of wild salmon and aquaculture and does so appropriately" speaks volumes. Talk about out of touch!

All this in the wake of the deeply flawed DFO report on fish farms and sea lice incidence described as "a scientific sin" in a letter signed by 16 academics and scientists independent of DFO (I was not one of them, but I agree completely with them and independently came to many of the same conclusions on how poor the DFO analyses and report are - see HERE and the previous update just below) and the critical report by the Auditor General's Office on how DFO manages the aquatic species at risk file (see below also).

If there was ever a time for fundamental change in how DFO operates and what its mandates are it is now. The Parliamentary Committee has concluded the same thing. In particular their Recommendation 41 states:

"Given the conflict of interest between DFO’s mandate relating to aquaculture versus the application of the precautionary principle and the ongoing crisis for the health of wild Pacific salmon stocks, that the government implement, on the West Coast only, Recommendation #3 in the Cohen Commission report on the state of wild salmon: “The Government of Canada should remove from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ mandate the promotion of salmon farming as an industry and farmed salmon as a product.”

Just to be be clear this is the second time that this fundamental restructuring of DFO has been recommended.

Come on - Just do it!!

Auditor-General's Office Report on Protecting Aquatic Species at Risk. Canada's Office of the Auditor General has just released its report on protecting aquatic species at risk (including salmon and steelhead). One of its major conclusions (page 29) is that: "...Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in collaboration with others, did not adequately protect selected aquatic species assessed as at risk. For the areas we examined, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada did not adequately contribute to meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life Below Water)...". You can read the full report and recommendations (all of which DFO agreed with) HERE.

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