Wild Salmon Policy Implementation Plan highlights, 2005 to 2017
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Since the release of Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon (WSP) in 2005, work undertaken by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and partners has been guided by the goal and objectives, as well as the strategies, of the WSP.
Over the first 13 years, our focus has been on the development of technical methods and tools to support the assessment of salmon conservation units, modest initiatives to assess habitat and ecosystems as part of integrated strategic planning pilots in key areas, and day-to-day fisheries and ecosystems management decisions within regional programs that reflect the principles, goal and objectives of the WSP. First Nations, partners, and stakeholders have contributed to and continue to support this work in a variety of ways.
Below are highlights of work we’ve led or contributed to that have supported the strategies of the WSP from 2005 to 2017 . Although this is not an exhaustive list, this work has been instrumental in furthering our understanding and implementation of the WSP. For definitions and a list of WSP tools and resources, please see the Wild Salmon Policy 2018 to 2022 Implementation Plan.
Strategy 1 – Standardized monitoring of wild salmon status
- Salmon have been delineated into more than 450 Conservation Units (CUs) for BC and Yukon with methodology developed that identifies the diversity of wild salmon for the five Pacific species (Holtby & Ciruna, 2007).
- The New Salmon Escapement Database Systems (NuSEDS), developed in 1999, stores up-to-date information on the number and identity of CUs, and is published on the Government of Canada’s Open Data Portal.
- Assessment work has been undertaken by Science Branch, and the data has been incorporated into key fisheries and habitat management decisions, including Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs).
- Conservation Units (CUs) have been monitored using indicators, and intensive and extensive monitoring approaches.
- A toolkit of metrics has been developed with four classes of indicators (abundance, trends in abundance, distribution of spawning salmon among spawning sites and fishing mortality). Metric benchmarks used to evaluate the status of CUs have been identified (Holt et al., 2009).
- Abundance benchmarks have been developed specifically for biological status evaluations, and differentiated from management reference points (Holt & Irvine, 2013).
- Metrics and benchmark methodology have been developed for WSP status evaluations, and have been applied to Fraser Sockeye CUs (Grant et al., 2012), Interior Fraser Coho salmon CUs (DFO, 2015a), and Southern BC Chinook CUs (Brown et al., in prep). Preliminary abundance benchmarks were also identified for Barkley Sound Sockeye CUs, Skeena salmon CUs, and Strait of Georgia and Lower Fraser River Coho CUs (DFO, 2015b). In addition, trends in abundance benchmarks were applied to Pink salmon CUs throughout BC (Irvine et al., 2014).
- The evaluation of benchmarks for data-limited CUs was initiated following the release of the WSP in 2005 and is ongoing (Holt & Folkes, 2015)
Strategy 2 – Assessment of habitat status
- A preliminary suite of habitat pressure, state and quantity indicators, and benchmarks and metrics for streams, lakes, and estuaries have been identified. This suite has then been tested at different levels of assessment (Stahlberg et al., 2009).
- Concepts and test-case examples have been developed for a three-tiered assessment and monitoring approach to documenting freshwater habitat characteristics for CUs: i) a first-level overview analysis of habitat pressure indicators in watersheds of CUs; ii) a second-level watershed scale assessment of habitat state and quantity indicators; and iii) a third-level detailed habitat status report on highly productive and limiting habitats, and threats to habitat.
- Habitat status reports have been developed for priority areas – Sarita, Lower Harrison, Cowichan, Somass, Bedwell, San Juan, Nahmint, Henderson and Sakinaw (McQueen et al., 2007; Hyatt & Bull, 2007; Alexander et al., 2008; Borstad et al., 2011; Hyatt et al., 2011; Hyatt & Stockwell, 2013; Shardlow & Hyatt, 2013; Hyatt et al., 2015;).
- Habitat Report Cards have been developed on freshwater spawning and rearing habitat condition and status completed for 35 Southern BC Chinook CUs (Porter et al., 2013). They have also been developed for the Skeena Watershed by the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
- Work has been undertaken with Yukon and First Nation Governments in the evaluation of potential effects of human activities on fish and fish habitat.
- The State of the Salmon Program within DFO Science Branch undertakes ongoing work to track and compare Pacific salmon population status and trends.
- Risk Assessment Method for Salmon (RAMS) was developed and tested in several workshops to help identify management interventions to conserve, restore or enhance CUs of interest (Hyatt et al., 2017).
