Scientific Reports

The Commission is engaging scientists to report on the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon.

The scientific reports will not necessarily represent the views of the Commissioner but are intended to inform the Commissioner’s deliberations. The Commissioner may consider the scientific reports to make findings of fact and recommendations.

Once finalized and reviewed by the Commission, scientific reports will be published here. Members of the public who wish to comment on a scientific report may do so in the form of a public submission. To make a public submission, please visit the Public Submissions page.

Scientific projects and researchers

Project 1 – Diseases and parasites – A veterinary scientist will take a broad view of sockeye diseases and parasites that span the life cycle from egg to adult, and will evaluate the full spectrum of diseases that occur at all life history stages.


Dr. Michael Kent is a Professor in the Departments of Microbiology and Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University where he studies diseases of importance to wild and cultured fishes. He has previously worked in aquaculture, veterinary medicine, fish health and genetics. His current interests and areas of study are the pathological and physiological effects of transcontinental air pollution on salmonid fishes in high mountain lakes in U.S. National Parks as well as the impacts of parasites on wild coho salmon from coastal watersheds in Oregon.

Project 2 – Effects of contaminants on Fraser River sockeye salmon – The researcher will prepare an inventory of aquatic contaminants in the Fraser River in relation to the distribution of sockeye Conservation units. This will include an evaluation of pulp mill effluent contaminants, non-point source contaminants, endocrine disruptors and other contaminants, including sewage discharges from the Lower Mainland and other urban centres in the Fraser Watershed.


Don MacDonald earned a Bachelor of Science in Zoology while attending UBC and formed MacDonald Environmental Sciences Limited (MESL) in 1989 offering consulting services related to the assessment and management of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and is internationally recognized as an industry leader in three primary fields of practice: environmental impact assessment, natural resource damage assessment, and ecological risk assessment. Mr. MacDonald has scientific expertise in the fields of environmental chemistry, fishery/forestry interactions, water quality/water use interactions, sediment quality assessment, environmental quality guidelines, ecosystem-based management, ecological risk assessment, and natural resource damage assessments.

Project 3 – Fraser River freshwater ecology and status of sockeye salmon Conservation Units – The researcher will investigate several aspects of Fraser sockeye ecology, including the status of sockeye Conservation Units, a review of industrial and urban impacts on freshwater ecology and salmon life history, and an expert assessment of potential impacts from industrial and urban activities on Fraser River sockeye during the past 30 years.

Company: ESSA Technologies Ltd. is an independent Canadian environmental consulting company headquartered in Vancouver with offices in Toronto and Ottawa and staff in Victoria and Hanoi, Vietnam. Established in 1979, ESSA has grown to become a world leader in the field of environmental consulting and decision support. The team at ESSA have expertise in terrestrial ecosystem sciences and ecological modelling, adaptive management, decision analysis, and environmental information systems.

ESSA Researchers:

Project 4 – Marine ecology – The researcher will review the marine ecology of Fraser River sockeye salmon to determine whether there are oceanographic factors that can explain the reduction in short-term and long-term Fraser sockeye productivity.

Company: PICES

The North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) is an intergovernmental scientific organization, established in 1992, whose present members are Canada, Japan, People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States. The purposes of PICES are to promote and coordinate marine research in the northern North Pacific and adjacent seas; to advance scientific knowledge about the ocean environment, global weather and climate change, living resources and their ecosystems, and the impacts of human activities and to promote the collection and rapid exchange of scientific information on these issues.

Members of the PICES Team on this project will include:

Project 5 – Impacts of salmon farms on Fraser River sockeye salmon

Researcher: TBA

Project 6 – Data synthesis and cumulative impact analysis – The researcher will synthesize information contained in the other contractors’ technical reports, to address cumulative effects and to evaluate possible causes for the decline of Fraser River sockeye salmon.

Company: ESSA Technologies Ltd. is an independent Canadian environmental consulting company headquartered in Vancouver with offices in Toronto and Ottawa and staff in Victoria and Hanoi, Vietnam. Established in 1979, ESSA has grown to become a world leader in the field of environmental consulting and decision support. The team at ESSA have expertise in terrestrial ecosystem sciences and ecological modelling, adaptive management, decision analysis, and environmental information systems.

(Please see Project 3 for detailed description of researchers)

Project 7 – Fraser River sockeye fisheries and fisheries management – The researcher will investigate Fraser River sockeye fisheries harvesting (First Nations, commercial and recreational) and fisheries management (pre-season forecasting, in-season and post-season run-size abundance estimation methods and escapement enumeration methods), will analyze historical performance of the in-season assessment process, will evaluate the scientific basis for determining escapement targets, will evaluate the extent and impact of any over-harvesting since 1985, and will summarize the current conservation status of the Cultus Lake sockeye population.

Company: LGL Limited is one of North America’s leading ecological research companies with expertise in a broad range of disciplines, such as birds, mammals (terrestrial and marine), reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates; freshwater, marine, terrestrial and wetland ecology; habitat assessment, disturbance effects; environmental assessment; ecological restoration; monitoring; geology; environmental planning; GIS and data analysis.

Researchers from LGL:

Project 8 – Effects of predators on Fraser River sockeye salmon – The researchers will prepare a description of predation on sockeye salmon across the geographical range of the population, focusing on marine mammal predation on adults and smolts. The contractor will also evaluate freshwater fish predation on alevins, fry and smolts, and marine fish predation on smolts, sub-adults and adults.


Dr. Andrew Trites is a Professor and Director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia (UBC), and Research Director for the North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium, Fisheries Centre, UBC. His main area of research is the interaction between marine mammals and commercial fisheries. This includes the population biology and bioenergetics of seals, sea lions and whales, and involves a combination of field, captive and computer studies (data analysis and simulation modeling).

