Category: Northern Fund

Canadian independent review of District-104 fishery evaluation and Skeena and Nass sockeye salmon escapement goal analysis

Under Chapter 2 of the 2019 Pacific Salmon Treaty, Canada is required to conduct an analysis of escapement goals for sockeye salmon returning to the Skeena and Nass watersheds prior to the 2023 fishing season. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will complete a harvest pattern analysis of the pink salmon fishery in District 104 that evaluates long-term abundance trends for salmon stocks within the Northern Boundary area. The Treaty language states that these analyses (of Skeena and Nass sockeye escapement goals and District 104 pink salmon fishery) shall be reviewed by independent contractors selected by each country and then submitted to the Northern Boundary Technical Committee and Northern Panel for further review.

An initial draft of the harvest-pattern analysis for District 104 fisheries is near completion, and the Skeena and Nass sockeye salmon escapement goals analysis is underway. The Canadian escapement goal analysis will occur in two stages which include (1) a technical review of the alternative datasets for Skeena and Nass sockeye, and (2) estimation and evaluation of biological escapement goals for these populations.

Skeena River Chum Salmon Radio Telemetry

We propose to conduct a chum salmon radiotelemetry feasibility project on the Skeena River to evaluate if a fullscale Skeena chum salmon radiotelemetry would be beneficial, and to determine if enough chum salmon could be captured at sites along the lower Skeena River to provide a sufficient number of viable adult chum salmon to carry out a radio telemetry project of this scope in future years. If a fullscale radiotelemetry project is deemed worthwhile and feasible, and funding is provided, we will assess spawning distribution, relative abundances of the different Skeena chum stocks, migratory behavior, and evaluate if the development of an aggregate Skeena chum salmon escapement estimator using genetic tools is possible, and appropriate.

Escapement accounting of Nass watershed pink salmon

The quality of the information which is used to make Area 3 escapement estimates has decreased since 2010, especially on coastal systems and large contributors. While Nisga’a Lisims Government (NLG) receives funding to do accurate and timely surveys of inland systems within Nisga’a territories (a portion of Area 3), Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) funding for the coverage of large indicators has decreased. Because of this, DFO and Nisga’a through a Joint Technical Committee are increasing our reliance on making large expansions that estimate returns to the Statistical Management Area or on inserting estimates for indicator systems based on regressions with surveyed systems.

While regressions and expansions show promise, they can also be problematic if large systems behave differently than smaller systems. Implications of mistaken estimates can mean that commercial and treaty harvest opportunities in Canada may not align with actual returns and can thus lead to over-harvest or foregone catch.

For 2020, we propose that DFO crews will do 4 aerial surveys of important even-year pink salmon producers for Area 3 (i.e., Kwinamass, Khutzeymateen, Toon and Kincolith) and NLG Fisheries and Wildlife Department (NFWD) ground crews will do Area 3 indicator systems that can be done without aerial support (a minimum of 2 systems among Dogfish, Chambers, Crag and Lizard). This project will compliment proposed work by the NFWD that will survey chum indicators which are also contributors of even-year pink salmon. Directed collaborative efforts by DFO and Nisga’a will enable us to produce strong watershed estimates and to compare it with regression methodologies used in previous years to see if they are viable options if all indicators can’t be surveyed.

Taku River Coho Salmon Genetic Stock Identification Baseline Development

The continuation of developing and implementing genetic stock identification (GSI) is relevant to increase knowledge and improve management of Transboundary Area salmon stocks. In particular: Continue collaborative TTC effort to identify and fill priority genetic baseline data gaps. Over the long-term, agencies should collect genetic baseline data for Transboundary coho salmon. The Parties are committed to developing genetic stock ID baselines that can be shared and used in the cooperative management of Transboundary stocks, genetic stock identification is a high priority of the Panel as stated in the “Transboundary Panel Strategic Salmon Plan.”

GSI programs has been supported by the Northern Fund since 2008 but until now, has concentrated on obtaining tissue samples from Chinook and sockeye salmon. Once coho salmon tissue samples have been analysed, it would allow DFO and ADF&G to identify the composition of the commercial harvests by stock groupings, for run timing and exploitation rate information. As an added benefit, it has the potential to generate drainage-wide abundance estimates, if, in the future, escapement counts are obtained from headwater areas.

Tahltan River Chinook Salmon Assessment Feasibility

The primary objective of this project is to test the feasibility of obtaining a census of Chinook salmon entering the Tahltan River in the Stikine River drainage. Based on telemetry data, the Tahltan River (into which Tahltan Lake, Beatty Creek, and the Little Tahltan River drain) is the most important Chinook tributary in the Stikine River drainage, supporting up to 60% of the total annual return. The use of sonar technology in the Tahltan River would complement existing weir operations at Little Tahltan River by providing a census of all Chinook salmon entering the river. The index approach using Little Tahltan weir data to derive an escapement estimate for the Stikine River has been complicated in recent years by an apparent decrease in the contribution of Little Tahltan Chinook to the overall Stikine River Chinook escapement.

