VANCOUVER/HALIFAX — For the first time, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has ranked four commercial British Columbia salmon fisheries as “avoid”, largely because of low population numbers. Today’s report includes assessments for chinook and coho salmon commercially caught in B.C.The report identifies 10 fisheries that represent about 99 per cent of the total chinook and coho catch as having “some concerns”. Four fisheries responsible for the remaining one per cent of the catch were ranked as “avoid”. The rankings provide information to consumers who want to purchase sustainably caught seafood.
“These rankings confirm fears about declining wild salmon populations heard across B.C. this summer,” said Jeffery Young, senior science and policy advisor at the David Suzuki Foundation, a SeaChoice member. “I’m sure British Columbians will agree that it’s essential for fisheries to do their part to allow declining salmon populations to recover.”
Chinook and coho populations are suffering most in the southern part of the province, even though catches have been reduced. B.C. fisheries are also catching salmon stocks listed as threatened or endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act. “It’s pretty clear these fisheries are not sustainable when they are targeting threatened or endangered fish,” said Susanna Fuller, SeaChoice member from the Ecology Action Centre.
Recreational fisheries were not assessed in this report but also catch these wild salmon. “Making matters worse, recreational fisheries are catching even more of these struggling populations than their commercial counterparts,” Young said. “There’s a confluence of issues, ranging from too many fishing licences allocated to small areas, challenges connected to hatcheries and fishing that crosses international borders, that make fisheries complex to manage. These unsustainable fisheries are a warning to all commercial and recreational salmon fisheries to take measures now to become more sustainable if they want fish to catch in the future.”
Wild salmon face myriad threats, including diseases from open-net aquaculture, ocean warming and acidification related to climate change, and habitat destruction. Low numbers of chinook and coho have big impacts on B.C.’s coastal ecosystems and life, especially southern resident killer whales, which now number 83 and are listed as endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The whales rely on chinook as their primary food source. “This poor assessment has implications for more than just salmon. Killer whales won’t survive if we can’t protect their food source,” Young said.
SeaChoice: Canada’s most comprehensive sustainable seafood program focuses on solutions for healthy oceans. SeaChoice is operated by the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society. Launched in 2006, SeaChoice helps Canadian businesses and shoppers support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture at all levels of the seafood supply chain. SeaChoice has created easy-to-use, science-based tools to help consumers make the best seafood choices. For more information, visit www.SeaChoice.org.
Lana Brandt, SeaChoice: 778-833-2954
Jeffery Young, David Suzuki Foundation: 250-208-8714