All posts by Angus Mackay

SEAK Commercial Chinook Port Sampling

Chinook salmon are harvested in commercial fisheries in Southeast Alaska (SEAK) waters east of Cape Suckling and north of Dixon Entrance. These fisheries harvest mixed stocks of Chinook salmon, including those originating from Alaska, British Columbia, and the Pacific Northwest. Significant numbers of both hatchery and wild stock Chinook salmon have coded-wire-tags (CWTs) inserted into their heads before they are released from hatcheries or as they migrate to sea. These fish are marked externally by removal of the adipose fin. CWTs are recovered by sampling programs intended to sample a minimum proportion of fishery catches and escapements. Analyses of CWT data provide estimates of fishery exploitation rates and other statistics employed for stock/fishery assessments and planning.

The Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) technical committees rely upon selected groups of CWT hatchery and wild Chinook and coho as surrogates to estimate impacts on natural stocks. Recent trends in Pacific Northwest towards mass-marking of Chinook salmon smolts released from hatcheries in conjunction with increased hatchery production up to 150 million smolts annually have resulted in a large volume of adipose fin clipped Chinook salmon in SEAK fisheries that do not contain a CWT (No Tags).

The presence of No Tags exceeded 70% of the adipose-clipped fish sampled during the SEAK summer troll fishery in 2015. Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) commercial fisheries port samplers have utilized visual sampling of these adipose clipped fish to recover CWTs for over three decades. The escalating presence of No Tags in SEAK fisheries has impacted CWT sample rates by statistical week and area. Although most SEAK Commercial Fisheries port samplers are using electronic tag detection wands to determine if a tag is actually present in the head of adipose fin clipped fish; the No Tag rate is so high that it requires two samplers per sampling event to be efficient at examining adipose clipped Chinook salmon harvested in the SEAK troll fisheries to determine if valid CWTs are present before CWT processing protocols are invoked.

In an effort to increase or maintain CWT sample rates and decrease shipping costs we propose to continue funding port sampling staff in the ports of Craig, Juneau, Pelican, Wrangell, Petersburg, Ketchikan, and Sitka. Southeast Alaska port samplers will use electronic tag detection wands to examine adipose clipped Chinook salmon harvested in the summer Southeast Alaska troll fisheries to determine if valid CWTs are present before CWT processing protocols are invoked. The heads of any positively identified tagged fish will be collected and the tags decoded by ADF&G staff. This will increase sampling rates by decreasing the amount of fish heads to be organised and shipped.

N16-I61 Southeast Alaska Commercial Chinook Port Sampling Report 2016

Southern British Columbia & Puget Sound Chum Salmon Mixed-Stock Identification

Southern Chum stock strength must be monitored to facilitate their management, in accordance with Annex IV, Chapter 6 of the Pacific Salmon Treaty (Treaty). Catch composition in fisheries targeting Southern origin Chum populations informs managers of stock strength, mixed fishery components and exploitation rates. . We are proposing to sample Southern BC and US mixed stock Chum fisheries to determine stock composition to the levels of Canadian Conservation Unit (CU) and United States Management Unit (MU) level using genetic mixed stock analysis. Along with other stock assessment information, such as escapement, the data provided from this work is a critical component required by the ChumGEM model for run-reconstruction and eventually for forecasting run strength. This proposal follows from a previous Southern Fund project ‘Joint US and CA mixed-stock Chum fisheries sampling design’ which occurred 2012-2015. The goal is to assess the mixed stock Chum fisheries for four consecutive years in a multi-agency sampling effort.

