Fisheries and Oceans Canada's update on the implementation of the Cohen Commission's recommendations

Introduction

Since the release of the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River (Cohen Commission) recommendations, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has reviewed each recommendation to ensure that DFO is doing all that it can within its mandate and available resources to address the health and long-term sustainability of Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks, as well as wild Pacific salmon more broadly. With respect to recommendations directed to DFO, many of the recommendations have been incorporated into DFO’s work. A snapshot of DFO’s progress accompanies this document.

DFO invests significant resources in salmon-related science which is used to inform fisheries management and regulatory decision-making. Some areas of work include monitoring temperature and flow in-river, surveys of sockeye productivity in lakes, stock assessment monitoring, post-release survival rates for several fisheries, studies on health status, surveys of distribution and migration patterns, impacts of birds and disease on marine survival of Fraser River sockeye, risk-assessment of pathogen transfer from aquaculture to wild salmon, studying applying genomics technology to assess for pathogens affecting Fraser sockeye, and the cumulative effects of stressors on Fraser sockeye. DFO has a number of publications related to this research. Information on DFO scientific publications and peer-review processes can be found at (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/) and WAVES (http://waves-vagues.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/waves-vagues/).

DFO also works with others including the Pacific Salmon Commission and the Pacific Salmon Foundation on issues of common interest, such as conducting research into factors affecting the productivity of sockeye and chinook salmon. DFO also works with other international bodies such as the North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission on collaborative research related to salmon.

Budget 2016 provided $197.1 million over five years, starting in 2016–17, to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to increase ocean and freshwater science including monitoring and research on Pacific salmon. Some of this funding will support implementation of the Cohen Commission recommendations and will promote the health of fish stocks, increase our understanding of the impacts of ecosystem stressors, and support sustainable aquaculture.

Many of the recommendations involve long-term commitments of resources and would thus require some further analysis and consultation to determine how best to support them (e.g., assessment of test fisheries in the Fraser River; consideration of Conservation and Protection verification and audit functions, and enforcement related to illegal fishing activities and habitat; defining food, social, and ceremonial fisheries and assessing allocations; scientific analyses regarding pathogens). For some recommendations, DFO supports implementation but additional funding or further work (e.g., consultations) would be required to implement.

Implementation of Cohen Commission Recommendations to date

This section sets out each of the 75 recommendations contained within the Cohen Commission’s final report, and describes implementation to date.

Recommendation 1 – In relation to Fraser River sockeye, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should follow the principle that the Minister is the ultimate authority in decisions about conservation, fisheries management (subject to the Pacific Salmon Treaty), and, within areas of federal jurisdiction, fish habitat. DFO should consistently reflect this principle in all its agreements and processes with First Nations and stakeholders.

This recommendation is consistent with the roles and responsibilities of the Minister and DFO and, as such, is considered to have been implemented. The roles and responsibilities of the Minister and the DFO with respect to decisions related to conservation, fisheries management, and fish habitat within federal jurisdiction are clearly communicated to First Nations, other governments and stakeholders. This includes making conservation the first priority in the delivery of regulatory responsibilities.

The Minister’s mandate letter expresses a commitment to “work with provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, and other stakeholders to better co-manage Canada’s oceans.”  This mandate commitment will be met in a manner which upholds the principle outlined in this recommendation.

Recommendation 2 - In relation to wild fisheries, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should act in accordance with its paramount regulatory objective to conserve wild fish.

DFO operates in a manner consistent with this recommendation and, as such, this recommendation is considered to have been implemented. Consistent with Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon (Wild Salmon Policy), DFO’s first priority in managing wild salmon fisheries is the conservation of wild salmon and their habitats. As such, conservation is the first priority in the delivery of DFO’s regulatory responsibilities with respect to wild salmon.

DFO administers Canada’s fisheries in consultation with First Nations, federal departments, and other levels of government, private industry and non-governmental stakeholders in a manner that supports sustainable use and to contribute to the current and future prosperity of Canadians.

Recommendation 3 - 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.

This recommendation is directed to the Government of Canada. DFO’s oversight of the salmon farming industry is consistent with its mandate.

The British Columbia Aquaculture Regulatory Program (BCARP) was implemented by DFO in December 2010 following a BC Supreme Court decision which ruled that finfish aquaculture is a fishery and therefore falls under federal jurisdiction. BCARP regulations support the viability and sustainability of the BC aquaculture industry. BCARP derives its mandated activities from the Fisheries Act, Pacific Aquaculture Regulations and Fishery (General) Regulations, and aligns with two DFO strategic outcomes: “Economically Prosperous Maritime Sectors and Fisheries” and “Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems”.

Recommendation 4 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should immediately create a new position in the Pacific Region at the associate regional director general level with responsibility for

  • developing and implementing the Wild Salmon Policy implementation plan recommended under Recommendation 5; and
  • supervising the expenditure of funds provided under Recommendation 6 for implementation of the policy.

DFO supports the spirit and intent of this recommendation, which is to enhance responsibility and accountability for Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) implementation at the senior management level. DFO is implementing this recommendation through development of a strengthened governance and oversight regime at the senior management level rather than through establishment of a new position. Work is being undertaken to strengthen and clarify the governance around WSP implementation and to develop an updated WSP Implementation Plan.

The creation of an ongoing senior level position, parallel to the Associate Regional Director General, dedicated to implementation of the WSP would require additional funding, and would represent a high cost relative to benefit given that the WSP is a policy that guides the work of programs, each of which already has a clear governance and accountability structure. Strengthening the existing WSP implementation governance structure will involve development of a better integrated governance regime at the senior management level, with the Regional Director General retaining overall accountability for ensuring implementation of the Policy.

Recommendation 5 - The new associate regional director general should, by March 31, 2013, publish a detailed plan for implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy, stipulating

  • what tasks are required;
  • how they will be performed and by whom;
  • when they will be completed; and
  • how much implementation will cost, as set out in a detailed itemization of costs.

This recommendation to develop a detailed implementation plan is supported, and work is underway to develop an updated WSP Implementation Plan outlining how the Policy will be implemented through existing DFO programs, and identifying deliverables, timelines, and accountabilities, as well as the need for effective collaboration with First Nations, partners, and stakeholders. DFO Pacific Region’s WSP-related work will be managed through the existing funding allocation for the delivery of regional programs; however, further funding considerations are linked to consulting publicly on, and finalizing, the WSP Implementation Plan.

The Department plans to consult on and publish an updated WSP Implementation Plan. This Plan will clarify governance of DFO programs as they relate to the WSP, under the direction of the Pacific Regional Director General who has overall responsibility for the WSP and directors who have responsibility for program implementation within the Region.

Following the release of the Cohen Commission’s final report, the WSP was reviewed and updates proposed to reflect context changes since its release in 2005 (e.g., changes to legislation, policy, programs, and legal context). The Policy’s goal, objectives, and guiding principles will remain unchanged. In addition, work is underway to draft an updated WSP Implementation Plan outlining how the Policy will be implemented through existing DFO programs, and identifying deliverables, timelines and accountabilities. The Implementation Plan will clarify that programs and related funding are the responsibilities of Regional Directors. It is anticipated that external consultations on the draft Implementation Plan will begin in 2016.

Recommendation 6 - The Government of Canada should establish dedicated Wild Salmon Policy funding sufficient to carry out the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ implementation plan and to cover ongoing operational costs.

This recommendation is directed at the Government of Canada. Budget 2016 proposes funding for marine and freshwater science, and some of the work that this funding will support is closely aligned with implementation of the WSP. It should be noted that DFO attaches funding to programs that implement policies rather than to policies which guide programs; therefore, establishing dedicated WSP funding would be in the form of allocations among DFO’s programs which support WSP implementation.

Recommendation 7 - The new associate regional director general responsible for implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy should, by March 31, 2014, and each anniversary thereafter during implementation, report in writing on progress in implementation of the policy, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should publish that report on its website. Each annual report should invite responses from First Nations and stakeholders, and all responses should be promptly published on the DFO website.

This recommendation is supported in principle. DFO has not developed an annual progress report on WSP implementation, but has reported on implementation internally through regular business planning and reporting processes. The updated WSP Implementation Plan will include a commitment to report publicly on progress annually.

