Category: Fund Project

Estimation of offshore fish passage at Mission by imaging sonar

For this project, we propose to use an Adaptive Resolution Imaging Sonar (ARIS) mounted on a fin-shaped metal body towed by the vessel to acquire data of fish images. This would allow for more accurate survey of offshore fish passage than the current mobile survey system at Mission Hydroacoustics (HA) site. The application of ARIS system will address two challenges that are difficult to resolve with the mobile split-beam system. These are (1) recognition of fish targets and (2) determination of fish’s swim direction. By directly measuring these two variables with an imaging sonar ARIS, we will obtain an accurate estimate of offshore fish passage, which has been identified as a limitation with current systems when estimating abundances at Mission.

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.

Okanagan River Summer Chinook Survival Study

The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) is proposing to conduct a juvenile Chinook survival and habitat use study of the Okanagan River. Survival of hatchery-reared tagged Chinook would be tracked through potential mortality hot spots of the Canadian Okanagan River system. The results of the survival study will be highly important to guide resource allocation for future habitat restoration projects. Further, the results will be critical in refining hatchery smolt release strategies (timing and locations) to maximize survival and achieve rebuilding goals.

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.

Englishman River Large Woody Debris Revitalization

The Englishman River, located on the East Coast of Vancouver Island, is a major salmon and trout-bearing stream. Land use practices such as logging, agricultural development, and urbanization within the Englishman River watershed have destabilized, and widened the channel, resulting in a lack of large woody debris (LWD) compared to historical conditions (Bocking and Gaboury 2001, Gaboury 2005). LWD influences geomorphic processes and creates fish and aquatic invertebrate habitat (Hilderbrand et al. 1997). As such, the paucity of LWD recruitment on the Englishman River has been identified as factor affecting fish population abundance and recovery (Bocking and Gaboury 2001).

This project will restore a minimum of 6000 m2 of riverine habitat through the rehabilitation of aging large wood structures on the Englishman River, and its tributaries. Large wood structures provide numerous benefits to riverine habitats including sediment capture and retention, the creation of habitat complexity (pools, channel width variation), and erosion control.

Crescent Harbor Creek Restoration

Crescent Harbor Creek is a small stream located on Whidbey Island just north of Crescent Harbor, on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI). The  stream drains into the northwestern edge of the Crescent Harbor Salt Marsh, a 206-acre tidal channel wetland that is the site of a large pocket estuary restoration that was completed by the Skagit River System Cooperative (SRSC) and the US Navy in 2009. The stream channel in this reach has been diked and diverted from its historic alignment into an incised ditch, reducing channel length and increasing flow velocity. Completion of restoration work at Crescent Harbor Creek will add to the quality and capacity of this important rearing site for juvenile salmonids.

Restoration of Juvenile Rearing Habitats in Support of Increased WCVI Chinook Production

MC Wright and Associates Ltd. (MCW) is proposing to construct an off-channel juvenile salmon rearing habitat in the lower Nitinat River to restore habitats lost due to impacts from forest harvesting. In the first year of the two and a half-year project, MCW will collect baseline data and conduct field surveys of the potential restoration sites (only one will be selected) to collect the data necessary to support prescription development (i.e., LiDAR and total station topographical data, groundwater, discharge, and water quality monitoring, fish sampling) and finalize the  prescription. In spring and summer of the second year, MCW will procure and mobilize heavy machinery to the work site, construct the channel, and complete a total station as-built survey and report. MCW will conduct post-construction monitoring the following spring to fall to assess fish use of the newly restored habitat (by minnow trap and electrofisher), fry size, habitat characteristics (e.g., water quality, channel stability, riparian vegetation cover composition).