Escapement accounting of Nass watershed pink salmon

The quality of the information which is used to make Area 3 escapement estimates has decreased since 2010, especially on coastal systems and large contributors. While Nisga’a Lisims Government (NLG) receives funding to do accurate and timely surveys of inland systems within Nisga’a territories (a portion of Area 3), Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) funding for the coverage of large indicators has decreased. Because of this, DFO and Nisga’a through a Joint Technical Committee are increasing our reliance on making large expansions that estimate returns to the Statistical Management Area or on inserting estimates for indicator systems based on regressions with surveyed systems.

While regressions and expansions show promise, they can also be problematic if large systems behave differently than smaller systems. Implications of mistaken estimates can mean that commercial and treaty harvest opportunities in Canada may not align with actual returns and can thus lead to over-harvest or foregone catch.

For 2020, we propose that DFO crews will do 4 aerial surveys of important even-year pink salmon producers for Area 3 (i.e., Kwinamass, Khutzeymateen, Toon and Kincolith) and NLG Fisheries and Wildlife Department (NFWD) ground crews will do Area 3 indicator systems that can be done without aerial support (a minimum of 2 systems among Dogfish, Chambers, Crag and Lizard). This project will compliment proposed work by the NFWD that will survey chum indicators which are also contributors of even-year pink salmon. Directed collaborative efforts by DFO and Nisga’a will enable us to produce strong watershed estimates and to compare it with regression methodologies used in previous years to see if they are viable options if all indicators can’t be surveyed.