Recommendation 8 - By January 31, 2013, the new associate regional director general should decide whether the Habitat Management Program (Ecosystem Management Branch) or the Science Branch should take the lead role in implementing strategies 2 and 3 and what support should be provided by the other branch. The new associate regional director general should also identify who is responsible for, and set deadlines respecting, the following activities:

  • preparing habitat status reports;
  • monitoring and assessing habitat using the habitat indicators and benchmarks developed by Stalberg et al. and
  • finalizing habitat indicators and benchmarks where possible.

The new associate regional director general should coordinate with the Habitat Management Program to ensure consistency in implementing both this Recommendation and Recommendation 41.

This recommendation is supported in principle, and the updated WSP Implementation Plan will propose to reframe standardized monitoring of wild salmon status, assessment of habitat status, and inclusion of ecosystem values and monitoring under a single integrative theme of “Assessment Work.”  Science will assume overall responsibility for deliverables under this theme.

Recommendation 9 - In order to begin integrated strategic planning under Strategy 4 in relation to Fraser River sockeye without further delay, these key deliverables should be completed according to the following schedule:

  • By March 31, 2013, identification of red zone Conservation Units under Strategy 1, based on the Grant Draft Paper 2011;
  • By September 30, 2013, preparation of overview reports for the Fraser River watershed and marine areas relevant to Fraser River sockeye salmon, based on the best available information at that time. Knowledge gaps of concern to the drafters should be identified in the overview reports and a plan developed to address those knowledge gaps;
  • By December 31, 2013, development of habitat indicators and benchmarks for assessment for the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait, Johnstone Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound.

Significant progress has been made towards development and implementation of science-based methodologies to assess the status of salmon conservation units, their habitat and ecosystems as well as multi-stakeholder processes to undertake strategic plans for salmon conservation. As noted in the WSP, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will continue to implement the policy incrementally, and work is underway to develop an updated WSP Implementation Plan.

The Grant et al. draft paper defining red zone Conservation Units was finalized and published by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS). The remaining two items listed in this recommendation have not been conducted pending the development of a revised WSP Implementation Plan and overall approach to habitat status assessment.

Additionally, work on status and benchmarks continues including the completion of the report on integrated biological status of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) under the Wild Salmon Policy which is available at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/SAR-AS/2012/2012_056-eng.html.

Recommendation 10 - As part of the implementation of Strategy 4 in relation to Fraser River sockeye, these key deliverables should be completed according to the following schedule:

  • By March 31, 2013, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should complete a socio-economic framework for decision making in the integrated strategic planning process; it should also integrate meaningful socio-economic input into fisheries management decision-making, beginning with planning for the 2014 fishing season.
  • By January 31, 2014, integrated strategic planning processes should begin for Fraser River sockeye salmon using the best currently available information and following the procedure outlined in Appendix 2 (a structured five-step planning procedure) of the Wild Salmon Policy.
  • By March 31, 2013, response teams should be formed for all Conservation Units in the red zone and for those that could significantly limit fishing and other activities.
  • By December 31, 2014, response teams should complete plans for the protection and restoration of priority Conservation Units, and in developing such plans, they should give full consideration to approaches beyond curtailing fisheries.

This recommendation has been implemented in part in that work has been done on the incorporation of socioeconomic information into fisheries planning. Also, with respect to socioeconomic frameworks, DFO has existing frameworks which can be utilized with respect to WSP implementation. Since 2011, socioeconomic information and analysis has been incorporated into the salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan.

Further work on this recommendation is linked to development of the updated WSP Implementation Plan.

Recommendation 11 - In order to provide a longer time series of data on which to test for relationships between stressors found at salmon farms and the health of Fraser River sockeye salmon, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should continue to require the collection of fish health data directly from operators of salmon farms and through DFO audits.

DFO operates in a manner consistent with this recommendation and continues to require the collection of fish health data directly from operators and through DFO audits. As such, this recommendation is considered to have been implemented.

Recommendation 12 - For research purposes beyond routine monitoring, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should require, as a condition of licence, that the operator of a salmon farm provide, on reasonable demand by DFO, fish samples, including live fish or fresh silvers (recently deceased fish), in a quantity and according to a protocol specified by DFO.

This recommendation is considered to have been implemented in part in that DFO fishery officers and fishery guardians have the authority to collect fish samples from salmon farms during inspections of premises where they believe activities are being conducted subject to the Fisheries Act or regulations. DFO participates in research projects like the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative, where samples are collected under agreements with farms.

Recommendation 13 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should give non-government scientific researchers timely access to primary fish health data collected through DFO’s routine monitoring programs, including data that relate to farmed or wild salmon.

This recommendation has been implemented. DFO routinely posts updated marine finfish aquaculture fish health data to its website. The salmon escapement and productivity data sets were made available on the OpenData portal in 2015:

(http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/c48669a3-045b-400d-b730-48aafe8c5ee6).

Requests for further information regarding wild fish data can be considered subject to the provisions and exemptions outlined in the Access to Information and Privacy Act.

Recommendation 14 - Beginning immediately and continuing until at least September 30, 2020, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should ensure that:

  • the maximum duration of any licence issued under the Pacific Aquaculture Regulations for a net-pen salmon farm in the Discovery Islands (fish health sub-zone 3-2) does not exceed one year;
  • DFO does not issue new licences for net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands (fish health sub-zone 3-2); and
  • DFO does not permit increases in production at any existing net-pen salmon farm in the Discovery Islands (fish health sub-zone 3-2).

This recommendation has been implemented. DFO has limited salmon farming operations in the Discovery Island area until September 30, 2020, and multi-year licences will not be available for this area. During this time, additional scientific research will be conducted and a disease risk assessment process will be completed. In the interim, licence holders are required to submit fish health data to DFO, which is then posted on the DFO website.

Recommendation 15 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should explicitly consider proximity to migrating Fraser River sockeye when siting salmon farms.

This recommendation has been implemented. Siting of aquaculture operations is a shared and harmonized process in BC, requiring provincial crown tenure, a federal navigable waters permit, and a federal aquaculture licence. Aquaculture applications are submitted through a single-portal, where the Government of BC reviews siting related to granting leases for provincial crown lands, Transport Canada reviews siting related to navigable waters, and DFO considers siting relating to potential impacts to the aquatic environment from an aquaculture licence. More specifically, DFO’s review process for siting salmon farms considers potential impacts to fish, fish habitat and the environment; potential impacts to existing fisheries; and fish health and wild-farmed interactions, which specifically includes consideration of the proximity to wild salmon migration routes.

Recommendation 16 – After seeking comment from First Nations and stakeholders, and after responding to challenge by scientific peer review, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should, by March 31, 2013, and every five years thereafter, revise salmon farm siting criteria to reflect new scientific information about salmon farms situated on or near Fraser River sockeye salmon migration routes as well as the cumulative effects of these farms on these sockeye.

This recommendation has been implemented. Siting of aquaculture operations in BC is a shared and harmonized approach between the federal and provincial governments. DFO completed a review of Siting Guidelines for Marine Finfish Aquaculture in BC in 2014/15, which also included consultation with First Nations and stakeholders. Revised Guidelines have been developed based on this review process and have been presented in draft form to industry, First Nations and environmental non-governmental organizations. The final Guidelines have now been approved. This review was informed by the latest science advice, which included consideration of potential impacts of aquaculture facilities on wild salmon. The review also included a commitment to examine and revise the Siting Guidelines every five years or less to incorporate new science and information as it becomes available.

Recommendation 17 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should apply revised siting criteria to all licensed salmon farm sites. Farms that no longer comply with siting criteria should be promptly removed or relocated to sites that comply with current siting criteria.

Existing farms are managed through conditions of licence. These conditions of licence, among other things, require companies to manage relevant issues outlined in the Siting Guidelines. In circumstances where a farm does not adequately meet the conditions of licence, work is undertaken to examine mitigation options, which may include relocation. As such, this recommendation is considered to have been implemented, albeit in an alternative way.

Recommendation 18 - If at any time between now and September 30, 2020, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans determines that net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands (fish health sub-zone 3-2) pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm to the health of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon, he or she should promptly order that those salmon farms cease operations.

This recommendation has been implemented. Scientific research is being conducted and a disease risk assessment process is underway and will be completed by 2020. If scientific research indicates that net-pen salmon farms in the Discovery Islands pose more than a minimal risk of serious harm to the health of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon, salmon farms in the Discovery Islands will be required to cease operations.

The results of the risk assessment may indicate that further research is required to support Ministerial decisions. Additional funding may be required depending on what further research is needed.

