Chinook salmon stocks in BC – 2024

What is the state of Chinook salmon stocks in BC Canada in 2024?

If you are a sport fisherman its pretty good.

Could there be improvement? Yes.

But 2023 media headlines didn’t talk about any larger than expected Chinook salmon runs around Vancouver Island.

If you read the news or listen to an NGO  “scientist” or DFO scientist he will likely say its not good.

NGO’s have been fighting for quite a few years to get salmon fishing shut down.  Unfortunately Canada has a broken system for fisheries management that isn’t getting any better.

That doesn’t mean that they get everything wrong or the organization isn’t needed.

But for DFO to improve, I think the system hierarchy of how decisions are made needs to change.

First, you can see the problems that will likely occur given this chain of command.

If you ask the Governor in Council what he knows about Chinook salmon fishing on the west coast of British Columbia or Alaska, he probably doesn’t have a degree in Chinook salmon biology. The same can be said about the Minister of Environment & Climate Change as well as yes, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

All 3 positions are appointed positions where each person does not have a sufficient vested interest in making the right decision for the stakeholders.

Even if you get someone with some knowledge of Chinook salmon fishing and biology, you still have to get past personal bias,  lack of knowledge, and DFO politics. Like many government positions, it is often much easier to pass the buck to the next guy and when an opportunity is given to do so, human nature generally takes over.

So the recommendation given passes through 3 decision makers that don’t have a background in Chinook biology or preserving or enhancing salmon sustainability.

It may be a reason why draggers are still allowed to rape the ocean floor.

You have have seen the headline about 28,000 Chinook salmon discarded as by catch by trawlers. 

Draggers are trawlers that drag the ocean floor with a large net and destroy fish habitat while also catching everything there. They are not to be confused with trollers which generally catch what they are targeting and a much cleaner fishery.

This is my perspective as a sport fisherman who lives and breaths learning about salmon enhancement and biology as well as salmon fishing. To be very clear, I run a sport fishing business and have a vested interested in keeping salmon stocks strong.  I think to any observer looking at DFO communication, it is quite obvious why the system is broken.

Below is the current DFO assessment map of southern BC Chinooks.


Is this accurate?

I would argue that it paints an untrue and bleak picture that has some large gaps.

I have been running a fishing charter from Ucluelet since 2004 and have been running 4-7 boats since 2008. We have a 50lbs a day guarantee on most of our 3 day package trips which includes vacuum packing and freezing. I can tell you that our numbers are getting better the past few years.

I say this because it provides data on how much was taken home by our guests and is a data point.

But there is also data from DFO that shows that Barkley Sound had approx 200K plus Chinook salmon returning in 2023.

A normal year is 80-90K.

Over the past 5 years the returns have been over 140K.

Since 2015 our fishing during August time frame close to shore has been very good.

So why is our area still considered threatened?

Yes, again it is nuanced.

There are some smaller rivers and creeks inside Barkley Sound that haven’t recovered like in years past.

But should the map show the whole area as threatened?

Below is a graph showing what the targets for Chinook salmon were for the Cowichan, Harrison and Lower Shuswap.

All rivers surpassed the expectations but 2-6x. Did you hear any news stories?

We should be celebrating right?

No, instead we are told that the whales are starving and more restrictions might be necessary.

Political narratives are good motivations to appease altruistic NGO’s and a news media getting large funds to try and show there there are big problems that need be addressed. They need people to tune into what they are selling whether true or not.

I do think that sometimes restrictions are necessary. But I do think there is a lot of misinformation about Chinook salmon carried for convenient political narratives.

Below is the official approach by DFO.

So the big takeaway is that DFO uses the precautionary approach which from my perspective as a sport fisherman who also knows a bit of history means that they generally don’t do anything proactive.

So that means no rebuilding rivers or habit.

The rebuilding is left to volunteers who are generally sport fisherman who have a vested interest in keeping salmon stocks strong and often love salmon.

Its often volunteers who swim the rivers and do survey data to find the numbers of fry needed to make good surveys. Its not the people that complain the loudest.


Generally if you want something changed you have to do something. NGO’s are trying to get sport fishing shut down. They do that by writing articles about what ever they can to help their cause.

DFO also often has an agenda that is led from the top and the current federal government is biased towards limiting sport fishing. That change may be a year or two out.

But the issues with DFO didn’t just start in 2015 but have been there for a long time.

I have heard of people quitting DFo because they didn’t feel like the organization really cared about actual science.  Instead it is run by Ottawa which is a 4 hour flight from BC. Since the sport fishing population size is very small, Ottawa maybe isn’t too concerned with tiny numbers of BC votes .

But you have heard the saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right?

So please start getting involved and don’t be afraid to email your MLA.

You don’t have to be a scientist. You can just talk about the latest data coming from DFO and ask why regulations are going backwards when stocks are increasing over the past 5 years.

You can also ask for all hatchery Chinook and Coho to have their fins clipped like is done in the USA. We have the technology to do it.

More time and money is probably spent on meetings in 4 star hotels talking over proposals by high paid government officials than could be spent working from a scientific approach and clipping salmon.

Time is of the essence.

There is a possibility that 1 mile off Port Renfrew will be shut down for the 2024 season. From April 1 to July 15 there is no retention for Chinook salmon in the Strait of Georgia.

Proposals have been put forward that would preserve the runs while still allowing at least hatchery retention of Chinook.

I hope you can get involved and help.

We are involved in raising money for volunteer run hatcheries like the Thorton Creek hatchery in Ucluelet. But that is just us. We need as many people to get involved as possible.

Find a hatchery close to you. If we were all concerned about rebuilding salmon stocks I think we would have a very good outcome.

Story of someone determined for salmon enhancement:

I spent my high school years in Qualicum Bay  and watched someone not born in this country become very determined to bring back the Cutthroat trout. He loved fishing for them and wanted to see more in the creek and along the shoreline.

But in order to get more cutthroat trout he discovered pink salmon were necessary.

Ken Kirkby had to fight all sorts of government bureaucracy and government scientists to be allowed to build a volunteer run hatchery. He sold his paintings at a local coffee shop to raise money. He had very little resources to his name. The DFO scientists told him it was impossible.

But within a few years he had between 60K -120K Pink salmon returning to Nile creek. Its such a small creek most of the year fish can’t swim up. Before he started the return was almost nil.

But he was determined. Let’s follow in his footsteps. Let’s do something big and find ways to make a difference.

If you want to listen to his story it is here:

So where ever you are I hope this inspires you to get involved so we become action takers for proactive salmon enhancement instead of deflated from the the news!