Category: Fraser River

Evaluating the use of FSC and commercial fishery catch data to inform in-season management of Pacific salmon fisheries

The overall objective of the project is to assess the utility of data collected from commercial pink salmon and Indigenous Food, Social, and Ceremonial (FSC) sockeye salmon fisheries to support Test Fisheries data used to inform estimates of daily sockeye abundance. ESSA will work with partners from the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), commercial fishers (Canfisco, Area B Harvesters), and FSC fishers (A’Tlegay Fisheries Society) to determine the feasibility of using data from commercial and FSC fisheries to support in-season estimates of daily abundance. While previous work demonstrated that commercial sockeye fishery catch data was a promising source of information to supplement test fishery catch data (Cave 2017, Ma et al. 2019), commercial fisheries for sockeye in the last decade have only opened on dominant-cycle years (i.e., 2010, 2014, and 2018), limiting the utility of this information. This project seeks to extend these promising results to other fisheries – namely the FSC sockeye fishery, which occurs in most years, and to the pink salmon commercial fisheries (odd years), thereby improving the utility of information gained from fisheries for in-season planning.

Using Deep Image Segmentation Methods to Detect and Classify Salmon Species from ARIS Sonar Images

Improvement of species composition estimates in the Fraser River during sockeye salmon migration is a priority of the Fraser River Salmon Fisheries Management for the 2021 projects. Given the low returns of Fraser River sockeye salmon and poor catches from test fishing programs in recent years, species composition estimates based on the catch data have become increasingly unreliable for the in-season management of Fraser stocks. To address this challenge, alternatives methods must be developed to provide reliable species composition estimates for both the daily and the seasonal total sockeye abundance estimates.

For this proposed project, we will use image data from a newer generation of imaging sonar (ARIS), which offers a higher spatial resolution than the DIDSON sonar used in the previous projects. This project is aimed at delivering the following 1) improved accuracy and reliability in species classification; 2) automatic measurements of fish length and other feature variables with confidence rankings that can be used in the PSC mixture model for species composition estimation.


Investigating thermal windows of juvenile Sockeye Salmon populations in freshwater

The influence of climate warming on the growth of juvenile Fraser River Sockeye Salmon rearing in nursery lakes is poorly understood, particularly in the context of the multiple factors that regulate growth in these environments. This represents a key area where climate change and other forcings may be influencing stock outcomes (i.e. productivity), unbeknownst to fisheries managers.

We aim to fill this gap by reconstructing stock-specific long-term time series of annual growth rates of juvenile Sockeye Salmon in freshwater in relation to their thermal environments. The PSC Scale Laboratory plans to measure an additional 10,000 scales this fall and winter to extend the current existing data of scale growth (1990-present) to 1970 – present. Scales of major Fraser River Sockeye Salmon stocks have been consistently collected by the PSC since 1950s and can be paired with otolith samples since the 1970s. Matching freshwater growth of Sockeye Salmon with adult returns will show the relationships between the freshwater growth and overall survival. Linking freshwater growth with biological factors (e.g. number of spawners) and environmental factors, particularly a large range of temperatures, will quantitatively determine the stock-specific thermal windows and identify the thermal optima.

Salmonscape Workshop: scoping a life history approach to assessing and modelling freshwater and marine bottlenecks to inform salmon management

We propose a workshop to review the current approaches to assessing and modelling salmon survival across freshwater/coastal and marine life history stages and to recommend options that will inform the host of management tools/processes that require consideration of the full life history. We will bring together experts possessing experience with these techniques to share their knowledge in a structured manner. Case studies drawn from Pacific Salmon Treaty stocks that have requisite information will be developed that can be used to test the modelling approach. A Workshop Technical Planning Team will be convened from North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission -International Year of the Salmon partner government agencies, NGO’s and academia to ensure relevance of the work to management and to assist in identifying a complete complement of experts. Experts will include representatives from Pacific Salmon Commission Secretariat staff and Technical Committees (Chinook, Coho, Chum and Sockeye). We will support travel for experts from Asia, Canada, Europe and the U.S. to attend. It will be essential for us to incorporate approaches to understanding freshwater and marine ecosystem status with Indigenous Peoples. Additionally, we will assess the potential for the development of new and emerging technologies and citizen science to augment this work.