Recommendation 19 - On September 30, 2020, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans should prohibit net-pen salmon farming in the Discovery Islands (fish health sub-zone 3-2) unless he or she is satisfied that such farms pose at most a minimal risk of serious harm to the health of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon. The Minister’s decision should summarize the information relied on and include detailed reasons. The decision should be published on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ website.

This recommendation has not been implemented as the timeline on this recommendation is September 2020; however, scientific research is being conducted to address the question raised. See also response to Recommendation 18.

Recommendation 20 – To inform the decision under Recommendation 19, the Minister and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should take the following steps:

  • conduct the research and analyses recommended in Recommendation 68 and publish the results of this research;
  • assess any relationships between salmon farming variables compiled in the fish health database and Fraser River sockeye health or productivity.

This recommendation has been implemented and new science funding has been provided to augment work in this area. DFO has ongoing research programs that are examining interactions of wild salmon (primarily sockeye, coho and chinook) with salmon farms in the Discovery Island Area. Migration routes, residency time, and the condition and health of juvenile salmon are being assessed. This work is being done in collaboration with external groups such as the Pacific Salmon Foundation and British Columbia Salmon Farmers Association. DFO will continue to develop a more formal assessment of disease risks, particularly novel and endemic diseases working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and domestic and international experts.

Results from this work have been presented at public and scientific meetings, and data reports from the first two years have been published.  Formal peer-reviewed publications are planned. Samples from research programs have also been provided to the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative.

Results from these programs will continue to inform management of industry, as well as provide critical information to support Fisheries and Oceans Canada formal fish disease risk assessment.

Recommendation 21 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should, by September 30, 2013, establish conditions of licence and a monitoring / compliance program in relation to salmonid enhancement facilities which contains the following minimum elements:

  • mandatory standard operating practices and record keeping;
  • mandatory fish health management plans for all salmon enhancement facilities, whether DFO, provincial, or Community Economic Development Program; and
  • audits / site visits of all enhancement facilities at least once per year by a fish health professional.

This recommendation has been implemented. A full time Fish Health Biologist was hired prior to 2014 to provide operational support for improved fish health standards and practices for all Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) hatcheries.

Conditions of licence established for Pacific Aquaculture Regulation licences for enhancement facilities require recordkeeping and reporting (including mandatory reporting for major mortality events).

Site visits occur regularly during the salmon production cycle to DFO Major Facilities by SEP support biologists, and by the SEP Veterinarian as required. SEP Community Projects are supported by the DFO Community Advisors and the SEP Veterinarian as required.

Each DFO Major Facility has a site specific Fish Health Management Plan. The SEP Community Projects have Best Management Practices to guide their hatchery practices. All of the SEP Facilities follow the conditions of their Pacific Aquaculture Regulations licence which includes a Salmonid Health Management Plan.

Recommendation 22 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should establish and maintain a database of enhancement facility fish health – possibly under the Aquaculture Resource Information Management System (ARIMS) that DFO is constructing for salmon farm data. In future years, DFO should use these data to evaluate the effect of diseases and pathogens at fish enhancement facilities on the health of Fraser River sockeye salmon. DFO should provide access to these data to nongovernment scientists for research purposes.

The Aquatic Animal Health Section (DFO Science) maintains an ACCESS database which contains the results of diagnostic testing for cases received from enhancement hatcheries in the Pacific Region.  The majority of cases that are received are from Salmonid Enhancement Program facilities. This database is internal; however, should someone request information from the database, such as a nongovernment scientist seeking information for research purposes, information would be provided on a case-by-case basis.  DFO has not used these data to evaluate the effect of diseases and pathogens at fish enhancement facilities on the health of Fraser River sockeye salmon. As such, this recommendation is considered to have been implemented in part.

Recommendation 23 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should, by September 30, 2013, complete and make public a risk assessment of the interactions of Fraser River sockeye salmon with enhanced salmon in the marine environment.

This recommendation has been implemented in part and science funding has been allocated to support research into the relationship and risks associated with interactions between wild and farmed salmon. Although the issue of interactions is broader than disease risks, to date DFO’s efforts have focused on developing a formal risk assessment approach to examine disease risks to Fraser River sockeye from salmon farms in the Discovery Islands area. DFO plans to conduct a series of risk assessments on different pathogens. Currently, DFO is conducting a risk assessment on the viral disease infectious hematopoietic necrosis (IHN). This risk assessment is being conducted through a Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) process, which includes participants from outside of DFO. The results of the review will be made public.

The risk assessment is of the health risks posed to wild fish by farmed fish in the Discovery Passage area. Once designed and tested, this approach could be applied to enhancement operations. Additional resources would be required.

Recommendation 24 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should work with the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission or an analogous international organization to address potential interactions in the high seas among wild and enhanced salmon from different countries, including developing plans for enhancement regulation and activities.

This recommendation has been implemented. DFO invests significant resources in salmon-related science and works with the North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission on collaborative salmon-related research.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is examining density-dependent interactions in the North Pacific Ocean.  Provisional Abundance Estimates of Adult Hatchery and Wild Pink, Chum, and Sockeye Salmon by Region of the North Pacific, 1952-2010 was published in April 2015 (available at http://www.npafc.org). A modelling approach is being used to predict age-specific marine growth and survival from salmon biomass and various and oceanographic and climate variables. Additional resources would be required to conduct further research and analysis.

Recommendation 25 - Within 30 days of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans approving the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP), the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should make public the rationale for the harvest rules set out in the Fraser River Sockeye Decision Guidelines section of the IFMP.

This recommendation has been implemented. The IFMP process is an important vehicle to ensure the views of participants in the fishery are taken into account by DFO. In response to consultations with stakeholders and First Nations, DFO has made progress in more clearly describing the rationale for harvest rules through an effort to restructure the IFMP and how information is communicated starting with the 2016/2017 draft IFMP.

In addition, in recent years DFO has included escapement plan options including associated fishery decision guidelines within the draft IFMP for public review and feedback prior to a final decision. Options included within the draft IFMP reflect approaches that support conservation objectives but offer different balances between harvest and rebuilding populations for Fraser sockeye. Feedback received from the public is taken into consideration prior to the release of the final IFMP approved by the Minister. Since 2014, DFO has sent out a letter in June indicating DFO’s approach on key issues/decisions in the final IFMPs to better inform the public.

Recommendation 26 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should, by September 30, 2013, complete its planned review of the Fraser River Sockeye Spawning Initiative model and address the criticisms of the model:

  • whether the maximum total allowable mortality as a function of run size should be 60 percent;
  • whether the model could more explicitly state what values are being weighed and how they are weighed; and
  • whether habitat considerations and large escapements could be brought into escapement planning.

This recommendation has been implemented. DFO will update the Fraser River Sockeye Spawning Initiative (FRSSI) model in order to provide consistency with an updated WSP Implementation Plan. A workshop was held in May 2016 to discuss this work; results are not available yet. DFO is assessing implications of changing Total Allowable Mortality (TAM) levels under certain situations.

In response to consultations with stakeholders and First Nations, DFO has made progress in more clearly documenting the basis for fishery decision guidelines in the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan that is approved by the Minister. The Integrated Fisheries Management Planning process is also an important vehicle to ensure the views of participants in the fishery are taken into account by DFO.

Early versions of the FRSSI model had the ability to weight some values against each other (e.g., catch vs escapement); however, feedback from workshop participants indicated their reluctance to provide personal weightings for use by the model as well as a preference that the weighting of values not occur in the model itself. In response, the FRSSI technical team removed the weighting function from the model in the early 2000s. The resulting FRSSI model outputs are values of interest (e.g. catch and escapement), which the FRSSI workshop process uses to evaluate alternative escapement rules. In essence, the weighting of preferences has moved from a function performed by the model to a function performed by the people involved in the FRSSI workshop process. It is the reason why it is of utmost importance to involve a wide range of participant interests in the FRSSI process.

Regarding habitat considerations, the FRSSI model does not directly incorporate habitat considerations; however, implications of habitat issues can be incorporated by adjusting freshwater productivity indices. To evaluate potential implication of large escapements, the model currently uses the Larkin model to represent long term stock-recruit dynamics of each stock. With the Larkin model, a (large) escapement in one year will not only affect the return 4 years (one generation) later, but also in years following.

Recommendation 27 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada should continue to monitor, at not less than 2010 levels, Fraser River temperature and flow.