Mixed Stock Analysis of Alaska Troll and Sport Chinook Salmon Fisheries

U.S. fisheries in Southeast Alaska (SEAK) harvest stocks of Chinook salmon originating from river systems in Alaska, Canada, and the continental U.S. Thus, fisheries in SEAK are managed under the purview of the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST), in which an abundance-based management framework is used for Chinook fisheries. This requires management to have access to reliable information on stock-specific catch, escapement, and recruitment to forecast indices of abundance in PST fisheries.
This project aims to improve fishery management and provide independent estimates of stock composition in commercial troll and sport Chinook salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska. This type of information has been used to measure the effectiveness of management actions in SEAK by combining genetic stock identification (GSI) with CWT information to estimate the harvest of wild SEAK stocks, as well as to contribute to applications outside of SEAK (e.g. estimating age-specific terminal returns of stock groups and forecasting returning run sizes). This project is an integral part of a larger SEAK GSI program for Chinook salmon, which includes comprehensive coverage of major gillnet, troll, and sport fisheries. The objective of this project is to use GSI to determine the stock composition of fish harvested in the SEAK Chinook salmon fisheries.

Alaska Sockeye Salmon Genetic Baseline Update Taku/Stikine Mainstem

The Stikine and Taku rivers in Southeast Alaska support sockeye salmon runs important for various commercial and aboriginal fisheries in both the United States (U.S.) and Canada. Sockeye salmon from these rivers are harvested in Canadian aboriginal, recreational, and commercial gillnet fisheries, and in U.S. subsistence, personal use, and commercial gillnet fisheries. By updating the sockeye genetic baseline for Taku and Stikine rivers with novel genetic markers, we aim to differentiate between mainstems stocks in the Taku and Stikine and improve stock assessment. Stock contribution estimates are critical to document compliance with the harvest sharing agreements, reconstruct runs of wild stocks, estimate the return of enhanced fish, forecast upcoming returns, and support sustainable management.

Alsek River Chinook and Sockeye Salmon Stock Assessment (US – ADFG)

The purpose of this project is to re-establish Alsek River Chinook and sockeye salmon stock assessment projects that were suspended in 2005.  Direct measures of inriver abundance are preferred for abundance-based management, however Klukshu River weir counts are currently the only measure of abundance for Alsek River Chinook and sockeye salmon.
The 2019 Pacific Salmon Treaty Bilateral Agreement directs the parties to continue to develop and implement abundance-based management programs for Alsek River Chinook and sockeye salmon. The Parties shall maintain, through the Committee, a Chinook genetic stock identification (GSI) program approved by the Parties to assist the management of Alsek River Chinook salmon.
In the spirit of this direction, the intent of this project is to reestablish Alsek River Chinook and sockeye salmon stock assessment projects and use available data from both countries to provide technical estimates of the annual inriver abundances. The capture sites on the lower Alsek River have not been visited in nearly 15 years. Year one of this study will be a pilot project to facilitate capture methods in the lower river. Mark-recapture studies, GSI run reconstruction, and telemetry project will take place in subsequent years.

Alaska Coho Salmon Genetic Baseline

The overarching goal of this multi-year project is to develop a coho salmon genetic baseline for genetic stock identification (GSI) of Alaska commercial and sport harvest. The ability to account for stock-specific harvest will aid in the development of brood tables and escapement goals for coho salmon in Southeast Alaska (SEAK). This proposal will cover the first two years of intensive field sampling to obtain genetic samples from spawning populations of coho salmon throughout SEAK, focusing on transboundary Taku and Stikine rivers and the Northern Boundary Area. Future proposals will seek funds to genotype these samples and add them to Alaska’s growing coho salmon genetic baseline.

Nass and Skeena Rivers Sockeye Salmon Escapement Goal Review and District 104 Fishery Review

The purpose of this project is to fund independent peer reviews of salmon assessments outlined in Chapter 2 (Northern British Columbia and Southeastern Alaska) of the 2019 Pacific Salmon Treaty. Canada agreed to “complete a comprehensive escapement goal analysis (prior to the 2023 fishing season) for Nass and Skeena river sockeye salmon that shall be peer-reviewed by an independent contractor and then submitted to the Committee and Northern Panel for further review.” In addition, the U.S. agreed “to complete a harvest pattern analysis of the pink salmon fishery in District 104 that shall be peer-reviewed by an independent contractor and then submitted to the Committee and the Northern Panel for further review.”