In previous years, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission has been funded to expand the genetic baseline for Chinook salmon with microsatellite markers and more recently single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) markers. While this has provided moderate improvement to baselines used for genetic stock identification (GSI), new technology is available that allows for vastly increasing the number of SNPs that can be added to baseline populations. This new technology uses an approach called Restriction-site Associated DNA (RAD) tags to genotype thousands of SNPs in baseline samples. This should provide a nearly unlimited number of powerful markers for GSI purposes and greatly improve the resolution and accuracy of mixed stock analyses.
This proposal involves genetic analysis of tissue samples anticipated from the in-river commercial sockeye fishery on the Taku River. This activity was first supported by the Northern Fund in 2008 and makes use of the baseline samples collected with Northern Fund assistance from 2007-12.
This will identify the composition of the commercial harvest by stock groupings. In addition, when coupled with escapement counts from headwater counting fences (weirs), it will permit estimation of drainage-wide abundance for comparison with the mark-recapture estimate or other assessment methodology.
The goal of the project is to estimate the spawning escapement of the Fraser River – South Thompson age 0.3 aggregate (ST0.3A Chinook). The ST0.3A escapement will be estimated using Coded Wire Tags (CWT), Genetic Stock Identification (GSI), and CWT exploitation rate indicator stock data from escapement and Fraser River fisheries. To achieve this objective, we will increase recovery of CWTs from Chinook carcasses in the Lower Shuswap River; conduct a high-precision mark-recapture project and CWT sampling in the Middle Shuswap River; collect age samples across the South Thompson watershed; produce a CWT release group of Middle Shuswap River smolts (to augment the Lower Shuswap indicator stock); and analyze GSI and age data from the Albion Test Fishery.
Several projects on Slamgeesh Lake have been funded by the Northern Endowment Fund from 2007 onward. These projects include the installation and subsequent infrastructure improvements of the smolt trap, the weir, and repairs to the field station’s cabin.
Today and moving forward the continuation of fisheries research activities at Slamgeesh Lake is of high priority to the Upper Skeena Watershed Planning Group of the Gitxsan First Nation, the Skeena Fisheries Commission Technical Committee and the Northern Boundary Technical Committee. Complete coverage of the entire juvenile outmigration of both coho and sockeye salmon is of the upmost importance in accurately estimating recruitment. While enumeration of all returning adult coho and sockeye salmon will increase our understanding of run timing, ocean survival, coded-wire tag retention, and a complete total escapement census above the counting fence. This information is advantageous when managing the Skeena River mixed stock fishery.
We propose to lengthen the sampling season of both the juveniles in the spring and the adults in the fall to meet this need.
Concern for West Coast Vancouver Island (WCVI) natural Chinook currently limits PSC fisheries in Southeast Alaska, the Haida Gwaii recreational fishery and particularly the Area F troll fishery in northern British Columbia and troll fisheries and some recreational fisheries on the WCVI. Although the Burman River is enhanced, the population is of sufficient size to estimate the escapement with precision, and thermally marked otolith sampling provides an estimate of the naturally spawned fraction.
The program will estimate the escapement of adult Chinook salmon to the Burman River, a PSC Chinook escapement indicator, using both closed population and open population mark-recapture techniques refined between 2009-2014. The project will also quantify age, sex and origin compositions. Estimates of abundance of the thermally marked hatchery fraction combined with a precise escapement estimate will provide important information to verify and support the WCVI Aggregate ratio estimation project by providing an independent reference point (the Burman River Chinook hatchery fraction, independent of Robertson Creek Hatchery stock) in the northern WCVI area.
The Skeena River is host to the second largest aggregate of Chinook salmon in British Columbia. While the aggregate is a PSC escapement indicator stock, there are no biologically based escapement goals for this population. This project produces an annual escapement estimate for the Skeena River Chinook aggregate and provides information on the stock components that make up the Chinook return to the Skeena River. The project consists of genetic analyses of samples from Chinook salmon caught at the Tyee Test fishery in 2021. The project uses samples and data from two independent programs, the Tyee Test Fishery and the Kitsumkalum mark-recapture program. Chinook salmon scale samples will be collected from the Tyee Test Fishery and the DNA from the samples will be compared against genetic baselines from Skeena Chinook salmon populations. The proportion identified as Kitsumkalum Chinook will be expanded to generate escapement estimates for the Skeena River aggregate using the mark-recapture estimate of escapement for the Kitsumkalum population.
