Salmon Steward

Fall/Winter 2020

Salmon Steward is the official publication of the Pacific Salmon Foundation in British Columbia, Canada

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salmon Steward magazine 11 Orca Spirit Adventures are of particular importance to the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Escapement refers to the number of fish that were counted as having returned to their native spawning grounds, while management units refer to multiple biologically, ecologically and genetically unique groups of salmon. There are many causes for salmon declines, with climate change and changes to the ocean environment being prominent ones. Fishing harvest has already declined by at least 50 per cent in recent decades yet many stocks in southern B.C. continue to struggle. Managing salmon and assessing their health is complicated. The Wild Salmon Policy uses "Conservation Units (CUs)" to define and manage genetically distinct groups of wild salmon. A majority of southern B.C. Chinook populations are in decline; recent returns to rivers in the Middle and Upper Fraser like the Bowron River and Quesnel River have been less than 20 per cent of the long-term average. However, there are also examples of healthier populations. One highlight is the South Thompson population that is returning equal to or better than the recent average. Like the 2019 Chinook conservation restrictions, PSF knows that the 2020 restrictions are painful for the public fishery, especially coastal communities that depend on Pacific salmon fishing and related tourism economically. This year, it is even more difficult amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The poor state of Fraser River Chinook and Sockeye are also very difficult for Indigenous communities who rely on these salmon for their food, social and ceremonial needs. WHAT PSF IS DOING PSF believes that to restore Chinook, a long-term recovery plan is needed. We are addressing the underlying issues causing Chinook populations to decline while also addressing concerns in their surrounding ecosystem. In keeping with our Strategic Plan, we believe that working to solve those underlying issues is the most effective way for us to help salmon, and the people who care about them. We have invested significant funds in Chinook through volunteer-led community hatcheries, habitat restoration and citizen science. Just some of the ways we are supporting Chinook: n 30% of PSF community grants go to Chinook conservation and restoration projects; n PSF has funded numerous net pens to boost enhancement of Chinook stocks; n PSF is undertaking a major project to study hatcheries – with a particular emphasis on Chinook – and recommend improved strategies; n PSF is advising Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to invest more in Interior B.C. habitat and enhancement of Chinook recovery, which is driving these restrictions; n PSF is focusing more resources on freshwater issues (temperature and availability) because many of the Chinook stocks of concern spend longer periods in freshwater; n PSF supports and helps fund efforts to improve catch monitoring with the public fishery, like the Fishing BC App and Avid Anglers. Our Salish Sea Marine Survival Project (SSMSP) was founded on determining the primary factors affecting the survival of juvenile salmon like Chinook and Steelhead in the Salish Sea. Through the SSMSP, PSF is investigating strategies to improve hatchery effectiveness such as changing the timing of fry releases and analyzing genetics for improved survival. Additionally, the SSMSP's new "Bottlenecks to Survival" program aims to develop a monitoring and evaluation framework and infrastructure to determine survival bottlenecks (limitations) in freshwater and marine environments for hatchery and wild Chinook, Coho and Steelhead in B.C. The Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags that are used in this study can also be used to determine limitations to hatchery fish production and allow managers to address these issues. PIT tags are inexpensive, tiny electronic devices that can automatically detect and decode without any need to kill or handle the salmon during data retrieval. Additionally, PSF is proposing a Climate Adaptation Plan for B.C. Salmon that will help us to understand and respond to some of these changing conditions and help the future sustainability of salmon populations. Some of our ideas include: assessing potential impediments to salmon migration at major fish passage facilities and other locations; developing landscape strategies for salmon in the wake of major fires; water strategies for salmon (flow needs, monitoring, drought response, etc.); integrated watershed strategies; invasive species prevention; and more. We are only just beginning to address these concerns but the initiatives will be ongoing and a top priority moving forward. PSF is committed to continuing to lead with and provide transparent science that is available to all while also investing in science and research and other work that focuses on juvenile salmon survival. We recognize that at times Chinook fishing has been very good in some areas of B.C. this season, as it was last year. However, the plight of several Chinook populations that co-mingle with these more plentiful stocks is a very serious concern as genetic diversity and long-term sustainability of important Chinook populations are at stake. PSF is devoted to contributing our expertise and resources towards helping these populations recover, for the benefit of the fish, and all who value them. n RYAN MILLER PHOTOGRAPHY PSF IS INVESTING significant funds into understanding and determining survival bottlenecks for juvenile salmon and the pressures that limit their success. If you would like to support this research, visit donate-online today!

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