DFO has partially implemented this recommendation in that monitoring and forecasting of river temperatures and flow conditions is ongoing, and this information is used to inform fisheries management decisions. Additional science funding has been allocated to support increased monitoring to the 2010 level.

This recommendation also falls within ECCC’s mandate and has been implemented by ECCC.

Recommendation 28 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should continue to contribute to the Pacific Salmon Commission’s test-fishing program so it is capable of operating at the 2010 level.

Test fishing has continued with limited resources; however, this recommendation is considered not to have been implemented.  2010 was an exceptional year, with extremely large returns and an extensive array of fisheries for commercial, recreational and First Nations harvesters. In more recent years (at least 2 out of 4) there has been insufficient abundance to permit commercial or recreational fisheries and only limited food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) fisheries have occurred. In this context, the full suite of test fisheries (which typically involves 11 test fishing platforms or vessels) is large relative to the suite of fisheries occurring in most years.

To support test fisheries in the Fraser River, there is a provision in the Fisheries Act that allows for Use of Fish to fund science and management activities. In 2013, 2014, and 2015 DFO entered into a collaborative agreement with the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) to deliver Fraser River sockeye test fisheries. Given fluctuating returns of sockeye, fish revenues are unlikely to cover costs of the program in many years.

The program is undergoing a technical evaluation in 2016/17 to determine the most efficient and effective program to provide information required to support bilateral fisheries management decisions. Costs of the recommended test fishing program and the level of ongoing support will need to be determined at that time. A significant contribution made by Canada was key to covering test fishing deficits incurred in 2015.

Recommendation 29 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should continue to provide sufficient funding to enable the Pacific Salmon Commission’s hydroacoustic facility at Mission and DFO’s hydroacoustic facility at Qualark to operate at the 2010 level.

Facilities continue to operate; however, not at the 2010 level. As such, this recommendation is considered not to have been implemented. It should be noted, however, that each year the operations are planned to address the anticipated returns, e.g. programs are extended when a large return of late run sockeye is expected.

DFO supports ensuring that there is adequate hydroacoustic information to inform fisheries management decisions for Fraser sockeye.  Information from these facilities informs in-season management and post-season reviews by providing an estimate of the number of fish passing. The Mission facility has been supported through the operating budget of the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC), which is jointly funded by Canada and the United States. As such, project funding levels are decided bilaterally. 

Qualark operations have been supported through funding from the PSC’s Southern Endowment Fund with significant in-kind contributions from DFO. The Southern Endowment Fund was established to support research projects and is not intended to fund regular operations of the PSC or either country.  The research phase of Qualark is reaching completion.

A review of the Mission and Qualark hydroacoustic operations is currently underway. This review is taking place under the direction of a bilateral Fraser Strategic Review Committee, with the objective of determining the optimal hydroacoustic program that could be implemented with regular Mission hydroacoustic budget, and is due to be completed by fall 2016. Additional science funding has been allocated to support Pacific salmon monitoring and could be used to provide partial to support for the Qualark facility costs. It is possible that the additional resources could support a modified Mission/Qualark configuration, which will be evaluated as part of the review. Ongoing support of the two facilities would require additional resources if more cost effective configurations are not possible.

Recommendation 30 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should:

  • designate an individual to coordinate scientific, educational, and management efforts in relation to selective fishing practices; and
  • study post-release survival rates for all fisheries.

While no single individual is designated, DFO has partially implemented this recommendation in that DFO takes a coordinated approach to selective fishing efforts and to conducting studies on post-release survival rates on a priority basis. In addition, DFO will continue to collaborate with academic partners as well as other organizations on this aspect of selective fishing.

In June 2016, two scientific papers regarding fishing-related incidental mortality for Pacific salmon were reviewed by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat. The papers will be published in summer 2016.

Recommendation 31 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should ensure that all Fraser River sockeye salmon fisheries are monitored at an enhanced level (achieving catch estimates within 5 percent of actual harvest, with greater than 20 percent independent validation). To meet this objective, DFO should:

  • enforce penalties for non-compliance with catch-reporting requirements;
  • confirm the role of fishery officers in reporting illegal harvest numbers to fisheries managers and establish a system to incorporate such numbers into official catch estimates;
  • establish a program for independent catch validation;
  • provide sufficient and stable funding to support enhanced catch-monitoring programs; and
  • treat commercial and Aboriginal economic opportunity fishers equally regarding any requirement of fishers to contribute toward the cost of catch monitoring, subject to any accommodation required in support of an exercise of an Aboriginal right.

Fraser sockeye salmon fisheries are monitored, but not at an enhanced level. As such, this recommendation is considered not to have been implemented.

Under the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (PICFI), DFO Pacific Region has developed a Fishery Monitoring and Catch Reporting Strategic Framework, which the Conservation and Protection (C&P) branch has contributed to.  The framework sets out a verification process to be used to assess that the catch numbers collected are accurate; however, a C&P program to implement the framework has not yet been established as C&P does not have the resources to provide a dedicated verification function. C&P currently allocates its resources in a manner that concentrates on the highest priority fisheries activities, those being conservation closures and weaker stock management or protection measures. To increase the confidence that DFO and the public have in the catch numbers that DFO collects, a C&P verification program would be required. Fisheries Officers are authorized under the Fisheries Act to compel information from harvesters, who may be subject to prosecution and penalties under the Act if they provide inaccurate information.

A program to implement the framework would require additional resources.

Recommendation 32 – With respect to escapement enumeration for Fraser River sockeye salmon returning to their spawning grounds, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should:

  • Continue enumeration at not less than the level of precision recommended by DFO Stock Assessment staff for Fraser River sockeye spawning populations in 2010; and
  • Determine the calibration (or expansion index) for spawning populations in the 25,000–75,000 range.

Escapement enumeration continues, but not at the 2010 levels due to limited resources. As such, this recommendation is considered not to have been implemented.

DFO has supported decisions made by the Pacific Salmon Commission to fund annual calibration studies through 2015. It is anticipated that this work will be required for a minimum of 10 more years. Additional resources would be required for DFO to continue its support of this work.

Recommendation 33 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should double, from two to four, the number of lakes in the Fraser River basin in which it conducts annual lake stock assessments as well as annual monitoring programs to estimate fall fry populations.

Currently, DFO routinely assesses two lakes per year on average and so this recommendation is considered not to have been implemented. Annual lake assessments include fall fry assessments, which are conducted on a strategic cycle (e.g., every two to four years). Additional science funding has been allocated to support fisheries monitoring and stock assessment, which will be used to support increasing the number of lakes in which DFO conducts annual stock assessments.

Recommendation 34 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should allocate funding for stock assessment of other salmon species that share the Fraser River with sockeye salmon.

While DFO does stock assessment work for select chinook and coho salmon stocks, there are significant gaps that would require a significant reinvestment in assessment of these species. As such, this recommendation is considered not to have been implemented.

Recommendation 35 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should support the involvement of members of First Nations in escapement enumeration and other stock assessment activities in their traditional territories.

This recommendation has been implemented. There has been extensive engagement of First Nations by DFO in stock assessment activities and DFO supports continued First Nations engagement in this and escapement enumeration work.

Recommendation 36 - Following consultation with First Nations, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should:

  • articulate a clear working definition for food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) fishing; and
  • assess, and adjust if necessary, all existing FSC allocations in accordance with that definition.

Additional resources and extensive consultations would be required for implementation, and so this recommendation has not been implemented.

DFO has adjusted food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) allocations on an individual First Nation basis, based on individual consultations and negotiations with First Nations, and where First Nations have requested it. Currently, FSC fisheries needs are assessed and adjusted based on considerations including population size, harvest levels, conservation concerns, species availability, species abundance, and allocations of other First Nations.

Recommendation 37 - In the context of negotiating an agreement with a specific First Nation, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should encourage the First Nation to provide DFO with information on its practices, customs, and traditions that is relevant in determining its food, social, and ceremonial needs.

This recommendation is consistent with current DFO practices and so it is considered to have been implemented.

Recommendation 38 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should, by September 30, 2013, complete its analysis of the socioeconomic implications of implementing the various share-based management models for the Fraser River sockeye fishery, decide which model is preferable, and, promptly thereafter, implement that model.

