Kitwanga River Salmon Enumeration Facility

Photo: Kitwanga River Salmon Enumeration Facility

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Further information is available on the
Gitanyow Fisheries Authority’s website.

The Kitwanga River is a biologically rich salmon producing system that drains into the middle Skeena approximately 250 km from the coast. During the winter of 2003 the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority, in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection constructed a salmonid enumeration facility in order to better manage salmon and steelhead stocks in the Kitwanga River. The salmonid escapement information collected on the Kitwanga River is also used as an index of salmon health for the entire middle Skeena River. Kitwanga salmon abundance information is used in-season and post-season to better manage the salmon resources in Management Area 4 in any given year. The Kitwanga River Salmon Enumeration Facility (KSEF) is located approximately four kilometers from the mouth of the river and has been in operation since 2003. The KSEF is based on a dual design system using an aluminum fence to count salmon in the summer and fall, and a resistivity counter to count steelhead migration in and out of the system in winter and spring.

The Gitanyow Fisheries Authority operates the fence portion of the KSEF from the beginning of July to the end of October. Sockeye, chinook, pink, chum and coho salmon are visually identified, counted and sampled for age, sex, and DNA composition. During a good salmon escapement year as many as 400,000 salmon are individually identified and counted through the fence, and pink salmon make up the bulk of the returns. Yearly Kitwanga sockeye escapement information is of particular importance given the recent conservation concerns for the stock, and a large recovery strategy is currently implemented in an attempt to restore sockeye escapement to more historical levels. Furthermore, the escapement levels of pink and chum salmon on the Kitwanga River are particularly important because they represent the only complete fence counts for these species in the entire Skeena River System in any given year.