The Kitwanga River is a biologically rich tributary of the Skeena River that produces a significant portion of the overall Skeena salmon that return each year. Kitwanga River sockeye are of significant importance because they are genetically unique, and Gitanyow Lake, in the Kitwanga watershed, is one of the ten largest sockeye producing lakes in the Skeena Watershed. Kitwanga sockeye are also considered a conservation unit as defined in Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy. Historically, Kitwanga sockeye numbered in the tens of thousands, but due to drastic declines in abundance, Kitwanga sockeye are no longer directly fished commercially or harvested for Food, Social and Ceremonial purposes.
The enumeration of Kitwanga sockeye has been ongoing since 2000, first through the operation of a temporary fence in the upper part of the watershed, and then through the operation of the Kitwanga River Salmon Enumeration Facility (KSEF) located near the mouth of the Kitwanga River. The KSEF has been in operation for the last 12 years and has proven to be an extremely important in-season/post-season fisheries management tool. Despite this, no long-term funding has been secured to operate the KSEF on a yearly basis. In the past few years, the cost to operate the facility has been variously shared by the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Salmon Commission, Pacific Salmon Foundation and Skeena Wild Conservation Trust.