This recommendation has been substantially implemented. The Department has undertaken considerable consultations with commercial harvesters and First Nations to update commercial salmon allocation arrangements over the last several years as part of work to update the Commercial Salmon Allocation Framework (CSAF). In undertaking this work, the Department’s broad interests are to support changes to the CSAF that can improve the long term sustainability of Pacific wild salmon, help commercial fishery participants achieve greater economic benefit, and create more resilient commercial salmon fisheries. As part of this process, the Department considered suggested changes to current allocation arrangements and evaluated possible outcomes against several objectives. These objectives included: improving compliance with conservation objectives; improving the stability of commercial salmon allocation arrangements; providing more flexibility to licence holders to adapt to uncertain business markets and fish abundance; assisting in catch reporting and monitoring; and promoting collaboration among licence holders, First Nations and the Department.

In 2015 and based on recommendations from First Nations Salmon Coordinating Committee (FN SCC) and the Commercial Salmon Advisory Board (CSAB), the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada approved several changes to the commercial salmon allocation framework including:

  • Defined shares for commercial fleets at the species, fleet and fishery production areas for a period of 5 years with provisions to review the allocations after year 4, starting in 2015;
  • A set of principles and operational guidelines that would form the basis of incremental testing of flexibilities (alternatives fishing locations and methods) to harvest shares, with potential for testing starting in 2016 prior to wider implementation; and
  • The development of a revised collaborative advisory process to coordinate the collective interests of First Nations economic fishery and A-H commercial fleet fisheries.

These changes confirm allocations for each of the commercial fleets for a 5 year period, including Fraser River sockeye, and the approach for establishing shares for First Nations commercial fisheries based on voluntarily relinquished commercial salmon licences. In addition, commercial harvesters and First Nations have agreed that each harvest group should determine the best approach to harvest their defined share of the fishery subject to an evaluation by the Department for consistency with key principles (e.g. conservation) and operational requirements. This approach sets out clearly defined shares of the resource that harvest groups must adhere to but provides flexibility to develop harvest approaches that best meet the interests of harvesters consistent with conservation objectives and measures to ensure compliance with harvest shares.

Since these updates were approved, First Nations SCC and CSAB members have continued to meet with the Department to consider opportunities for implementing these changes beginning in 2016. Progress has also been made through operating demonstration fisheries in both freshwater and marine areas.

Recommendation 39 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should conduct the research and analysis necessary to determine whether in-river demonstration fisheries are, or are capable of, achieving tangible conservation benefits or providing economic benefits to First Nations in an economically viable or sustainable way before it takes further action in expanding in-river demonstration fisheries.

This recommendation has been implemented.  A financial review of in-river salmon fisheries was completed in 2014, which showed that these fisheries are generally profitable, although at a much smaller scale than marine fisheries.  Conservation remains the Department’s highest priority in providing fisheries opportunities and demonstration fisheries that have been provided to date have been able to achieve conservation requirements set out by DFO. In many cases, the location or gears used by the demonstration fisheries has permitted more discrete harvest of target populations with lower incidental impacts on other stocks with the species, as well as by-catch of other species. DFO will continue to assess the economic viability and feasibility of in-river commercial fisheries and to authorize demonstration fisheries on an annual basis consistent with the scale of relinquishments from the commercial fishery.

Recommendation 40 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should develop its future policies and practices on the reallocation of the commercial Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery (including allocations for marine and in-river fisheries) in an inclusive and transparent manner, following a strategic and integrated planning process such as Action Step 4.2 of the Wild Salmon Policy.

This recommendation has been implemented in that DFO endeavours to provide greater transparency and inclusivity in the policies and practices associated with the allocation of the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery. For example, work on the Commercial Salmon Allocation Framework occurred using a consultative process that was transparent and inclusive. Stakeholders and First Nations were consulted and provided recommendations for moving forward on the allocation approach. The 2016 IFMP for Salmon will integrate the allocation recommendations into the plan and process.

Recommendation 41 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should complete implementation of the 1986 Habitat Policy. By March 31, 2013, DFO should, for the benefit of Fraser River sockeye salmon, set out a detailed plan addressing these points:

  • How DFO will work toward a net gain in productive capacity of Fraser River sockeye habitat by conserving existing habitat, restoring damaged habitat, and developing new habitats;
  • How DFO will measure the amount of productive capacity of Fraser River sockeye habitat in order to assess whether the net gain objective is being achieved on an ongoing basis;
  • How DFO will take into account the cumulative impact on Fraser River sockeye habitat potentially arising from individual projects that are currently considered only on a project-by-project basis, if at all;
  • How the tasks will be performed, and by whom;
  • When the tasks will be completed; and
  • How much implementation will cost, as set out in a detailed itemization of costs.

The Habitat Management Program should coordinate with the new associate regional director general (proposed in Recommendation 4) to ensure consistency in implementing this Recommendation and Recommendation 8.

This recommendation is out of date but may be reconsidered in future. As a result of the Fisheries Act amendments in 2012, the Habitat Policy and Habitat Management Program were replaced with the Fisheries Protection Policy Statement and Fisheries Protection Program, respectively. As a result of these changes, the goal of the Fisheries Protection Program in applying the Policy Statement is to maintain the sustainability and ongoing productivity of commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries, and the focus of the program is making regulatory decisions under section 35(2)(b) of the Fisheries Act.

Given the changes to legislation, policy, and programs, recommendations with respect to the 1986 Habitat Policy and Habitat Management Program are out of date and have not been implemented. As per the Minister’s mandate letter, DFO plans to review the previous government’s changes to the Fisheries Act, to “restore lost protections, and incorporate modern safeguards.”  At such time as the review is completed, this recommendation may be reconsidered.

Recommendation 42 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should strengthen the monitoring component of DFO’s Habitat Management Program as follows:

  • require that project proponents relying on operational statements and best management practices notify DFO before beginning work on their proposed projects;
  • fully implement compliance monitoring of projects whether or not the projects are reviewed in advance by DFO, including those falling under the Riparian Areas Regulation;
  • implement effectiveness monitoring, including for activities under the Riparian Areas Regulation; and
  • give Habitat Management Program staff discretion to require, on a project-by-project basis, measures that are additional to those set out in operational statements and best management practices.

See response to Recommendation 41.

Recommendation 43 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should encourage the Province of British Columbia to resolve differences of interpretation on the application of section 9 of the provincial Water Act and the provincial Riparian Areas Regulation to ensure that there are no physical gaps in coverage of the Water Act and the Riparian Areas Regulation.

This recommendation falls primarily under the mandate of BC. This recommendation was considered by the Province in the drafting of the new Water Sustainability Act. BC’s new Water Sustainability Act received Royal Assent on May 29, 2014, and was brought into force by Regulation in January, 2016. 

As part of implementing the Fisheries Protection Program, DFO will continue to coordinate and work with the Province of BC on a variety of areas of common interest (including, but not limited to forestry sector activities, and with regard to the BC Water Act and Riparian Areas Regulation).

BC provided a response to the Cohen Commission recommendations on March 22, 2013 (https://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/bc-responds-to-cohen-commission-recommendations).

Recommendation 44 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should encourage the Province of British Columbia

  • to continue to monitor compliance with the provincial Riparian Areas Regulation;
  • to conduct effectiveness monitoring of projects completed in compliance with the Riparian Areas Regulation; and
  • to consider DFO’s input into the impact of Riparian Areas Regulation setback variances on fish and fish habitat.

This recommendation falls primarily under the mandate of BC. The Province continues to conduct compliance monitoring of projects. The inter-governmental cooperation agreement between the Province, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada defines the respective roles of the parties in compliance and effectiveness monitoring. Recommendations made by Fisheries and Oceans Canada with respect to setbacks need to be consistent with the agreement.

As part of implementing the Fisheries Protection Program, DFO will continue to coordinate and work with the Province of BC on a variety of areas of common interest.

BC provided a response to the Cohen Commission recommendations on March 22, 2013 (https://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/bc-responds-to-cohen-commission-recommendations).

Recommendation 45 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should work with the Province of British Columbia to achieve the Riparian Areas Regulation target of 90 percent compliance with 90 percent confidence levels.

This recommendation falls primarily under the mandate of BC. The province meets its commitments in current intergovernmental agreements to achieve Riparian Area Regulation compliance targets and will continue with an existing adaptive management strategy to achieve 90% compliance with 90% confidence limits.

As part of implementing the Fisheries Protection Program, DFO will continue to coordinate and work with the Province of BC on a variety of areas of common interest.

BC provided a response to the Cohen Commission recommendations on March 22, 2013 (https://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/bc-responds-to-cohen-commission-recommendations).

