Fraser River Sockeye survival has declined since the mid-1990s, with the exception of a brief return to average from 2010 to 2014. Reduced survival has resulted in poor total returns of Fraser Sockeye, creating conservation concerns for 10 stocks. Consequently, fishing opportunities have been limited in recent years.
The Cohen Inquiry into the Decline of Fraser Sockeye in 2009 identified many stressors that affect Fraser Sockeye survival, including predation, disease, contaminants, climate change, fisheries, hatchery competition, aquaculture, and freshwater stressors. The mechanisms through which these stressors negatively affect salmon have been well documented. However, as the Cohen Inquiry concluded, we continue to lack clear understanding of the population level impacts of these stressors on survival.
A better understanding of population-level consequences can be gained by isolating stressors to examine their effects. This is attained by identifying responses across populations whose distributions overlap in time and space, in alignment with those stressors. Currently, we do not have the ability to efficiently compare survival responses across Fraser Sockeye populations, since the data are not consolidated or organized at appropriate spatial and temporal scales to link salmon populations across their freshwater and marine life stages. Further, there are currently no userfriendly tools to effectively isolate stressors through data exploration. Without these capacities the following critical issues arise:
-researchers cannot link their mechanistic work to population-level consequences;
-managers are unable to combine results from individual research projects into an ecosystem-based management framework;
-researchers and managers are unable to prioritize research and salmon recovery projects effectively to optimize resource allocation;
-managers cannot quickly evaluate whether their biological benchmarks and management reference points are in sync with current trends to ensure sustainable fisheries management.
To address these significant gaps, we propose to build the Salmon Pattern Analysis Tool (SPAT). SPAT is a statistical tool that will enable users to investigate stressors affecting population-level survival through examining trends across salmon populations according to user-defined filters. Project funding will be used to design, build, evaluate, and refine SPAT for Fraser River Sockeye.