Genetic tools to inform sustainable fisheries and rebuild at-risk coho, chum and Chinook populations

In the Central Coast of BC, coho, chum and Chinook salmon populations have declined in recent decades, likely due to ongoing climate change, freshwater habitat degradation, and overharvest in mixed-stock fisheries. The spawning abundance of many populations is poorly monitored, harvest rate estimates are lacking for Central Coast coho stocks, stock composition in commercial chum fisheries is unquantified, and harvest rate information is only available for two hatchery-enhanced Chinook stocks (i.e., Atnarko, Wannock). These issues raise concerns about the long-term sustainability of fisheries as well as the feasibility of recovery and conservation efforts. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop and apply genetic tools that can inform the management of mixed-stock fisheries in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska under the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) and improve the effectiveness of recovery efforts.

This project will align with First Nations-led DNA collections to build baselines for coho, chum, and Chinook and the application of GSI to mixed-stock samples collected in on-going catch monitoring programs administered by CCIRA and Central Coast First Nations (CCFN) by providing additional opportunities for collections of mixed-stock samples to quantify catch composition in Central Coast fisheries. Expanded DNA baselines for Central Coast coho, chum, and Chinook will enable estimates of harvest for Central Coast stocks in Alaskan and BC fisheries and improve data on catch composition and total harvest in Central Coast fisheries. These data will lead to improved salmon management under the PST by allowing managers to direct fishing activity (commercial, recreational and First Nations Food, Social, and Ceremonial, FSC) towards abundant populations, thereby reducing impacts on at-risk stocks.