Recommendation 46 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should encourage the Province of British Columbia to amend the Riparian Areas Regulation

  • to require provincial approval of setback variances; and
  • to require local governments to enforce compliance with the assessment reports on which development proposals are approved.

This recommendation falls primarily under the mandate of BC. The Province is leading the development of proposed amendments to the Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR) and is currently making progress on implementing these recommendations. DFO is coordinating with BC to provide comments on their proposed amendments to the RAR.

As part of implementing the Fisheries Protection Program, DFO will continue to coordinate and work with the Province of BC on a variety of areas of common interest.

BC provided a response to the Cohen Commission recommendations on March 22, 2013 (https://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/bc-responds-to-cohen-commission-recommendations).

Recommendation 47 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should encourage the Province of British Columbia to complete modernization of the Water Act, which would include the following points:

  • regulation of groundwater extraction in a manner that addresses the needs of Fraser River sockeye;
  • increased reporting and monitoring of water use; and
  • allocation of sufficient resources to complete the modernization process.

This recommendation falls primarily under the mandate of BC. BC’s new Water Sustainability Act received Royal Assent on May 29, 2014, and was brought into force by Regulation in January, 2016.

DFO was consulted with respect to BC’s Water Sustainability Act.  The Act received Royal Assent on May 29, 2014. Information regarding the Act is available at: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/

As part of implementing the Fisheries Protection Program, DFO will continue to coordinate and work with the Province of BC on a variety of areas of common interest.

BC provided a response to the Cohen Commission recommendations on March 22, 2013 (https://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/bc-responds-to-cohen-commission-recommendations).

Recommendation 48 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should re-engage in managing the impact of forestry activities on Fraser River sockeye by:

  • reviewing proposed forestry activities that may cause harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat under section 35 of the Fisheries Act, protocols for receiving operational plans / referrals, riparian standards for small streams and their tributaries, and the circumstances in which watershed assessments are required; and
  • identifying an individual in DFO with regional responsibility to serve as forestry contact person for the Pacific Region to provide support to Habitat Management Program area offices, to provide a consistent approach throughout the region with respect to forestry activities and referrals, and to select policy issues and make recommendations to senior management.

This recommendation has been implemented in part. As a result of Fisheries Act amendments in 2012, the Habitat Policy and Habitat Management Program were replaced with the Fisheries Protection Policy Statement and Fisheries Protection Program, respectively.  Under the revised Fisheries Act, there is a prohibition against causing serious harm to fish that are part of or support a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery. To support these changes, the Fisheries Protection Policy Statement was introduced in November 2013. The goal of DFO in applying the Policy Statement is to provide for the sustainability and ongoing productivity of commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries. To meet the objectives of the Policy Statement, DFO will be guided by a number of principles, such as consideration of the ecosystem context including cumulative effects.

As part of implementing the Fisheries Protection Program, DFO will continue to coordinate and work with the Province of BC on a variety of areas of common interest.   However, given the changes to legislation, policy, and programs, recommendations with respect to the 1986 Habitat Policy and Habitat Management Program are now out of date.  As per the Minister’s mandate letter, DFO plans to review the previous government’s changes to the Fisheries Act, restore lost protections, and incorporate modern safeguards.  At such time as this review is complete, DFO may revisit this recommendation. 

Recommendation 49 - Responsibility for decision making about post-emergency mitigation and long-term monitoring of the impact of marine spills should be moved from the Canadian Coast Guard to the Environment Canada co-chair of the Regional Environmental Emergency Team.

This recommendation is considered out of date. Since 2012, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has moved to a nationally centralized structure for delivering its scientific and technical advice, thus ending the Regional Environmental Emergency Team (REET) model. ECCC has not been co-chairing the REET since 2011, when it was deemed outside of its core mandate. ECCC’s National Environmental Emergencies Centre is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to provide scientific and technical advice to responders, leads, and other implicated agencies in the event of an emergency pollution incident, including marine spills. In cases where longer-term environmental monitoring of fish and fish habitat or ecosystems is required, DFO remains responsible.

Recommendation 50 - Membership of the Regional Environmental Emergency Team should always include the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Habitat Management Program (Ecosystem Management Branch) and Science staff.

This recommendation is considered out of date, given that the REET model has ended (see Recommendation 49).

Recommendation 51 - The Environment Canada co-chair of the Regional Environmental Emergency Team should, when considering whether to follow the team’s advice regarding post-emergency mitigation and long-term monitoring, take account of the impact of the marine spill on fish and fish habitat, logistics, ecosystem values, cost recovery, and socio-economic effects.

This recommendation is considered out of date, given that the REET model has ended (see Recommendation 49). ECCC provides scientific and technical advice to responders, leads, and other implicated agencies in the event of an emergency pollution incident, including marine spills, through its National Environmental Emergencies Centre.

Recommendation 52 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should identify an individual in DFO who has regional responsibility to act as a liaison with the Canadian Coast Guard, Environment Canada, and the Province of British Columbia on marine habitat spill response.

Positions in DFO have been identified to take on this responsibility at the executive level and on a rotating basis at the response coordination/technical level represented initially from within the Fisheries Protection Program. The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), a special operating agency within DFO, is the lead federal agency for the response component of Canada’s Marine Oil Spill Preparedness Response Regime. The Environmental Response program monitors or manages the clean-up efforts for any ship-source or mystery source pollution incident in waters under Canadian jurisdiction. CCG works collaboratively with ECCC and the Province of BC with respect to marine spill response.

Recommendation 53 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Environment Canada (EC) should co-operate in regularly testing and monitoring fresh and marine water for contaminants of emerging concern and for endocrine-disrupting chemicals affecting Fraser River sockeye salmon.

This recommendation has been implemented by ECCC to the extent that it aligns with ECCC’s mandate.

Through its National Contaminants Advisory Group, DFO funds research on the biological effects of contaminants. This includes impacts on fish species like Pacific sockeye salmon.

Recommendation 54 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should encourage the Province of British Columbia

  • to require users of pesticides in forestry and agriculture to record, and report annually to the province, the areas where pesticides were applied and the amounts used; and
  • to develop and maintain a pesticide-use database that includes information on location, volume / concentration, and timing of use, and make that information publicly available.

This recommendation falls primarily under the mandate of BC. BC has a system in place to monitor, report, and disseminate pesticide use. The Province requires users to report pesticide use, and has the ability to provide information on total use. Standards of use are consistent with Health Canada requirements.

As part of implementing the Fisheries Protection Program, DFO will continue to coordinate and work with the Province of BC on a variety of areas of common interest.

BC provided a response to the Cohen Commission recommendations on March 22, 2013 (https://news.gov.bc.ca/stories/bc-responds-to-cohen-commission-recommendations).

Recommendation 55 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada should co-operatively:

  • ensure that environmental quality monitoring and environmental effects monitoring related to pulp and paper, metal mining, and municipal wastewater discharges include consideration of Fraser River sockeye salmon, and the two federal departments should work with the Province of British Columbia and with regional and municipal governments to that end;
  • work with BC municipalities on a public education campaign aimed at reducing toxicants in municipal wastewater, especially pharmaceuticals and personal-care products; and
  • immediately recommence their participation in the Metro Vancouver Environmental Monitoring Committee.

This recommendation has been implemented by ECCC in part, to the extent that it aligns with ECCC’s mandate.

Recommendation 56 - Canada should promptly finalize the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations to include:

  • public reporting on environmental effects monitoring results;
  • ongoing environmental effects monitoring requirements similar to those found in the Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations and in the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations; and
  • environmental effects monitoring of contaminants of emerging concern and endocrine-disrupting chemicals discharging from large wastewater treatment facilities.

This recommendation falls under the mandate of ECCC and has been implemented.

Recommendation 57 - Canada should finalize a regulatory strategy to limit the impact of wastewater bio solids on fisheries resources.

This recommendation falls within the mandate of ECCC and has been implemented.

Recommendation 58 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should, at a minimum, fund its enforcement activities, including overflight, on-the-ground, and on-the-water fishery officer presence, to ensure the same level of enforcement that was achieved in response to the Honourable Bryan Williams’ 2004 Southern Salmon Fishery Post-Season Review, plus amounts necessary for aquaculture-related enforcement.

While work has been done to continue this work using sunset program funding, there is limited ability to continue this when this funding expires in 2017, resulting in a significant reduction of enforcement. As such, funding would be required to implement the recommendation.

