The Nass Area Coastal Coho Escapement Project will improve escapement data and further enable fishery managers to more accurately estimate harvests of this important species in commercial, recreational, and First Nation fisheries. The data will also improve the quality of information available to inform management decisions and aid in the sustainability of Nass Area Coho stocks in the future. This will be become increasingly important as industrial pressures within the marine areas of the Nass Area continue to mount due to mining, hydro-electricity, port development at Stewart, shipping, and pipelines. Improving our understanding of the abundance for Nass Area Coastal Coho stocks is imperative for understanding and mitigating the potential effects of these development pressures on Nass Area Coastal Coho.
N18-I28 Coastal and Lower Nass Coho Salmon Escapement Surveys Report
Alaska stocks of pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) and Chinook salmon (O. tshawytscha) spend large portions of their life histories in marine waters within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and beyond the 200-mile EEZ of the coastal States. However, the strength of salmon year-classes is often set during the early overwintering phases of immatures or during the nearshore seaward migration phase of juveniles. Thus, the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC), Auke Bay Laboratories (ABL) initiated the Southeast Alaska Coastal Monitoring (SECM) project in 1997 to better understand the effects of climate and near-shore Ocean conditions on year-class strength of salmon and ecologically-related species. This research in turn provides improved information for resource management of salmon in the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) northern boundary. In particular SECM data provides a forecast index for northern southeast Alaska (SEAK) Transboundary River Chinook salmon returns, an annual pink salmon abundance forecast, and long term environmental and population data that are used by harvest managers in the PST northern boundary, which includes PST Chapter 2 pink salmon treaty issues in districts 101, 102, 103, and 104.
N18-I11 Southeast Alaska Coastal Monitoring of Epipelagic Fish and Marine Ecosystem Conditions Associated with Salmon Report 2018
The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project leverages human and financial resources from the United States and Canada to determine the primary factors affecting the survival of juvenile salmon and steelhead in the Salish Sea. It is the largest and most important research of its kind in the shared waters of British Columbia and Washington State, addressing a key uncertainty impeding salmon recovery and sustainable fisheries. The project will, for the first time, undertake a comprehensive study of the physical, chemical and biological factors impacting salmon survival, in order to improve our collective understanding of salmon in saltwater, facilitating smarter management and stronger returns.
Over 60 organizations, representing diverse philosophies and encompassing most of the region’s fisheries and marine research and management complex, are working together on this massive transboundary effort. And, the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) and Long Live the Kings (LLTK) are coordinating it.
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
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
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.
Tahltan Lake is located in the Stikine River drainage in northwestern British Columbia. It is the largest contributor of sockeye salmon to the Stikine drainage and makes up the largest component of the Stikine commercial and First Nation food fisheries.
The Tahltan Lake smolt count will be used to forecast future adult sockeye salmon production and will guide management actions in subsequent years through abundance based management. The count and enhanced/wild ratios will be used to determine appropriate fry stocking levels at Tahltan Lake as a result of the egg collection and incubation activities designed to boost adult production in the Stikine River through the joint Transboundary sockeye enhancement program.
N19-I19 Stikine River Watershed Tahltan Lake Sockeye Salmon Smolt Enumeration and Sampling, 2019 Report
The main intent of this project is to augment information for the Taku Chinook mark/re-capture program. This additional effort, in the form of a creel survey will focus on collecting Chinook samples from the lower Nakina River during the Canadian sport fishery. As a secondary objective, on-site information relating to harvest would be collected, and the feasibility of a future alternative methodology to estimate such will also be explored.
Since 2009, the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) Chinook Technical Committee (CTC) has established a 15% coefficient of variation (CV) as an acceptable level of uncertainty for estimating Chinook Salmon populations that are used in managing US and Canadian Chinook Salmon fisheries. Overall, the Nass Chinook Salmon program has achieved the CV data standard in 15 of 24 (63%) years since the start of the Nisga’a Fisheries Program in 1992. The main factor determining CV has been the number of marked Chinook Salmon recovered at terminal spawning areas in the Upper Nass River. Achieving an adequate number of marked recoveries has required two conditions to be met: (1) a sufficient number of Chinook Salmon are marked (>1250) at the fishwheels and (2) sufficient effort is made on the spawning grounds for recovering marks such that >50 marks are recovered. Results from the past funded studies have indicated that these requirements can be met, even in low return years, by marking adult Chinook Salmon at both fishwheel marking locations (Gitwinksihlkw and Grease Harbour), examining fish throughout the run at Meziadin Fishway and the Kwinageese videocounting weir, and conducting carcass surveys at Damdochax Creek. These three Upper Nass spawning systems represent on average 39% of the aggregate spawning stock based on stock composition estimates and are geographically separated to be representative of all stocks that spawn above the marking sites.
The primary purposes of the proposed project are to: (1) continue to augment marking and recovery efforts, (2) improve methods for generating accurate and precise MR escapement estimates for the Upper Nass River Chinook Salmon aggregate stock, and (3) achieve unbiased population estimates that meet the PSC CTC data standard (CV – 15%).
Nass Chum Salmon are a key species to benefit from better stock assessment and data acquisition. Significant harvests of Nass Chum have occurred in both Canadian and Alaskan fisheries from 1980-2014. However, since 2007, Nass Chum have returned on average 84% lower than the average return from 1985-2006, not met escapement goals since 2006, and are showing no sign of recovery based on recent assessment data collected. In response to this decreased abundance, Fisheries and Oceans Canada fisheries managers have reduced Canadian exploitation rates since 2007 to a mean of 3% compared to the 1980-2006 mean of 26%. However, recovery of stocks has not occurred to date and the data defining the Chum Salmon decline in the Nass Area are inadequate. Poor returns coupled with inconsistent escapement monitoring methods limit the ability to accurately assess the conservation status of Nass Area Chum stocks and inform future recovery planning.
We propose to increase escapement surveys on both indicator and non-indicator lower Nass and coastal streams and to develop a long-term, scientifically defensible, and cost-effective escapement program.
N18-I27 Chum Salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) Escapement Surveys in the Nass Area Report 2018