Enumeration of Coho in the Lower Chilcotin River

This project’s goal is to estimate the Coho escapement to the Lower Chilcotin River using resistivity methods which are highly reliable, efficient, and cost effective. The Lower Chilcotin system supports Interior Fraser Coho but is not currently enumerated and no other systems in the Chilcotin watershed are monitored using accurate and precise methods. Obtaining Coho spawner counts from the Lower Chilcotin will improve our ability to assess the stock status of Interior Fraser Coho against PST management reference points which include returns to sub-populations. This project will also provide information that will improve stock recruit modeling and could form an important component of a system wide estimate for IFC using high accuracy counts and PIT tags. As well, DFO is now monitoring Chinook escapement using a resistivity counter at the Lower Chilcotin system, which provides an opportunity to extend the field program to produce a high quality estimate of Coho escapement.

Retrospective growth analyses of Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) in relation to adult returns and environmental factors

Due to the complicated life history of Pacific salmon, which environmental factor (s) has major influences on their growth and productivity remains unknown, particularly accounting for their entire life history. Most previous studies focus on the short time period when they first enter the ocean. We will fill the gap by investigating salmon growth in all their marine years. We plan to use Chum salmon in southern British Columbia as an example to address this question because Chum salmon migrate to the ocean right after hatching, providing the great candidate to compare marine growth in the multiple years and seasons.
We propose to process the historic scales, measuring the seasonal (summer and winter separately) growth and identifying stocks, to reconstruct stock-specific long-term time series of growth rates of Chum salmon in multiple ocean years. Fish scales provide a record of individual growth during their entire life history and have long been used to study age structure and growth. The scales of Chum salmon have been consistently collected with fish length measured during a test fishery in Johnstone Strait since 1980. In recent years, along with the scales, tissues for genetic stock identification have been collected and processed on a fairly consistent basis from that test fishery. The number of stock-specific adult returns (2008-2019) can be estimated using the Chum Genetic and Environmental Management Model (ChumGEM) based on recent catch, escapement, and the genetic data.

By linking growth rates of Chum salmon stocks with density dependence and ocean conditions (1980-2019), this project will attempt to define which environmental factor(s) would be the best indicator of returns for each stock; by linking growth rates of Chum salmon stocks with the stock-specific adult returns, this project will determine which season and year of growth rate would be the best indicator of adult returns for each stock.

Investigating thermal windows of juvenile sockeye salmon populations in freshwater

There is a general consensus that increasing temperatures have negative impacts on many species of fish. Laboratory studies demonstrate fish growth exhibits a‘thermal window’, increasing with temperature to species-specific thermal optima, beyond which additional increases in temperature lead to decreases in fish growth (Portner et al.2017). Slower growth can result in lower survival, leading to reduced stock productivity.
In British Columbia, annual maximum air temperatures has increased by 0.031°C/year since the 1950s, resulting in increases in the average number of days per year that the Fraser River at Hope is above 19°C from just two days/year in the 1950’s to over 20 days/year in 2010’s (David Patterson. Personal Communication). This increase in water temperature is posing physiological challenges to salmon migration, in some cases inducing pre-spawning mortality (Eliason et al., 2011; Martins et al. 2011).
The influence of climate warming on the growth of juvenile Fraser River Sockeye Salmon rearing in nursery lakes, remains poorly understood, particularly in the context of the multiple factors that regulate growth in these environments. This represents a key area where climate change and other forcings may be influencing stock outcomes (i.e. productivity), unbeknownst to fisheries managers.
We aim to address this knowledge gap by reconstructing stock-specific, long-term time series of annual freshwater growth rates of juvenile Sockeye Salmon in relation to their thermal environments and other key biological and environmental factors.
Scales have long been used to study fish age and growth. The scales of at least eight major Fraser River Sockeye Salmon stocks have been consistently collected by the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) since the 1950s, which can be paired with otolith samples since the 1970s.
We propose to non-destructively extract a time series of returning Fraser River Sockeye Salmon (1970 – 2019) freshwater growth from the existing PSC scale archive, and conduct a suite of statistical analyses on these data to define growth variability and change within Fraser River Sockeye Salmon.