Trapper Lake was identified as a potential sockeye salmon enhancement site in 1988 due to its under-utilized sockeye fry rearing potential. Several enhancement programs involving out-planted sockeye were attempted since, but were unsuccessful either due to out-plant and fish culture techniques or because of changes to the spawning and rearing habitat. It was observed that returning sockeye salmon from this enhancement program were nearly successful at negotiating a partial barrier near the outlet of Trapper Lake. This, coupled with the identified presence of non-anadromous sockeye (kokanee) suggested that Little Trapper Lake origin sockeye had negotiated the barrier in the past and may presently do so under certain water conditions. Improving the access for returning sockeye to Trapper Lake could result in a sustained increase in overall sockeye production from the Taku River.
A sockeye enhancement program has been ongoing at Tatsamenie Lake since 1990. A review of the program was funded by the Northern Fund in 2005, and in 2008, the Northern Fund began supporting the Extended Sockeye Fry Rearing Project.
The fry were originally reared in lake pens, but because of a devastating disease outbreak, the project shifted to onshore rearing systems beginning in 2009. The egg to smolt survivals of the fed fry have been variable but have ranged from 10% to 70%, or 5 to 15 times compared to wild fry, depending on fry behaviour after outplanting. Assessment of adult production from this project is ongoing. Smolt to adult survivals of the reared fry will be definitively determined with the return of the corresponding adults in the coming years, but to date, the adult production from reared fry has been lower than expected. This project continues to test a technique that has the potential of increasing production for other small scale sockeye salmon enhancement projects as well as rebuilding the Tatsamenie Lake sockeye stock in low brood year cycles.
Also at Tatsamenie Lake, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans began a smolt enumeration program in 1996, and this ran continuously from 1998 through to 2011. The Northern Fund began supporting this program in 2012, and the two programs were combined in 2015. The combination allowed the Tatsamenie Lake sockeye smolt mark-recapture project to extend beyond its previous end date of June 30, through to the second week of September. This provides a more accurate smolt population estimate as well as increased precision of the estimated enhanced sockeye survival and production. This also allows for monitoring of potential early out-migration of the reared fry.
Since 2007, with support from the Southern Boundary Restoration and Enhancement Fund, calibration work has been conducted on twenty-five Sockeye populations of various stream types in the Fraser and has led to the development of indices for aerially surveyed Sockeye populations on the following three stream types: i) medium sized, clear streams, ii) medium sized, partially turbid/tannic streams and iii) large sized, clear streams. Although this represents substantial progress, significant gaps still exist on the remaining stream types and lake spawning populations. Calibration work involves the comparison between estimates generated using high precision enumeration techniques (enumeration fences, sonar, and/or mark-recapture programs) and those generated using standard low precision visual techniques. As annual calibration opportunities on target populations are limited, calibration work over the long term will be required to satisfy the data requirements for all stream types. The actual populations to be calibrated will be determined based on in-season estimates of abundance.
This joint project by NOAA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks evaluates the long term fitness of hatchery and wild sockeye salmon within a small watershed in Southeast Alaska. Concern over preserving wild stock fitness in enhancement project watersheds has been expressed in the case of both the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) Transboundary River Plans on the Taku and Stikine Rivers, and the PSC Northern Boundary Treaty Area of Southern Southeast Alaska (Hugh Smith and MacDonald Lakes). Measurement of the fitness effects and potential impact of such enhancement projects is needed to avoid long term undesirable effects on wild stocks. Initial genetic sampling and trial fish culture work in 2008, 2009, and 2010 showed potential for utilizing microsatellite and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers to assess the parentage of Auke Lake sockeye and to identify the progeny of wild and enhanced fish, and this allows the evaluation of the survival and introgression, if any, of the enhanced fish into the wild population. Furthermore, we have demonstrated the ability to sample very close to 100% of the adult sockeye entering the system and provided a low impact design for sampling, capturing, maturing and spawning small numbers for use as brood stock in this study. During the summers of 2011, 2012 and 2013, we captured and held adult sockeye in the Auke Creek Research hatchery, and conducted experimental matings in all three years. We have incubated, cultured and released approximately 50,000 juvenile sockeye into Auke Lake in the springs of 2012, 2013, and 2014. Complete sampling of upstream migrating adult sockeye has occurred from 2008 thru 2015 and smolt sub-sampling has occurred in May and June of those years as well.
Beginning in 2016, additional objectives were added to cover the sampling, marking and recovery of coho salmon at Auke Creek. Because of the operational efficiencies and base support this was accomplished with a small budget increment. Auke Creek is the longest and most complete coho salmon time series in Southeast Alaska, and is used as an indicator of marine survival, harvest and productivity for coho in the region.
NF-2011-I-10 A Smoker (McPhee)
NF-2008-I-26B Heard (Guyon)