Through the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (PICFI), in place since 2007, DFO invested in ongoing efforts to patrol areas including the Fraser River to deter illegal fishing activities. This followed the recommendations of the Honourable Bryan Williams' 2004 Southern Salmon Fishery Post-Season Review, as identified in Recommendation 58. Activities include air, ground and on-water surveillance. A stable and sustainable enforcement presence supports departmental management objectives and provides increased public confidence that fish stocks are being protected. DFO uses a blend of community outreach, patrols, and emerging intelligence-based investigation competencies for major investigations.

Funding under the British Columbia Aquaculture Regulatory Program has provided Conservation and Protection (C&P) with 12 dedicated staff and supporting budgets for aquaculture enforcement in B.C. If there were an expansion of salmon farming, this could put pressure on those resources and would need to be a consideration in reviewing any expansion of activities.

PICFI funding was renewed for one year in Budget 2016 and will sunset in March 2017. Additional resources would be required to continue the level of C&P monitoring currently in place past 2016-17.

Recommendation 59 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada should, by September 30, 2013, renegotiate their relationship in regard to Environment Canada’s responsibility to enforce section 36 of the Fisheries Act in the Pacific Region in accordance with the 2009 report from the office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. Clarification should include each department’s respective roles and responsibilities with respect to communication, sharing of information, and joint planning of Fisheries Act activities.

This recommendation has been implemented. Amendments to the Fisheries Act in 2012 allowed for the Governor in Council to designate another minister as responsible for the administration and enforcement of section 36(3) to (6) of the Fisheries Act. This provides the authority to now clarify the relationship between ECCC and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in regard to section 36 of the Fisheries Act.

The Minister of the Environment’s responsibilities for the Fisheries Act were formalized by an Order in Council published in Canada Gazette, Part II on March 12, 2014 (the “Designation Order”). As a result of the Designation Order, the Minister of the Environment is now legally responsible for the overall administration and enforcement of the provisions of the Fisheries Act related to the deposit of deleterious substances (sections 36 (3) to (6)). The only exception is the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard remains responsible and accountable for the administration and enforcement of Section 36 (3) to (6) of the Fisheries Act for all purposes and subject matters related to aquaculture facilities, as well as the control or eradication of aquatic invasive species or aquatic species that constitute a pest to the fisheries.

Recommendation 60 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada should improve the ability of their on-the-ground staff to co-operate and respond to occurrences by conducting joint training and joint investigation post-mortems and by sharing resources and expenses in remote locations where feasible.

This recommendation falls within ECCC’s mandate and is in the process of being implemented. Where appropriate and where opportunities exist, DFO will consider joint training opportunities and communication protocols aimed at improving effectiveness of on-the-ground staff to do their jobs and enhance the overall working relationship between DFO and ECCC.

Recommendation 61 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should restore powers of inspection to Habitat Management Program staff.

DFO has not implemented this recommendation to date, but is considering the recommendation in the context of the Minister’s Mandate Letter.

As a result of Fisheries Act amendments in 2012, the Habitat Policy and Habitat Management Program were replaced with the Fisheries Protection Policy and Fisheries Protection Program respectively. Given changes to legislation, policy, and programs, recommendations with respect to the 1986 Habitat Policy and Habitat Management Program are out of date. As per the Minister’s mandate letter, DFO plans to review the previous government’s changes to the Fisheries Act, restore lost protections, and incorporate modern safeguards.  At such time as this review is complete, DFO may revisit this recommendation.

Currently, DFO’s National Habitat Compliance Protocol identifies C&P staff as Fisheries Officers and Inspectors and as leads in cases where enforcement is required. C&P staff typically rely on Ecosystem Management biologists for advice and expertise to direct and inform enforcement action.

This approach is consistent with past recommendations of external reviews of the programs, and responds to health and safety concerns; by ensuring a clear differentiation between the functions and responsibilities of DFO’s enforcement and regulatory project review staff.

Recommendation 62 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should re-establish within the Conservation and Protection Branch in the Pacific Region at least one specialized habitat fishery officer whose duties would include

  • acting as the go-to person for habitat occurrences and investigations throughout the region;
  • working closely with the Habitat Management Program with access to its Program Activity Tracking for Habitat database;
  • overseeing the training and mentoring of fishery officers for habitat investigations; and
  • recording habitat occurrences and ensuring that there are responses to them.

Although the Habitat Management Program aspect of this recommendation is out of date, DFO supports implementing the other aspects of this recommendation. Doing so would require additional resources. To date, this recommendation has not been implemented.

Recommendation 63 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should not include in fishing licences a clause that allows for retention of “mortally wounded” Fraser River sockeye salmon.

This clause was removed in 2011 and was replaced with, “All efforts and attempts shall be made to return all non-target species including steelhead and sturgeon to the water alive and unharmed.”  As such, this recommendation is considered to have been implemented.

Recommendation 64 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should undertake or commission research on Fraser River sockeye salmon smolts at the mouth of the Fraser River estuary, before they enter the Strait of Georgia, to determine stock / Conservation Unit abundance, health, condition, and rates of mortality.

This recommendation has been implemented. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been collecting juvenile sockeye salmon at the mouth of the Fraser River since 2012 to determine the abundance, health, and condition of different conservation units prior to entering the marine environment.

Recommendation 65 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should undertake or commission research, in collaboration with academic researchers and, if possible, the Pacific Salmon Commission or another appropriate organization, into where and when significant mortality occurs in the near-shore marine environment, through studies of the outmigration from the mouth of the Fraser River through to the coastal Gulf of Alaska, including the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait, the west coast of Vancouver Island, Johnstone Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound, and Hecate Strait. Studies should examine:

  • abundance, health, condition, and rates of mortality of Fraser River sockeye salmon;
  • biological, chemical, and physical oceanographic variables, including water temperature, the presence or absence of harmful algal blooms, and disease;
  • predators, pathogens, competition, and interactions with enhanced salmon affecting Fraser River sockeye salmon; and
  • contaminants, especially contaminants of emerging concern, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and complex mixtures.

This recommendation has been implemented and new science funding has been allocated to further support research activities in this area. DFO invests significant resources in salmon-related science, which is used to inform fisheries management decision-making. DFO also works with others such as the Pacific Salmon Commission and the Pacific Salmon Foundation on issues of common interest (e.g., factors affecting the productivity of sockeye and chinook salmon), and international bodies such as the North Pacific Anadromous Fisheries Commission on collaborative salmon-related research.

DFO currently conducts research and actively collaborates with government agencies and academic researchers in Canada and the United States to examine aspects of distribution, abundance and biology of juvenile salmon, including Fraser River sockeye, and associated ecosystems. This includes the collection of juvenile salmon and associated oceanographic variables from the Strait of Georgia to Hecate Strait by DFO and in Alaska by US scientists using various platforms, and an assessment of bird predation on juvenile salmon (DFO, Pacific Salmon Commission, Pacific Salmon Foundation, ECCC, and Industry funded).

DFO provided $2 million to the Pacific Salmon Foundation in 2015/16 for the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project to improve the understanding of chinook and coho salmon in southern BC. This contribution supported an important part of a multi-year research project, with results expected to be published over the next two years. 

Health and condition (measured through histopathology, gene expression, protein biomarkers, and clinical measures in blood and gill) and epidemiological patterns of microbe distributions are being assessed in sockeye salmon and hatchery enhanced and wild chinook and coho salmon along the migration trajectory from natal rearing areas within the Fraser River through the Queen Charlotte Sound in the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative. Epidemiological analyses of these data will provide insight into the potential for microbes exchanged between enhanced and wild fish.

Recommendation 66 – In furtherance of Canada’s understanding about what regulates Fraser River sockeye abundance and distribution, Canada should propose an international, integrated ecosystem research program to measure biological, chemical, and physical oceanographic variables in the offshore Gulf of Alaska. Some or all of the research would be conducted in collaboration with academic researchers, the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES), and/or the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission.

This recommendation is directed at the Government of Canada; however, work has been undertaken by DFO to identify possible activities. Funding would be required in order to implement this recommendation.

Through its activities within the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission, Canada has proposed the establishment of an International Year of the Salmon (IYS) as an intensive burst of internationally coordinated, interdisciplinary, scientific research focused on salmon, and their relation to people. New science funding has been provided to support research partnerships, like IYS.

This program is being developed within the next 2-3 years by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission in collaboration with government, academic, and non-government organization partners within and outside Canada. 

