Category: Northern Fund

Nass Sockeye Mark-Recapture Assessment Project

We propose to assess mark-rates of Sockeye (and tag loss) at the Kwinageese weir and include these data in the mark-recapture while simultaneously assessing spaghetti tag loss, observer efficiency, and potential selective removal of spaghetti tagged fish. This will be achieved through implementing Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) technology alongside our traditional spaghetti tagging program.

Stikine River Chinook Salmon Telemetry

We propose radio tagging 200 large Chinook salmon during the annual stock assessment project on the Stikine River in 2022 with the primary objective to estimate the proportion of large Chinook salmon (≥ 660 mm mid eye to fork of tail (MEF)) tagged below the border that migrate past the U.S./Canada border. Additional objectives include addressing existing questions about migration, behavior and landslide passage.  To implement a telemetry project in 2022, tags and other gear must be purchased in advance, beginning in 2021.

Northern Boundary Coho Salmon Genetic Baseline Augmentation

We propose to initiate a multi-phase approach to completing the genetic baseline for Northern Boundary coho salmon (“coho”) populations. Our primary objective is to augment the current baseline so that managers can reliably estimate stock composition of coho populations susceptible to harvest in Canadian and Alaskan mixed-stock fisheries. Augmenting the number of coho populations in the SNP baseline will increase genetic resolution, allowing us to identify the populations of origin with higher precision for coho captured in mixed-stock fisheries in Canada and the U.S. When used in conjunction with abundance estimates of a specific coho population, an upgraded genetic baseline can also improve estimates of exploitation rates in mixed-stock fisheries and therefore further support informed management decisions.

Second-generation consequences of hatchery enhancement of sockeye salmon in Auke Creek, Alaska

This project is motivated by the overarching goal of understanding the effects of hatchery supplementation on the long-term fitness of sockeye salmon in the transboundary region subject to enhancement under the Pacific Salmon Treaty. The immediate goal is to optimize and test a new method to quickly and efficiently genotype large numbers of sockeye salmon for comprehensive parentage assignment, in order to quantify the second-generation effects of hatchery supplementation on fitness in the wild population. This project is to be performed at Auke Creek, Juneau, Alaska where a permanent weir offers unmatched sampling opportunities.

Improving CTC efficiency by coordinating reports and facilitating meetings and communications, pilot study

In 2020, the Commissioners at the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) approved a one-year pilot to hire a Chinook Technical Committee (CTC) Coordinator staffed by the Secretariat to provide this support. This position is a pilot project to assess the capacity of the PSC Secretariat to improve CTC related communication and help the CTC achieve their annual work plan as well as achieve additional tasks as required.

This proposal seeks funding for a second year of the pilot project in order to fully evaluate the long-term need for a Coordinator to support the work of the CTC. If the project is successful, the Commission recognizes that long-term funding of PSC Secretariat personnel would be its responsibility.

Genetic tools to inform sustainable fisheries and rebuild at-risk coho, chum and Chinook populations

In the Central Coast of BC, coho, chum and Chinook salmon populations have declined in recent decades, likely due to ongoing climate change, freshwater habitat degradation, and overharvest in mixed-stock fisheries. The spawning abundance of many populations is poorly monitored, harvest rate estimates are lacking for Central Coast coho stocks, stock composition in commercial chum fisheries is unquantified, and harvest rate information is only available for two hatchery-enhanced Chinook stocks (i.e., Atnarko, Wannock). These issues raise concerns about the long-term sustainability of fisheries as well as the feasibility of recovery and conservation efforts. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop and apply genetic tools that can inform the management of mixed-stock fisheries in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska under the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) and improve the effectiveness of recovery efforts.

This project will align with First Nations-led DNA collections to build baselines for coho, chum, and Chinook and the application of GSI to mixed-stock samples collected in on-going catch monitoring programs administered by CCIRA and Central Coast First Nations (CCFN) by providing additional opportunities for collections of mixed-stock samples to quantify catch composition in Central Coast fisheries. Expanded DNA baselines for Central Coast coho, chum, and Chinook will enable estimates of harvest for Central Coast stocks in Alaskan and BC fisheries and improve data on catch composition and total harvest in Central Coast fisheries. These data will lead to improved salmon management under the PST by allowing managers to direct fishing activity (commercial, recreational and First Nations Food, Social, and Ceremonial, FSC) towards abundant populations, thereby reducing impacts on at-risk stocks.