Dr. Villy Christensen is Associate Professor at the UBC Fisheries Centre. He works with ecosystem-based management and has a background in fisheries research. His research since 1990 has centered on understanding how human exploitation impacts marine ecosystems, and utilizes ecosystem modeling as the main tool. Dr. Christensen is a specialist on predator-prey interactions and dynamics, and is the key developer of the Ecopath with Ecosim food web modeling approach, which is the most-widely ecosystem modeling approach for fisheries management throughout the world.

Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon: literature compilation and analysis – The researchers will compile and review all published evidence for climate change and climate-related effects on sockeye salmon in freshwater and marine habitats across all life stages, looking specifically for evidence of the effects of climate-related variables such as temperature, flow, salinity, pH, currents, primary productivity and species interactions on Fraser River sockeye survival, behavior and distribution.


Scott Hinch graduated from the University of Toronto and now currently teaches aquatic ecology, salmon biology and fish conservation at the University of British Columbia. For over a decade, Professor Hinch has investigated hypotheses about the role that environmental conditions have on energy utilization strategies in up-river migrating and spawning salmon. He pioneered the use of electromyogram (EMG) physiological telemetry to study reach-specific energetic costs and observe swimming tactics, and developed under water stereovideographic systems to examine precise linkages between behaviour, hydraulic features and energy use.

His current topics of research include adult salmon migration survival, behaviour, energetics, physiology, habitat use, environmental cues; long term field experiments examining riparian timber harvest effects on stream temperature and habitat, fish abundance, growth, energetics, movements, and habitat use.

Dr. Eduardo Martins is a post-doctoral fellow in UBC’s Department of Forest Sciences. He was senior author of a report on the effects of river temperature and climate warming on stock-specific survival of adult migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon. He recently attended the International Symposium on Climate Change Effects on Fish and Fisheries in Sendai, Japan where he delivered a paper on effects of river temperature and climate warming on Fraser sockeye.

Project 10 – Fraser River sockeye salmon production dynamics – data compilation, literature review, and reporting – The researchers will, to the extent possible, undertake basic statistical analyses of abundance and productivity by Conservation Unit; will review previous research and data on sockeye cyclic dominance, including Fraser and non-Fraser sockeye populations (including a review of the relationship between sockeye run failures and timing of sockeye cyclic dominant runs); and will summarize the frequency and effects of over-escapement on subsequent productivity and abundance of adult recruits.


Dr. Randall Peterman is a Professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. He holds a Canada Research Chair in Fisheries Risk Assessment and Management and is Director of the Cooperative Resource Management Institute, a unit on campus that facilitates collaboration among university researchers, resource management agencies, and industry.

His research focuses on quantitative methods to improve the understanding and management of fish populations, particularly in the presence of uncertainties and conservation risks. His research group specializes in developing and applying quantitative methods to improve fisheries management.

Dr. Brigitte Dorner has a M.Sc. in Computing Science at Simon Fraser University in 1994, and a Ph.D. in Resource and Environmental Management from Simon Fraser University in 2002. She works as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Peterman, in dynamics and management of Pacific salmon, including comparative analysis of time trends in salmon productivity. Her areas of specialty include salmon ecology, fisheries management, operating models, management strategy evaluation, landscape ecology, forest ecology, spatial statistics, spatial modeling, GIS, and remote sensing.

Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management – The researchers will prepare an analysis, including an economic analysis, of DFO activities in Fraser River sockeye management since 1985; will present DFO science and research expenditures related to Fraser sockeye since 1985; and will undertake an analysis to evaluate DFO’s ability to meet its stated management objectives relative to Fraser sockeye since 1985.


Dr. Edwin Blewett is the President of Counterpoint Consulting Inc, and holds a PhD in economics from the University of British Columbia where he specialized in econometrics and statistics, public finance and microeconomic theory.

Bert Ionson is a retired Salmon Manager from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Bert has had experience working with First Nations and commercial and recreational fishermen in the planning and management of their fisheries as well as developers and landowners in fish habitat related issues. He has also developed and implemented fisheries policies, which were mostly focused on salmon.

Michael Staley has served as a fisheries advisor to various Aboriginal groups including the B.C. Aboriginal Fisheries Commission, the First Nations Summit Task Groups, the Fraser River Aboriginal Fisheries Secretariat and the First Nations Marine Society. He has been responsible for fisheries analyses and advice to First Nations throughout British Columbia. Since 1995, he has served as a member of the Fraser Panel Technical Committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission.

Project 12 – Sockeye habitat analysis in the Lower Fraser River and the Strait of Georgia – The researcher will prepare a habitat inventory for sockeye habitats in the Lower Fraser River (below Hope) and identify human activities that could affect them; analyze Fraser Estuary development, including larger vessels, proposed expansion of the Vancouver International Airport Fuel Delivery Project, development of ports, bridges and damage from dredging; describe human activities in the Strait of Georgia that could negatively affect sockeye salmon; evaluate Coastal Zone protection strategies related to shoreline development, shipping, aquaculture and oil tanker traffic; provide a synopsis of water quality conditions in the Strait of Georgia along the sockeye migration routes; and quantify sockeye food abundance in the Strait of Georgia, in relation to the potential for food competition and limitation.

Company: Golder Associates is a respected, employee-owned, global company providing consulting, design, and construction services in the areas of earth, environment, and the related areas of energy. From 160 offices worldwide, Golder’s nearly 7,000 employees work with clients to manage their environmental and engineering activities in a technically sound, economically viable, and socially responsible manner. The Canadian operations, Golder Associates Ltd., has over 2,600 employees in over 30 offices. In British Columbia, Golder Associates has 11 offices staffed by over 600 people.

Golder Researchers: