Yakoun River, Haida Gwaii, Annual Chinook & Coho Assessments

The Yakoun River supports several Pacific salmon stocks including the only indigenous Chinook salmon stock on Haida Gwaii. Intensive logging activities and consequent habitat degradation coupled with increased fishing harvest pressures resulted in severe declines of Pacific salmon stocks, particularly Chinook. Over the past 30 years efforts to rebuild the Chinook stock, through hatchery-rearing and protective management measures designed to minimize commercial and recreational harvests, appear to have been effective. A rough yearly index of escapement based on anecdotal opportunistic visual observations made during broodstock collection suggest the stock is recovering. Hatchery production and restraints on harvest have yielded increased numbers of Chinook spawners in the Yakoun River, with estimated escapement shown to approach management targets in recent years. However, DFO North Coast Stock Assessment does not acknowledge current estimates of salmon escapements to the Yakoun River as biologically defendable enough to base management decisions on. As a result, there is little opportunity to improve stock size and/or change current regulations affecting harvest and management until a more reliable method to determine salmon escapement is established.

Escapement estimates for Coho specific to the Yakoun River are not available so general abundance patterns are unknown for historical and current Coho stocks in the Yakoun. Methods for estimating escapement of Pacific salmon stocks in the Yakoun River have been insufficient. Opportunistic surveys, anecdotal observations, and the inability of fence count programs to operate during high water conditions have all contributed to incomplete escapement data and uncertainty around escapement estimates. Improved accuracy and consistency of escapement estimates will allow for improved management of the Yakoun River salmon stocks. To that end the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) has taken the initiative to establish an Adaptive Resolution Imaging Sonar (ARIS) for assessing salmon escapements on the Yakoun River.