Recommendation 67 – The fish health research priorities of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should reflect its responsibility for the conservation of wild fish. To that end, DFO’s science managers should encourage innovation and new research into novel diseases and other conditions affecting wild fish, beyond the interests of specific “clients” such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or aquaculture management.

While some work has been done that aligns with this recommendation, it is viewed as not implemented because additional resources would be required to continue and expand this work.

The fish health research priorities of DFO reflect DFO’s responsibility for conservation of wild fish. DFO’s current fish health research priorities for BC focus on the study of pathogens and parasites present on salmon farms and their effects on wild salmonids, especially sockeye salmon.

DFO also supports the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Salmon Foundation, and Genome BC funded) which is conducting large scale assessments of microbes carried by farmed and wild salmon (sockeye, chinook and coho) and examining their potential for impacting the health and condition of salmon.

DFO actively encourages the use of new research tools to diagnose and study disease and other conditions affecting wild fish. For example, the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative has developed and validated a microfluidics-based microbe monitoring platform that allows for very cost effective and rapid screening of samples for 45 microbes. DFO has and continues to fund or co-fund research programs that use other types of advanced genomic techniques to examine host-pathogen/parasite interactions, salmon condition and performance and microbe genetic diversity. These programs are conducted in collaboration with national and international experts from universities and other research organizations.

Recommendation 68 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should undertake or commission research into the health of Fraser River sockeye salmon, including the following issues:

  • determining, in conjunction with the research proposed in Recommendations 64 and 65, what pathogens are encountered by Fraser River sockeye salmon along their entire migratory route, and the cumulative effects of these pathogens on Fraser River sockeye salmon;
  • the hypothesis that diseases are transmitted from farmed salmon to wild sockeye;
  • the hypothesis that diseases are transmitted from salmonid enhancement facility salmon to wild sockeye; and
  • the thresholds of sea lice infection and resilience in sockeye and the patterns of sea lice distribution and infection on juvenile sockeye.

While some work has been done that aligns with this recommendation and additional science funding has been provided to further work in this area, it is viewed as not implemented because additional resources would be required to continue and expand this work to fully address the recommendation.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is engaged in a number of initiatives that are assisting to determine what pathogens are encountered by Fraser River sockeye salmon along their entire migratory route, and the cumulative effects of these pathogens on Fraser River sockeye salmon.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is funding or co-funding several projects that are examining the health status of Fraser River sockeye salmon. DFO provides co-funding and other support for the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative which is examining sockeye salmon collected along their migratory route for the presence of 45 microbes. The Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research (PARR) and Aquaculture Collaborative Research Development Program are supporting sockeye health assessments as part of ongoing studies into juvenile sockeye migratory behavior and interactions with salmon farms. DFO provided funding under the Genomic Research and Development Initiative (GRDI) and PARR programs to support research that has examined the impact of co-infections on the ability of sockeye salmon to respond to subsequent infection with pathogens. The Strategic Salmon Health Initiative plans to combine microbe data with microarray studies from the Genome BC funded FishManOmics project, and biomarkers identified in the GRDI-funded Genomic Research and Development Initiative Fit Chips project to determine the linkages between microbe detection and genes associated with specific stressors. The effects of pathogens on predation rates of sockeye salmon by Auklets is also being examined by the Strategic Salmon Health Initiative.

As well, a DFO Science Task Team is specifically evaluating the risk to Fraser River sockeye from pathogens transferred from Atlantic salmon fish farms. Ongoing research is being conducted in wild/farmed fish health interactions, particularly in the BC context.

Recommendation 69 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should undertake or commission research into the life history of the Harrison River sockeye population.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada currently conducts limited research to examine aspects of marine distribution, abundance and biology of juvenile Harrison River sockeye salmon and associated ecosystems. Additional resources would be required to continue and expand this work to address the life history of Harrison River sockeye and, as such, this recommendation is viewed as not implemented.

Recommendation 70 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should initiate, along with the appropriate state agencies in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska, a long-term working group devoted to coordinating the collection and analysis of data on the productivity of their sockeye salmon populations. The working group should invite a knowledgeable and independent entity, such as the Pacific Salmon Commission, to act as coordinator for the working group.

A long-term working group has not been established and so this recommendation is considered not to have been implemented. DFO has ongoing and long-standing relationships with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other government and academic partners. Some work has been done on Salmon Ocean Ecology to coordinate the collection and analysis of data on the productivity of salmon, including sockeye salmon, in coastal ecosystems. A newsgroup has been created to exchange information on ongoing research surveys and current issues on marine ecosystems.

Recommendation 71 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should develop and carry out a research strategy to assess the cumulative effects of stressors on Fraser River sockeye salmon and their habitats. Cumulative effects may include multiple sources of a stressor, exposure to stressors over the life cycle of Fraser River sockeye, or exposure to multiple types of stressors interacting in a cumulative manner.

Preliminary work has been done to determine how implementation of this recommendation could occur and additional science funding has been provided to further work on cumulative impacts of ecosystem stressors; however, this recommendation is viewed as not implemented.

In 2014, DFO Science Branch held a two day workshop to initiate a framework to guide development of research on cumulative effects of stressors on Fraser River sockeye salmon, and on other species of Pacific salmon.  An outcome of this effort was the development of a model governance structure to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and oversee proposed research. DFO is working with ECCC and the Province of BC to coordinate efforts with similar developments in those organizations. Sustained effort on this initiative would require support to implement. Research projects into cumulative effects modelling approaches which have been funded by the Pacific Salmon Commission and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council are in progress and DFO is considering other collaborative research opportunities relevant to health of Fraser River sockeye salmon.

Research projects into cumulative effects modelling approaches, funded by the Pacific Salmon Commission and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council are in progress. Additional resources would be required to continue and expand this work.

Recommendation 72 - The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should consider the cumulative effects of stressors on Fraser River sockeye health and habitat in its management of fisheries and fish habitat.

Implementation of this recommendation is dependent on identifying cumulative effects of stressors as identified in Recommendation 71. As such, it has not been implemented.

Recommendation 73 – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should develop and maintain a central inventory of information about existing and new Fraser River sockeye salmon research, including who has custody of it and where it can be located. DFO should make the inventory available to the public, and make the information in the inventory available to non-DFO scientific researchers.

Preliminary work has begun to determine how implementation of this recommendation could work; however, funding would be required to support it on an ongoing basis. As such, this recommendation is considered not to have been implemented.

Implementation of this recommendation is practical for internal research data but DFO does not control the access to data collected by external researchers. DFO has started to provide salmon-related data on DFO’s open access portal, with productivity and escapement databases submitted. DFO and the Pacific Salmon Foundation are collaborating on a Salish Sea database that is housed at the University of British Columbia.

Recommendation 74 – To improve future sustainability of the Fraser River sockeye, the Government of Canada should champion, within Canada and internationally, reasonable steps to address the causes of warming waters and climate change.

This recommendation is directed at the Government of Canada; however, it should be noted that DFO is working in the context of an ECCC-led, whole of government effort, to address climate change impacts in aquatic ecosystems.

Budget 2016 proposes to provide almost $2.9 billion over five years, starting in 2016–17, to address climate change and air pollution issues. This funding will:

  • Support the development of the pan-Canadian Framework, including a Low Carbon Economy Fund;
  • Help ensure that Canada meets its international obligations;
  • Take action to reduce emissions from Canada's largest sources—transportation and energy;
  • Advance science and programming activities to better understand and adapt to the changing climate; and
  • Enable evidence-based decisions to address air pollution.

Recommendation 75 - An independent body such as the office of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development should report to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and to the public as follows:

  • By March 31, 2014, and every two years thereafter during implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy, on progress in implementing the policy in relation to Fraser River sockeye salmon.
  • By September 30, 2015, on the extent to which and the manner in which this Commission’s recommendations have been implemented.

This recommendation is directed at the broader Government of Canada.

Conclusion

DFO recognizes the importance of Pacific salmon, including Fraser River sockeye, and the value it holds from cultural, social, and economic perspectives. DFO has integrated many of the Cohen Commission recommendations into its daily work, and recognizes that there is more to do with respect to implementation. DFO will continue to consider the recommendations in its work to support conservation and sustainability of Pacific salmon, and will look forward to consulting with First Nations, partners, and stakeholders on the updated Wild Salmon Policy Implementation Plan and priorities for further implementation of Cohen Commission recommendations.

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