Category: WCVI

BC Fish Passage Restoration Initiative (Canton Creek Culvert Replacement Project)

There are more than 172,000 road crossings over fish-bearing streams in BC, with an estimated 92,000 of these crossings being either partially or fully impassable to fish. The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) is working with the province of British Columbia’s Fish Passage Technical Working Group (FPTWG), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF), and the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation (PsKF) to develop a BC Fish Passage Restoration Initiative to remediate these crossings and other barriers to fish movement in a strategic way that provides the most benefit to salmon and federally listed fish species-at-risk.

Canton Creek wetland is a large (approximately 4,000 m2) salt marsh located west of Canton Creek on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The wetland connects to Canton Creek though only during high flows, and through a ditch that otherwise dries out and strands fish. There are two culverts under Head Bay Forest Service Road that connect the wetland to the ocean, and the wetland is used by rearing Coho Salmon. Chinook Salmon juveniles also rear in the wetland. Connection to the ocean is tidally influenced, and the culverts are perched at lower tides. We have retained a contractor to develop a remediation plan for the wetland, which entails upgrading the two culverts connecting to the ocean with fish passable structures. Culverts will likely be replaced with open-bottom structures, though designs will determine whether a full replacement or a retrofit is the most effective way of achieving fish passage at variable tide levels.

Tranquil Creek Restoration

The degradation of freshwater habitat from forestry operations is believed to be a leading factor in the decline of Chinook populations in Tranquil Creek, Clayoquot Sound. Chinook populations along the west coast of Vancouver Island are declining, yet the problem is particularly acute in Clayoquot Sound. Tranquil Chinook populations are believed to be at just 3% of their historic abundance. In-stream and riparian restoration works are proposed for the prime rearing and spawning habitat in Tranquil Creek. This project was designed to address specific high-risk limiting factors to production in the freshwater life stages. Historically, Tranquil was one of the largest Chinook runs in Clayoquot Sound. Habitat restoration in this watershed can significantly contribute to regional recovery strategies for Chinook in the WCVI conservation unit.

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).

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.

UAV based enumerations of chum salmon in Clayoquot Sound Rivers

We are developing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or “Drone” based enumerations of chum salmon within Clayoquot Sound and applying Artificial intelligence (AI) based software that aids in the detection and enumeration of salmon within the output video footage. By the end of the Project streamlined drone enumeration methodology will be produced that can then be applied to other species and stocks. AI-based software used to for ecological research applications will be optimized to be used for processing the drone video footage that is collected during the enumeration process. For this application fish can be detected and counted by the automated software making the process highly efficient. Streams will be enumerated traditionally by snorkel or bank walks at the same time as the drone-based surveys so the methods can be compared, and a survey efficiency can be determined. We are working with researchers from Uuathluk Fisheries, Quest University, University of Toronto, Pacific Salmon Foundation, CDFO, and other local organizations and to ensure the UAV based enumerations and analysis is designed to meet management requirements of expanded chum enumerations.

Enhanced Southern BC Chum Historical Data Analysis

The Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) maintained a Chum and Pink database of mark (fin clips with or without CWTs) recapture information until 2009, at which point reduced capacity and changing priorities in the program resulted in chum sampling data not being compiled in the standardized database for regional analysis. The Chum and Pink database reports annual contribution to catch and escapement for fin clipped chum and pink stocks, allowing estimation of survival and exploitation rate metrics, used to adaptively manage annual hatchery and spawning channel chum production. Currently historical biostandards are used to estimate production levels needed to meet fishery objectives.

This project proposes to compile missing years (2010 to present) of chum fin clipped release data from historical data in the Enhancement and Planning database (EPAD), clip observations in fisheries (Fraser River, Johnstone Strait, Central Coast) from J.O. Thomas sampling, and clip observations in escapement from hatchery sampling programs, using the SEP Chum and Pink database, where analysis can provide assessment metrics, and allow QA and reporting for all years.

Specifically, this proposed work will improve chum escapement and exploitation rate assessments by publishing historical enhanced contribution estimates in fisheries and escapement, based on fin clip rates observed in sampling. This should aid chum run reconstruction analyses by providing estimates of exploitation for Vancouver Island and Fraser River marked enhanced stocks.