S18-SP08A Joint US and CA Mixed-stock Chum Fisheries Sampling Design and Analysis

S17-I10A Joint US and CA Mixed-stock Chum Fisheries Sampling Design and Analysis 2017

S16-I09A Southern British Columbia Chum Salmon Mixed-Stock Identification Report. Year 1


Gitanyow (Kitwanga) Lake Assessment

The Kitwanga River is a tributary of the Skeena River, located 250 km from the coast and supports significant runs of Pacific salmon. Kitwanga sockeye are genetically unique and a distinct conservation unit as described under Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy. Historically, sockeye returns to the Kitwanga were in the tens of thousands and they supported a number of sustenance and economic fisheries. In more recent times the stock has been depressed and in many years returns are not enough to meet the minimum biological requirements for the stock. In response to this conservation concern the Gitanyow, with help from organizations like the Pacific Salmon Commission and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, have initiated a rebuilding plan to preserve the genetic uniqueness of the stock and to try and rebuild it to more historical levels. Rebuilding efforts have included the creation of spawning platforms in 2006 and 2007 in Gitanyow Lake, the enhancement of the stock through hatchery production in 2006 & 2007 and a reduction in the overall exploitation rate on the stock through the implementation of strict fisheries management guidelines. The results of the rebuilding efforts have been mixed as the stock has responded positively in some year classes but not in others. To date, millions of dollars have been spent to rebuild the stock and many more millions of dollars have been foregone in lost revenues in the Canadian commercial catch, in efforts to get more spawners back to the Kitwanga River and Gitanyow Lake.

Since 1999, the GFA in partnership with DFO and other organizations have been studying Kitwanga sockeye and Gitanyow Lake in an attempt to better understand the stock and the environment where they reside. Annual smolt and adult enumeration operations have been ongoing for over 10 years, while Gitanyow Lake studies were performed between 1999 and 2003. Lake studies were abandoned due to funding constraints and because it was found that freshwater smolt production from the system at that time was very high and the lake limnology was not likely impacting smolt production. However, since that time we have noticed a significant decrease in freshwater smolt production which has renewed the need to look at the lake biology in more detail.

N16-I39 Gitanyow (Kitwanga) Lake Assessment Report 2016

N15-I50 Gitanyow (Kitwanga) Lake Assessment Report 2015


Northern BC Net Fisheries Coho CWT Sampling

The purpose of this project is to maintain the coho CWT sampling in Northern BC net fisheries. CWT sampling and lab operations methods and standard operating protocols are well established. The project includes:
-Coded wire tag sampling at a 20% rate in any coho retention fisheries in northern BC.
– Sampling at two major landing locations in June, July and August in Prince Rupert and in Port Hardy as required.
– Centralized head lab dissections and data management in Vancouver by a DFO-contracted service provider, as part of the overall DFO Mark Recovery Program
– DFO in kind data management, calculations of CWT estimates and uploads of data to RMIS (Jan 2017).
– Data will be maintained in the DFO cwt database and shared with the US CWT data repository (RMIS) ensuring domestic and international access.

The impacts of net fisheries where coho by-catch retention has recently been restored is an important management concern. Maintaining a core of coho exploitation rate indicators provides essential background for northern panel discussions of coho. Canada has coho exploitation rate indicators in Area 2E, Area 3 and the Skeena (3). CWT’s from Alaskan exploitation indicator stocks are also recovered in Canadian net fisheries. The project also supports evaluation of northern BC impacts on southern origin coho.


Mark Recovery Program Coded Wire Tag Sampling, Dissection and Reporting

This project is one component of the Coast Wide CWT System which includes fully integrated CWT tagging, sampling, lab operations, analyses and data exchange along the entire west coast of North America with a high level of coordination and cooperation among the coastal states and Canada across many political jurisdictions. The funding supports fishery CWT sampling from Commercial, First Nations economic, and recreational fisheries in BC that encounter Chinook indicator stocks, as well as head lab operations and the management of resulting data.

CWT data is essential in annual analyses in deriving Canadian and US allotments of chinook total allowable catch, assessing compliance under the PST, calculating fisheries and stock specific statistics (i.e. exploitation rates, survival rates, maturation rates), monitoring trends in marine survival, assessing fishing impacts, forecasting pre-fishery ocean stock abundances, and evaluating the effectiveness of hatchery production and experimental programs. CWT data is also important for assessing stock status, forecasting stock abundance, and monitoring trends in regional survival patterns for climate change investigations and ecosystem-based assessments. Long-term time series of CWT data is key information to discern variations in salmon abundance resulting from variations in ocean survival and human-induced impacts.

