Tracking North Coast pink salmon escapement

North Coast pink salmon have a fixed 2-year life cycle, with reproductively distinct stocks spawning in the same location in odd and even years. Assumptions of dominance of one life cycle over the other can drive pre-season fishery planning. Most north coast stocks (excluding those on Haida Gwaii) have been more abundant in odd years than even years in the 1980s, 1990’s and 2000’s. However in the 2010’s in Area 3, even-year pink salmon have, on average for the decade, surpassed odds. Survey effort has decreased since 2010 for coastal systems and large contributing rivers, potentially screwing our understanding of true patterns. Therefore, DFO and Nisga’a, through the Joint Technical Committee, are increasing our reliance on making large expansions that estimate returns to Conservation Units, Treaty Areas and Management Areas. Implications of incorrectly expanding can mean that commercial and treaty harvest opportunities may not align with actual returns and can thus lead to either over-harvest or foregone catch.

For 2021, we propose to survey key systems which include four aerial surveys of the big producer systems in Area 3 (Iknouk, Khutzeymateen, Kwinamass, Kincolith) and three sets of ground surveys (Dogfish, Illiance, Crag). Directed effort will enable us to produce strong watershed estimates and to compare it with regressions used in previous years to check accuracy.