Burman River hydrology method validation project: indexing WCVI Chinook spawning area residence time beyond the Burman River

The goal of this study is to validate if the Discounted Survey Life (DSL) /Hydrology method of indexing residence time related to flow timing developed at Burman River can be used more extensively.  More specifically we hope to estimate escapement of the adjacent and neighboring Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) wild population indicators in the Nootka-Kyuquot Conservation Unit (CU) and the Southwest Vancouver Island CU, (Kaouk, Tahsish, and Artlish, Megin, Mooyeha, Bedwell). Modern mark-recapture (MR) methods  will be employed at Conuma River and Tranquil Creek, to precisely estimate spawning escapement of Chinook salmon. Although these two streams are not current Pacific Salmon Commission indicators of natural Chinook salmon escapement we believe they contain sufficient fish from hatchery production or supplementation to successfully conduct MR studies, estimate the DSL parameter, and validate if the new method can be applied more broadly to WCVI Chinook in general and specifically to the wild PST escapement indicator populations established in the new Agreement.

Bedwell River Smolt Outmigration Assessment

Current efforts in assessing the health and recovery of Chinook salmon have been primarily focused on adult escapement to their natal spawning grounds while data and information around the health and available resources at other life-stages is lacking. Cohort survival is generally determined in the early life phases. Identification of limiting factors is important for improving production and recovery. This project is unique along the WCVI in assessing the health, distribution, and out-migration timing of wild Chinook smolts. We propose installing a Rotary Screw Trap (RST) in the lower reaches of the Bedwell River which will capture and allow for sampling of the juvenile salmon out-migration in the Spring.  Results from the project will contribute to a multi-year comprehensive assessment of the limiting factors for southern west coast Vancouver Island (WCVI) Chinook recovery.

Investigation of Yearling Chinook Hatchery Production as a Conservation Strategy for West Coast Vancouver Island Chinook

This project proposes to continue a study to investigate the utility of yearling Chinook enhancement as a conservation tool for West Coast Vancouver Island (WCVI) Chinook salmon. An experimental group of Chinook from Robertson Creek will be reared for ~18 months and released at the yearling stage to compare marine survival, maturation rate, marine distribution and exploitation rate to the traditional subyearling Chinook release that is used at DFO hatcheries. This project will fund the rearing and coded wire tagging of 100K Chinook juveniles for brood years 2017 and 2018, which will be compared to the traditional subyearling release strategy that is currently employed on WCVI. As the Stamp River is currently the WCVI PST exploitation rate indicator, terminal assessment capability is very high. This strategy has been proposed as a tool for extreme conservation situations where maximizing the total return from a limited number of available eggs is desired. It has also been hypothesized that by utilizing multiple release strategies, that brood year failures due to poor ocean entry conditions in any one year can be avoided. There is little recent empirical information on this strategy and its potential utility or risk as a tool for Chinook conservation. This project will address that gap and allow for improved decision making to fully understand the risks and benefits of this strategy as a component of a comprehensive conservation plan for Chinook populations of concern.

Development and Implementation of Analytical Tools to Support WCVI Chinook Hatchery Management & Reform in Canada

This project’s intent is to address how hatchery management, in concert with harvest and habitat management can best be applied over time to maintain a trajectory toward success.  Here, “best” means progress toward recovery of the natural population being maximized while achieving enhancement production objectives.

The objective is to undertake a one-time set of activities to support the development and implementation of analytical tools designed to allow for improved Chinook hatchery program design and operation in British Columbia. The project will build on recent science and policy work in both Canada and the US HSRG process to support Chinook hatchery planning work so that it may better meet managers and stakeholders harvest and conservation goals.

Hatchery effectiveness and wild stock interactions will be directly evaluated and will support integrated planning to improve the cost-benefit return, both in terms of harvest value as well as minimizing negative wild stock interactions. Improvement to the status of wild WCVI Chinook via conservation hatchery intervention can potentially lead to increased harvest availability in boundary fisheries. In addition, production hatcheries that are determined through the use of the All-Hatchery Analyzer and In-Season Implementation Tool (AHA-ISIT) to be underutilized with respect to potential contribution of hatchery Chinook to boundary and domestic fisheries will be reviewed for potential increases in production. Improved information and understanding of potential harvestable hatchery surpluses will be able to leverage significant benefits with minimal resource inputs, as hatchery Chinook that are already being produced may be made available for harvest.

As the AHA-ISIT Life Cycle Model allows for modelling of scenarios for rebuilding that include habitat productivity parameters in conjunction with harvest and hatchery policy, effective implementation of this project and subsequent evaluation of current and previous hatchery programs will be able to identify opportunities for habitat restoration work where it may be a limiting factor for wild population abundance.