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State of the Physical, Biological and Selected Fishery Resources of Pacific Canadian Marine Ecosystems in 2018

Jennifer L. Boldt, Jillian Leonard and Peter C. Chandler (Editors)

State of the Physical, Biological and Selected Fishery Resources of Pacific Canadian Marine Ecosystems in 2018

State of the Physical, Biological and Selected Fishery Resources of Pacific Canadian Marine Ecosystems in 2018 (PDF, 15.6 MB)


Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for the management and protection of marine resources on the Pacific coast of Canada. Oceanographically this area is a transition zone between coastal upwelling (California Current) and downwelling (Alaskan Coastal Current) regions. There is strong seasonality and considerable freshwater influence, and an added variability from coupling with events and conditions in the tropical and North Pacific Ocean. The region supports ecologically and economically important resident and migratory populations of invertebrates, groundfish, pelagic fishes, marine mammals and seabirds.

Since 1999 an annual State of the Pacific Ocean meeting has been held by DFO scientists in the Pacific Region to present the results of the most recent year’s monitoring in the context of previous observations and expected future conditions. The workshop to review ecosystem conditions in 2018 was held March 18-19, 2019 at the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney, BC. This technical report includes submissions based on presentations given at the meeting.

The marine heat wave of 2014-2016 continues to affect lower trophic levels and new heat waves were observed in the fall of 2018, attributed to atmospheric patterns that reduced the typical winter cooling of the ocean surface. The upwelling of cool nutrient-rich waters along the west coast of Vancouver Island in 2018 started earlier than usual, but was not as intense as previous years, implying mixed conditions for productivity and fish growth. After a three-year absence from the Strait of Georgia, a harmful algal bloom (Heterosigma akashiwo) occurred in early June, resulting in high aquaculture fish mortality in Jervis Inlet. This bloom was linked to a heavy snowpack in the BC interior combined with hot weather in May and June causing the snowmelt discharge from the Fraser River to be early and rapid. Warming of offshore and coastal waters has led to changes in the food web and responses by Pacific salmon on latitudinal gradients, with slightly better conditions in the north. There has been a coast wide decrease in Chinook Salmon and low returns of Fraser River Sockeye Salmon.

A special session focused on DFO’s State of the Salmon and State of the Freshwater initiatives. Sue Grant is leading these efforts and gave an introduction to the initiatives. This was followed by ten presentations on salmon research in BC.

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