VHP16-05 Canadian Mark Recovery Program CWT Sampling, Lab Operations and Reporting 2016 Year 2

VHP15-01 Canadian Mark Recovery Program CWT Sampling and Coordination. Year 1 of 4


Evaluation of population-specific behavioural impairment and mortality in salmon incidentally captured in marine commercial purse seine fisheries

While targeting abundant species, Canadian commercial seine net fisheries for Pacific Salmon inadvertently capture species of concern that are required to be released. The survival of these released salmon is a key component of assessing the impacts of seine fisheries and developing harvest limits. However, there is poor understanding of post-release mortality in general, especially in chum salmon. Additionally, the handling and release practices employed by the commercial purse seine fleet are inconsistent among individual vessels, likely influencing the probability of survival for released fish.

If handling and release practices can be identified that beget good survival, their implementation would reduce mortality of salmon released from the entire fleet. Adoption of consistent and appropriate release practices will additionally appease public concerns, increase efficiency of harvest, potentially allow additional harvest opportunities and reduce impacts on stocks of concern. Moreover, sociological human dimensions research conducted this past year has identified that commercial fishers would be more willing to modify handling practices if the rationale for doing so was supported by scientific results.

In concert with this finding, the results of this study as well as those from previous research with the commercial fleet has been, and will continue to be, presented to staff from the Canadian Fishing Company (Canfisco), relevant environmental groups, and commercial fishers through seiners associations and advisory boards. Using the 2016 Pacific salmon purse seine fishery in Canadian Statistical Area 3 as a model system, we propose to evaluate how variable handling and sorting practices influence survival and condition following release, and how these relationships change throughout the season.

N16-I64 Evaluation of population-specific behavioural impairment and mortality in Pacific salmon incidentally captured in marine commercial purse seine fisheries report 2016


Juan de Fuca Strait Chum Sampling Program

The establishment of a chum sampling program for the Strait of Juan de Fuca has been identified as a top research priority through the Southern Endowment Fund by the Chum Technical Committee and other interested parties.

Strait of Juan de Fuca Sampling Program:

With the goal of stock reconstruction for Southern BC and Washington Chum salmon, one significant data gap is the diversion of chum populations through the Southern Route via Juan de Fuca Strait. This project will work towards addressing that data gap by sampling this migration route in both US and Canadian waters to determine:

  • The spatial and temporal stock composition of chum salmon migrating through the Southern Diversion route,
  • Provide sampling platform for stock identification, migration rate studies etc.
  • Develop time series of Catch per Unit effort data to pair with the Johnstone Strait Test Fishery to determine diversion rate of various chum populations.

This multi-year program will be broken into 2 phases. Phase 1 will involve assessing the feasibility of a structured sampling program (2016) in Juan de Fuca Strait (Canadian Area 20 and US Area 5). This will involve chartering a Purse Seine vessel to fish 4 days/week starting the 1st week of October for 5 weeks. Catch per Unit Effort information will be collected as well as biological samples for stock identification purposes. All fish will be released except for the 400 samples/week (a total of 2,000 chum) that will be collected during the program. Phase 2, dependent upon the 1st year of the program, will expand the sampling program to include a tagging component to evaluate the migration rates of chum salmon via migration route which is a key parameter in the reconstruction model (2017-2019).

S17-I11A Joint US and CA Juan de Fuca Chum Sampling Program 2017

S16-I14B Joint US and CA Juan de Fuca Chum Sampling Report 2016

Increased Chinook Salmon Stock Coded-Wire Tagging to Improve the Quality of Chinook Indicator Stock Analyses

We propose to maintain increased coded-wire tagging (CWT) for nine Chinook indicator stocks in B.C. that contribute to Northern and Southern Boundary Area fisheries. This proposal will fund incremental tagging beyond the base level provided by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in order to meet standards derived by the PSC CWT work group to account for survival rate, fishery sampling rate, exploitation rate, and an 80% probability of attaining a minimum standard of observed CWT recoveries. This work has been funded through the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) Coded Wire Tag Improvement Fund from 2009-2013, and the PSC Northern Endowment Fund and as a Very High Priority Chinook project in 2014-2016. This project proposes to maintain the increased tagging rates on the highest priority indicator stocks through to 2018, until which time CWTs will be the primary fishery assessment tool for Chinook salmon. This proposal addresses several priorities for implementation of the PST and will improve the ability to better manage the Chinook stocks and fisheries of relevance to the PST.