Impact of the landslide at Big Bar on migration success, survival rates and management of sockeye, Chinook, coho salmon and pink salmon

On June 23, 2019, a significant rock slide was discovered in a narrow section of the Fraser River at Big Bar. The rock slide created a five-meter waterfall that many stocks of Chinook, Sockeye, Coho, Pink salmon, and steelhead need to overcome to reach their spawning grounds. This blockage impedes migration to most of the watershed and so far has stopped spawning migrations for the vast majority of Fraser Sockeye stocks.

Province of British Columbia. (2019, July 22) Retrieved from


While plans are in place to continue remediation efforts into the future, the slide and the migration challenge it created will impact the number of spawners reaching the spawning grounds for years to come. At this point, it is assumed that funding would be available for further work to restore or mitigate migration passage and this proposal therefore focuses on the management implications.

For effective management of the stocks located upstream of the rock slide, it is crucial to understand the current and long-term impacts of the slide on migration success and survival rates under different river conditions such as discharge, temperature, debris, etc. In order to efficiently explore the impact of the slide on populations of Fraser salmon we will take a two pronged approach to initiate some immediate analysis and preparatory work for the 2020 field season, while developing a robust framework to identify and target key data and analysis gaps.

Feasibility of Estimating Aggregate Coho Salmon Escapement to the Lower Fraser Management Unit

The absence of reliable escapement estimates for Coho Salmon in the Lower Fraser River (LFC) MU and its three component Conservation Units (Lillooet, Lower Fraser A, and Lower Fraser B collectively discussed as LFC in this proposal) represents a critical information gap for Southern Boundary Coho Salmon Management.

This proposal addresses this concern by proposing an approach that eliminates the need to access hard-to-reach watersheds, reduces the need for visual escapement surveys from several to only the Nicomen Slough and Upper Lillooet River, and leverages existing infrastructure (hatcheries), processes (Coded Wire Tagging (CWT) and otolith tagging) and projects (monitoring of recreational and Food, Social and Ceremonial harvests, Lillooet sonar imaging (ARIS), and Nicomen Coho CWT, Chilliwack hatchery juvenile rearing and adult counts) with advanced technologies (PIT, radio tags, GSI) and a test fishery.

We propose to estimate total LFC escapement through the expansion of stock composition ratio data gathered at a test fishery. A new test fishery will sample the Fraser Coho migration, and a random, representative sample of Coho will have DNA, CWT and otolith samples taken to estimate stock composition ratios.

S19-SP46A Estimating Aggregate Coho Salmon Terminal Run and Escapement to the Lower Fraser Management Unit (DFO Portion) 2019 Report

S19-SP46C Feasibility of Estimating Aggregate Coho Salmon Escapement to the Lower Fraser Management (LFFA Portion) 2019 Report

Using Barcode Scanners and Tablets to Automate CWT Data Management in Escapement

A Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) hatchery may collect over 2,000 adult Chinook heads each year for dissection and recovery of coded-wire tags (CWTs). Each head is identified using an attached label (e-label in escapement samples), which in recent years includes a barcode as well as the numeric identifier (ID). Using the E-label ID, CWT data is linked to biological data, such as length, sex, thermal marks and genetic identification, for a given sampling stratum. The e-label IDs, and most of the biological data, are manually entered into the data management system at the hatchery. This is a process that requires substantial time and effort to ensure there are no errors associated with the manual data entry.

This project proposes to improve hatchery data management and reporting through the development of a hatchery protocol for automated sampling data collection with the purchase, testing and operationalization of barcode scanners in hatcheries where CWTs are recovered. Use of barcode scanners will enable hatchery staff to automate data capture and reduce errors from manual data entry.

S20-I15 Using Barcode Scanners and Tablets to Automate CWT Data Management 2020 Report

S19-I44 Using Bar Scanners and Tablets to Automate CWT Data Management 2019 Report