Skeena River CWT Equipment Procurement

The Skeena Fisheries Commission is made up of five First Nations who do fisheries work within their respective traditional territories in both the Skeena and Nass Watersheds. They include the Gitxsan, Gitanyow, Wet’suwet’en, Lake Babine Nation and Lax Kw’alaams. Currently, both the Gitxsan and Gitanyow conduct annual coho coded-wire tag (CWT) projects in the Skeena Watershed to monitor coho abundance, estimate smolt production, fisheries exploitation and to determine Skeena coho ocean survival. The Gitxsan Watershed Authority (GWA) operate on the Slamgeesh River in the upper Skeena, while the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority (GFA) operate on the Kitwanga River in the middle Skeena. These programs are important because the information collected improves fisheries managers’ abilities to manage coho salmon stocks in the Skeena River by better understanding exploitation rates in U.S. and Canadian fisheries. It also allows managers to determine ocean survival rates for upper and middle Skeena coho stocks because both the GWA and the GFA programs accurately enumerate all marked and unmarked returning adult coho annually (fence operations), something that is often not available in many other CWT programs in BC. Currently, the Slamgeesh and Kitwanga coho CWT programs are two of only four long-term CWT monitoring programs on the entire northern BC coast, and they are conducted almost exclusively with internal GWA/GFA funds.
CWT equipment is very expensive and there are very few units available for use in northern BC. Currently, the GWA own a newer Mark IV tag injector and a Quality Control Device (QCD) for use on the Slamgeesh program, but GFA does not have a designated unit for the Kitwanga program. For the last 5 years, GFA was able to loan an injector and QCD from DFO but the equipment DFO has provided is over 30 years old (Mark II), is very unreliable and very hard to repair because parts are in low supply. In the last few years the equipment has malfunctioned multiple times and in the last two years, GFA has been unable to meet their tagging goals because of equipment failures.
SFC is therefore requesting funds from the PSC Northern Fund to purchase a CWT tagger and a QCD for the Kitwanga program. SFC will retain ownership of the equipment in the event that it is decided by SFC commissioners/technical experts that the equipment could be put to better use within one of the other areas where our signatory First Nations conduct works. Any decision to move the equipment for use in another part of the watershed would be done in consultation with the GFA.