Babine Lake Sockeye Smolt Enumeration – Mark-Recapture

The Lake Babine Nation Fisheries Department (LBNF), in collaboration with the DFO, propose to build on success in the 2013 – 2019 smolt project by continuing to operate the Babine smolt enumeration facilities to provide sockeye smolt emigration estimates and smolt fitness data for the Babine Lake Watershed. Smolt production and fitness are effective indicators of Babine Lake ecosystem health which can be used to initiate and direct resource management initiatives intended to protect the Babine Lake watershed. Continued smolt trap operation would extend the data series analyzed by the DFO from 1959 to 2002, jointly by the LBN and SFC from 2013 to 2015 and independently by LBNF from 2016 to 2019. We believe that continuous data from the Babine smolt enumeration fence would provide important information on Babine sockeye population status that will contribute critical information to the understanding the large inter-annual variations in returns observed in the past two decades. An uninterrupted set of sockeye smolt population data over multiple years will help address one of the most fundamental questions of salmon stocks management — under which conditions are freshwater or marine environments the primary driver determining salmon returns?  We propose to continue the Babine sockeye smolt enumeration program in 2020 to continue monitoring smolt production, which is necessary to determine the effects of annual variation in climactic conditions, habitat conditions and prey availability.