Babine Lake sockeye salmon comprise the bulk (90%) of Skeena River sockeye captured in Canadian and U.S. waters, and were historically a major bi-lateral economic driver on the North Coast. Any reductions in returns significantly affect fisheries and subsistence in both countries.
The worrisome trends observed in freshwater survival, and routinely depressed escapements over the past ~20 years, highlight the critical importance of understanding the modern freshwater ecology of Babine Lake sockeye salmon and their nursery habitat. The fundamental ecological changes observed in Babine Lake in 2013 (changes in nutrient availability likely due to climate change, and resultant shifts in the food web) indicate a heightened need for long-term data to assess specific mechanisms of lake change and stock decline, such that informed decisions can be made to guide fisheries resource management, salmon enhancement, and habitat stewardship. As such, the current project consists of lake-wide limnological assessments, surveys of juvenile sockeye abundance, size, feeding ecology, physiological condition and freshwater survival, and an implementation of a spatially-resolved multiple trophic level paleolimnological food web assessment over the last 200 years (or more).
N17-I30 Babine Lake Sockeye nursery ecosystem structure, functioning & productive capacity Report 2017
N16-I38A Babine Lake - Sockeye Nursery Ecosystem Structure, Functioning and Productive Capacity Interim Report 2016
The Lake Babine Nation Fisheries Department (LBNF), in collaboration with the DFO, propose to build on success in the 2013 – 2019 smolt project by continuing to operate the Babine smolt enumeration facilities to provide sockeye smolt emigration estimates and smolt fitness data for the Babine Lake Watershed. Smolt production and fitness are effective indicators of Babine Lake ecosystem health which can be used to initiate and direct resource management initiatives intended to protect the Babine Lake watershed. Continued smolt trap operation would extend the data series analyzed by the DFO from 1959 to 2002, jointly by the LBN and SFC from 2013 to 2015 and independently by LBNF from 2016 to 2019. We believe that continuous data from the Babine smolt enumeration fence would provide important information on Babine sockeye population status that will contribute critical information to the understanding the large inter-annual variations in returns observed in the past two decades. An uninterrupted set of sockeye smolt population data over multiple years will help address one of the most fundamental questions of salmon stocks management — under which conditions are freshwater or marine environments the primary driver determining salmon returns? We propose to continue the Babine sockeye smolt enumeration program in 2020 to continue monitoring smolt production, which is necessary to determine the effects of annual variation in climactic conditions, habitat conditions and prey availability.
N19-I42 Babine Lake Watershed Sockeye Smolt Enumeration Project – Mark-Recapture 2019 Report
N18-I33 Babine Lake Watershed Sockeye Smolt Enumeration Project – Mark-Recapture Report 2018
N17-I31 Babine Lake Watershed Sockeye Smolt Enumeration Project – Mark-Recapture
N16-I10 Babine Lake Watershed Sockeye Smolt Enumeration Project – Mark-Recapture 2016
N15-I17 2015 Babine Lake Sockeye Smolt Enumeration – Mark-Recapture. Year 3 of 4
N14-I15 Babine Lake Sockeye Smolt Enumeration – Mark-Recapture. Year 2 of 4
N13-I22 Babine Lake Sockeye Smolt Enumeration - Mark-Recapture Year 1 of 4