Slamgeesh Salmon Project – Fence Sill Rebuild

Slamgeesh Salmon project, which enumerates sockeye and coho adults and smolts, has been in continuous operation by Gitksan Watershed Authorities from 2000 to 2019. The fence was washed out on August 23, 2020 by an extreme precipitation event in conjunction with upstream beaver dam failures, which released relatively massive amounts of stored water and the resulting peak flow collapsed the counting fence. The fence abutments remained solid, fence trusses and panels were subsequently recovered; however, the foundation was altered and the sill disappeared.
This project concept proposes to re-install a functional counting fence foundation and sill (58’ X 12’) utilizing small pipe piles, a structural steel framework capable of supporting the aluminum sill plate and fence superstructure components including the panels and smolt trap accessories.

Production capacity and habitat status of Meziadin Lake

Historically, Meziadin Lake has been the largest producer of sockeye salmon in the Nass River watershed. Between 1982 and 2016, the overall average annual escapement of Meziadin Lake sockeye salmon declined, with an especially notable downward trend in annual escapement since 2010. Similarly, since 1982 the proportion of Meziadin Lake sockeye salmon as a proportion of the total Nass River aggregate population has decreased an average of 3-13% per decade, with the largest decrease occurring in the last ten years. A variety of factors can contribute to declining stocks, including biological or habitat constraints to freshwater productivity. Biological limitations to the production of sockeye salmon in Meziadin Lake have been the subject of fisheries management discussions for decades, and historically the limnology of Meziadin Lake was relatively well-studied compared to other systems in the region. In 2002, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) recommended that in years of low spawner abundance (<100,000), Meziadin Lake limnology should be assessed throughout the growing season and fall-fry abundance and age composition obtained to further explain factors affecting fry growth and survival (Bocking et al. 2002). However, despite recommendations in 2006 by DFO Core Stock Assessment Program to establish a comprehensive sockeye lakes research program throughout the BC north coast, many of these programs were discontinued. As a result, comprehensive seasonally-resolved limnology surveys in conjunction with an evaluation of production capacity have not been conducted on Meziadin Lake since 2001. The ongoing decline in sockeye salmon escapement to Meziadin Lake warrants updated information on potential limiting factors to freshwater productivity.

The objectives of our proposal are to identify potential limitations to freshwater productivity within Meziadin Lake by providing updated estimates of sockeye salmon production capacity and habitat status. To achieve these objectives, we will collect limnological, hydroacoustic, zooplankton population and limnetic fish data throughout the growing season and use a bioenergetics model to estimate net juvenile  sockeye productivity and habitat carrying capacity. Results will also provide updated information on the evolution of limnological conditions throughout the growing season and how those patterns may influence short and long-term freshwater productivity, as well as inform future development of habitat benchmarks for Meziadin Lake.

Snettisham Central Incubation Facility Water Chiller Upgrade for Transboundary River Sockeye Enhancement Program

Snettisham Central Incubation Facility (CIF) raises sockeye salmon fry for the Transboundary River (TBR) enhancement program, domestic smolt for the United States fishing fleet, and fry for a small lake stocking program for a personal use fishery at Sweetheart Creek. Chilled water is necessary for all programs on site to rear healthy, viable fry and to thermally mark fish such that hatchery fish can be distinguished from their wild-origin cousins. At this time, the two water chillers at Snettisham CIF are in need of replacement. The existing chillers were used units prior to being installed at Snettisham CIF over 30 years ago, and replacement parts are becoming more difficult to locate and will soon be obsolete. With the recent warming climate, the Snettisham CIF chiller system has been put under increasing stress to keep up with the various aspects of the sockeye enhancement programs on site.
For the TBR program, eggs are collected in Canada, fertilized and transported to Snettisham CIF for overwinter incubation and otolith marking. As the lakes in Canada typically do not reach ice-out until May or early June, having an efficient chilling system is an integral part of the operation to make sure the
fry do not emerge from their incubators with much time before the lakes are ready to accept them. In recent years, fry have emerged early due to warmer water conditions and old, inefficient chiller units, and the fry must be fed to survive until ice out on the lakes. As the Snettisham CIF is not set up well for long
term rearing of TBR fry, new chillers are necessary to make certain the TBR sockeye enhancement program that Treaty obligations for sockeye enhancement are met, and to ensure healthy fry are delivered back to the Canadian lakes in a timely fashion for the best possible freshwater survival.

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.