2020 Fishing Regulations

DFO has announced new interim regulations for the 2020-2021 fishing season, beginning April 1, 2020.  DFO has provided information to the effect that the 2020-2021 regulations will mirror the regulations introduced in 2019, which were implemented to address the concern for Fraser River Chinook salmon populations.

DFO plans a technical review of the 2019 fishery management measures, and following review and further consultations with advisory groups, anticipates a potential adjustment to the management measures now being put in place.  If they’re going to make changes, it looks like they want that to happen by June 1, 2020.

Chinook Salmon Retention

We fish mostly in Areas 13, 14 and 15.  The 2019 Chinook management measures for these areas were as follows:

January 1 to March 31 — 2 Chinook per day

April 1 to July 14 — Chinook non-retention

July 15 to July 31 — 1 Chinook per day, 80 cm fork length maximum size

August 1 to August 29 — 1 Chinook per day

September 1 to December 31 — 2 Chinook per day

The July 15 to July 31 measure was a response to last year’s Big Bar rockslide on the Fraser (late June 2019), so it’s unclear whether this will be continued in 2020.

For the time being, DFO has officially announced only that there will be Chinook non-retention in our areas on an interim basis starting April 1, 2020.  According to DFO’s March 30, 2020 Fishery Notice:

The plan is to start the 2020 fishing season (beginning April 1, 2020) with the measures that were in place at the beginning of last season (April 2019) until further notice.  As these are interim measures, a further announcement on possible revised management actions is anticipated in June 2020.

Chinook Catch and Release

As was the case last year, we are in a catch and release fishery for Chinook salmon until July 14, unless that changes in early June after further review and consultation.

It’s important to emphasize that “non-retention” does NOT mean “no fishing”.  Unfortunately, this distinction often gets lost when people talk about it.  It’s amazing how many people I spoke to last year who believed that there was no fishing at all.  This kind of misunderstanding gets reinforced when we get careless about how we describe the regulations.

So again, to be 100% clear, we CAN fish and we CAN fish for Chinook.  We just can’t keep Chinook for an interim period.

Other Salmon & Groundfish

Here are the regulations as of April 1, 2020 for the other species of Pacific salmon in our area, as well as for groundfish like Halibut and Lingcod.

Chinook salmon: non-retention (anticipated to change June 15, 2020, or sooner)

Chum salmon: min 30 cm, 4 per day, 8 in possession

Coho salmon (hatchery only): June 1 – December 31, 2020: min 30 cm, 2 per day, 4 in possession; wild coho must be released except in a few select areas where one wild coho and one hatchery coho may be kept

Pink salmon: min 30 cm, 4 per day, 8 in possession

Sockeye salmon: non-retention (retention determined in season)

Lingcod: (starting May 1 to September 30, 2020) 1 per day, 2 in possession

Halibut: max length 126 cm (97 cm head off), 1 per day, 6 per year. Possession limit one of: (a) 1 between 90 and 126 cm (69 to 97 cm head off), or (b) 2, each under 90 cm (69 cm head off)

Rockfish: (starting May 1 to September 30, 2020) 1 per day, 2 in possession (no Yelloweye or Bocaccio)

Potential Revisions — June 2020

It’s worth noting that the Sport Fishing Institute of British Columbia (SFIBC) is advocating a “mark selective fishing strategy”, i.e. a scenario where anglers would be able to keep hatchery Chinook salmon at certain times when wild Chinook salmon are required to be released.

Hatchery fish are “marked” by having their adipose fin (the small one behind the dorsal, near the tail) clipped at the hatchery when they’re smolts.  As adults, the lack of adipose fin is easily recognized.

SFIBC says that such a management approach “will allow the salmon fishery to survive while at the same time offering almost complete protection to endangered and threatened unmarked wild stocks.”  They also point out that a mark selective fishing program would add to the predictability of the public fishery — predictability is something that’s important not only in terms of maintaining wild Chinook stocks, but also in terms of bolstering the economy that surrounds the public fishery.

The economic effect of the public fishery is huge in British Columbia.  Here are some numbers, again lifted from data gathered by the SFIBC:

$8.3 billion: annual amount spent in Canada by anglers on public fishing related activities and purchases

$1.1 billion: public fishery’s direct revenue contribution to the BC economy (2016)

9000: BC jobs directly dependent on the public fishery

450,000: salt and freshwater anglers in BC

$4.5 million: annual contribution to recreational licence sales

3.8 million: days fished annually

10%: percentage of all salmon caught in BC by recreational anglers in the public fishery

I think all of us, those with direct or indirect interests, economic or otherwise, are behind measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Chinook salmon population.  The proliferation of Chinook salmon (and indeed, all salmon species) is integral to a healthy ecosystem.  Salmon are a critical food source, and not just for humans.

If DFO does revise the interim management measures based on further scientific review, it seems like incorporating a mark selective fishery for Chinook would be an effective component of the right approach.  We’ll have to wait until June to see.

In the meantime, stay safe.