This proposal is for stocks providing the majority of benefits, based on total fishing mortality distribution, to Northern and Southern Boundary Area fisheries. This proposal addresses nine stock groups represented by CWT indicator programs on Robertson (WCVI), Quinsam (Upper Georgia Strait), Lower Shuswap and Nicola (Fraser Early), Atnarko (Central Coast), Kitsumkalum (North Coast), Harrison and Chilliwack (Fraser Late), and Cowichan (lower Georgia Strait) populations. When these stocks are healthy and abundant they can be large contributors to Southeast Alaska (SEAK), Northern British Columbia (NBC) and West Coast Vancouver Island (WCVI) fisheries.

S18-VHP13 Increased north-migrating Chinook indicator stock CWT to improve the quality of Chinook indicator stock analyses

S17-VHP19 Increased north-migrating Chinook salmon indicator stock coded-wire tagging to improve the quality of Chinook indicator stock analyse

VHP16-03 Increased Chinook salmon stock coded-wire tagging to improve the quality of Chinook indicator stock analyses report. Year 2

VHP15-03 Increased Chinook Salmon Stock Coded-Wire Tagging to Improve the Quality of Chinook Indicator Stock Analyses. Year 1

N14-I20 Increased North-Migrating Chinook Salmon Indicator Stock Coded-Wire Tagging to Improve the Quality of Chinook Indicator Stock Analyses



Stikine Chinook Aerial Surveys

Chinook salmon in the Stikine River comprise one of over 50 indicator stocks included in annual assessments by the Chinook Technical Committee of the Pacific Salmon Commission to determine stock status, effects of management regimes, and other requirements of the Pacific Salmon Treaty (Der Hovanisian and Etherton 2006). The Stikine River is one of the largest producers of Chinook salmon in Northern B.C. and Southeast Alaska (Der Hovanisian and Etherton 2006).

Stikine Chinook aerial surveys provide Chinook counts from index sites in both the upper (Little Tahltan, Tahltan, and Beatty) and lower reaches (Christina and Verrett) of the Stikine River which loosely corresponds to DFO’s Wild Salmon Policy prescribed conservation units (stocks), in concert with augmenting the current Little Tahltan weir, and providing some measure of validation of the system wide mark-recapture based escapement estimates.

N18-VHP06 Stikine River Chinook Aerial Surveys Report 2018

N16-I51 Aerial Survey Counts from Select Stikine River Chinook Spawning Sites 2016. Year 4

N15-I15 Stikine Chinook Aerial Surveys 2015. Year 3

N13-I16 Stikine Chinook Aerial Surveys 2014. Year 1


Kuthai Lake Sockeye Review & Access Improvement Assessment

This project began with an investigation into why Kuthai Lake sockeye escapement has dramatically declined and remains low. The focus will be upon evaluating migration access for the Kuthai stock, along with estimating relative abundance and stock proportions for Kuthai and co-migrating early run main-stem sockeye.

In the later stages, this project will involve two field surveys which will inform the development of design and cost estimates for improving sockeye migration access to Kuthai Lake. The results of which strongly indicate that access to the lake is particularly restricted in the lower reach of the Silver Salmon River.

The primary objective of this project is to focus on increasing the abundance of fish stocks by opening freshwater habitat to salmon spawning and rearing. In specific instances, it will be possible and appropriate to rehabilitate previously productive habitat that has been degraded as a result of human or natural activity.

N19-H01 Silver Salmon River (Kuthai Lk) Sockeye Access Improvement Project 2019 Report

N18-H01 Kuthai Lake access improvement Report

N17-H02 Kuthai Lake access improvement project

N16-H05 Kuthai Lake Access Improvement Assessment Report 2016

N15-I53 Kuthai Lake Sockeye Review