Category: South Coast BC

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.

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.

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.

Proposal to assess the feasibility of a new approach to estimating wild coho status

Many Canadian Coho Management Units (MUs) have been “data limited” since the reduction in assessment priority for coho which started about the same time as the Southern Coho Plan was finalized in 2002. The implementation plan for the 2020 Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST)  brings an opportunity to improve coho assessment and management. The PST Chapter 5 Southern Coho management framework is based on assessment of Canadian and US management units into one of 3 status zones (Low, Moderate, and Abundant), which have commensurate total exploitation rate (ER) caps and sharing of this ER between the US and Canada. This proposed approach could address the current inability to assess status in several Canadian MUs.
Tools such as DNA can accurately identify wild coho to the Conservation Unit (CU), MU, or even river of origin and can accurately identify hatchery of origin through a combination of parental based tagging (PBT) and regular genetic stock identification (GSI) (see Beacham et al. 2019). We propose that these assessment tools can be the basis for estimating wild coho escapement.
The proposed approach uses September fishery information, combined with representative DNA information from the fishery and escapement results from key hatchery indicators, to form the basis for estimating aggregate escapement of wild coho, especially in the GST management unit, but also Lower Fraser, Southwest Vancouver Island (SWVI), and other stock aggregates. The objective is to track catch of wild coho catch and escapement by management unit. These tools will also be used to estimate exploitation rate.

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.

Establishment of a chinook snorkel index survey in East Creek on Northern Vancouver Island

Presently, only two index streams are surveyed for chinook salmon in Area 27 on Northern Vancouver Island. Both streams have been influenced by present or past hatchery operations and escapement estimates reflect marine mortality rates, as well as hatchery production rates. East Creek is a moderately sized system flows just north of Brooks Peninsula, and has only recently become accessible by logging road. Historical surveys associated with expanding hatchery production in the period 1960-1980 revealed a natural chinook population in East Creek but there has been no history of hatchery augmentation.
Establishing an index snorkel survey in East Creek would provide an opportunity to examine population abundance trends in a system unaffected by hatchery production. We propose to establish an index snorkel survey in East Creek, and to determine possible hatchery stray contributions through a complete sampling program including DNA, scales and otoliths on adult chinook post-spawn mortalities.

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.

Nanoose Area Coho and Chum Salmon Escapement Surveys

We propose to conduct salmon counting surveys on four streams in the traditional area of Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation, including Nanoose Creek (Area 17-20), Knarston Creek (Area 17-19), Bloods Creek (Area 17-18), and Craig Creek (Area 14-1), to estimate escapement of Coho and Chum salmon returning in 2019. Final escapement estimates will be generated through the use of two methods: (1) AUC variation modelling to calculate confidence bounded estimates of escapement modelled for observer efficiency and streamresidence time, and (2) an expanded peak count method.
A minimum of 16 ground surveys are proposed and been budgeted to conduct escapement counts in the four streams during peak Coho and Chum salmon migration with a minimum of four trips planned to each system. These four streams have not been assessed for 14 years. The project budget also includes analyses and reporting of survey and habitat data (including mapping support) as well as appropriate survey gear for crew. Herein we propose to conduct multiple surveys in several local creeks in DFO Statistical Areas 14 and 17 to generate an AUC escapement estimate for Coho salmon in the 2019 return year. If funded, this would be the first time these streams have been assessed since early 2000’s.

Optimization of hatchery Chinook salmon releases in the Salish Sea through ecosystem-based management: adapting hatchery practices to pink and chum salmon abundance

Producing more hatchery Chinook salmon juveniles has recently been proposed in Washington State with hopes of enhanced ecosystem and fisheries benefits. However, it has recently been shown that even the vast North Pacific Ocean cannot support an infinite number of salmon (Ruggerone and Irvine 2018), and it appears that mortality of salmon in the Salish Sea can also be density dependent (Ruggerone and Goetz 2004). Density-dependent effects between pink salmon in particular (the most numerous species, but also chum salmon) and Chinook salmon have been documented by an increasing number of studies (e.g., Ruggerone and Nielsen 2004; Ruggerone et al. 2003), suggesting that salmon compete for food in the ocean, which can lead to reduced growth, delayed age at maturation, and lower survival rates (Ruggerone and Irvine 2018). Preliminary analyses of the relationships between Chinook salmon hatchery production and numbers surviving to adulthood suggest reduced Chinook survival in years when large numbers of juvenile pink salmon also out-migrate. In some regions, this density-dependent mortality may be so strong that large increases in hatchery releases may limit the number of returning adults.
We propose to evaluate the following questions: what Chinook salmon juvenile release abundance values are associated with greatest marine survival rates? How do survival rates vary with different numbers of juvenile pink salmon out-migrating in the Salish Sea? How do these relationships differ among Chinook salmon stocks from various regions of the Salish Sea?