Strategy 3 – Inclusion of ecosystem values and monitoring
- A conceptual framework of CU-ecosystem unit indicators has been drafted to deal with status and trend assessments of salmon ecosystem integrity at multiple spatial and temporal scales encompassing both freshwater and marine ecosystems where salmon reside.
- The ecosystem framework referenced above has been applied in Barkley Sound to test its utility for the identification of changes within Ecosystem Units (EUs) that influence salmon CU production.
- Multi-trophic level indicators of CU-ecosystem state changes in lake ecosystems have been developed supporting Nimpkish system (McQueen, et al., 2007) and Barkley Sound Sockeye CUs (Hyatt, et al., 2011; Hyatt, McQueen & Ogden, 2018).
- The Department collaborated with partners to develop the Okanagan Fish and Water Management Tool, a web accessible, multispecies decision support system that employs biophysical CU-ecosystem indicators to inform water management options that minimize damage to fish and their habitat under seasonal flood or drought conditions (Hyatt & Bull, 2007; Alexander, et al., 2008; Hyatt & Stockwell, 2013; Hyatt, et al., 2015).
- Indicators of riparian-ecosystem integrity for salmon bearing streams have been developed based on state changes exhibited by their predator-scavenger complex (Shardlow & Hyatt, 2013).
- Research has been conducted on understanding the factors that influence salmon survival. Some recent examples include studies on salmon survival related to ocean conditions (Beamish et al., 2016; Beacham et al., 2017; Freshwater et al., 2017), ocean temperatures (DFO, 2018), density-dependent factors in the ocean (Irvine & Akenhead 2013; Ruggerone & Irvine, 2018), and salmon incidental mortality from fisheries (Patterson et al., 2017).
- Climate and oceanographic information has been synthesized into various annual State of the Ocean Reports (Chandler, et al, 2015; Chandler, et al., 2016; Chandler, et al., 2017).
Maintaining and rebuilding stocks
Strategy 4 – Integrated strategic planning
- Integrated planning pilots guided by WSP principles and objectives were established for Barkley Sound Sockeye and southern BC Chinook. With the support of First Nations and stakeholders, an integrated plan for Barkley Sound Sockeye has been produced that guides on-going fisheries management and habitat/ecosystem work. A higher level integrated plan with the support of a broader range of First Nations and stakeholders is under development for all Southern BC Chinook salmon.
- Integrated planning processes have been conducted for Skeena Sockeye through the Skeena Fisheries Technical Committee and in more local roundtables such as in the Cowichan River watershed on Vancouver Island, through the Cowichan Watershed Health and Chinook Initiative.
- National Conservation Strategies for Sockeye Salmon Sakinaw Lake (Sakinaw Sockeye Recovery Team, 2005) and Cultus Lake (Cultus Sockeye Recovery Team, 2005) populations have been developed.
- A new structure for Integrated Fisheries Management Plans in BC has been developed and implemented, based upon management units (MUs), which are groups of CUs combined for stock assessment and fisheries management purposes.
- DFO Siting Guidelines for Marine Finfish Aquaculture in British Columbia were developed and implemented to minimize potential negative impacts to the marine environment and minimize and/or mitigate potential risks to the health of wild and farmed stocks resulting from interactions between wild and farmed fish.
- DFO’s Program for Aquaculture Regulatory Research has conducted research on aquaculture interactions with wild fish populations; cumulative effects of aquaculture activities and ecosystem management models; effects and management of fish pests and pathogens; and potential effects of organic matter released from aquaculture operations on the environment.
Strategy 5 – Annual program delivery
- DFO Pacific Region programs have developed annual work plans that align with the WSP. The Department has and continues to integrate WSP considerations, such as CU status into day-to-day fisheries management decisions, including the development and implementation of Integrated Fisheries Management Plans.
- On a year to year basis, the Department has participated in numerous watershed and other planning roundtables, where WSP objectives and goals are brought to the table.
- Significant changes have been adopted within Skeena fisheries management to address conservation concerns raised from the Independent Science Panel on Skeena Management (Walters et al., 2008).
- New harvest policies have been adopted in Barkley terminal fisheries as a result of integrated harvest planning roundtables that were part of a WSP implementation pilot.
- A transparent decision making framework for hatchery production in fishery planning has been initiated that takes into account WSP objectives.
Strategy 6 – Performance Review
- Review of work plans and post-season operations are conducted annually.
- An independent performance review of the WSP was conducted by Gardner Pinfold Consultants in 2011 (Gardner Pinfold, 2011).
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