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Salmonid Enhancement Program - 2019 report

Salmonid Enhancement Program - 2019 report
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Salmonid enhancement program vision

Producing enhanced salmon, restoring salmon habitat, and building community stewardship and partnerships to conserve and sustainably manage Pacific salmon stocks for conservation, rebuilding and harvest.

SEP performance at a glance

Message from the SEP management team

On behalf of the Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) Management Team, we are pleased to present the 2019-20 Report. It is our firm belief that the SEP is a strategic tool that makes a significant difference in the status of the salmon resource and for the people who care about it.

This document aims to improve our programs ability to share and report on the work of the dedicated staff, our various operations and the partnerships across the region.

The SEP is a unique program consisting of hatchery and spawning facilities that contributes to the sustainability of salmon stocks across BC and the Yukon. This report is a meaningful step in our efforts to demonstrate these contributions to Canadians.

Moving forward, we will continue to share the successes of SEP and its partners in our collective efforts to support healthy salmon stocks and their habitats.

Thank you,

Adam Silverstein, A/SEP Director
Ryan Galbraith, Regional Manager of Planning and Assessment
Corino Salomi, Regional Manager of Major Operations
Dale Desrochers, A/Regional Manager of Community Involvement and Resource Restoration

What is SEP

DFO’s Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) is a multi-faceted program that contributes to the management, conservation, and restoration of Pacific salmon stocks. It produces salmon at spawning channels and facilities, restores and maintains habitat, and undertakes projects that include public participation by local communities and Indigenous groups in fisheries and watershed stewardship activities. SEP’s wide range of activities meet regional and national departmental priorities, contributes information for regional DFO stock assessment and harvest management planning, while supporting the implementation of Canada’s Policy for the Conservation of Wild Salmon, and obligations required under the Canada-US Pacific Salmon Treaty.

Enhancement of Pacific salmon delivers significant economic benefit in the form of directed harvest, supports vulnerable populations that may limit fisheries, and provides stock assessment information upon which coast wide fisheries are managed across the region. SEP is a complex and varied program with outcomes linked to improving habitats for salmon and building a culture of ecosystem stewardship to conserve Pacific salmon. Public and community involvement is essential to what SEP does and has been since the program was established in 1977.

SEP’s integrated hatchery and habitat programming necessitates a robust strategic program management structure, which incorporates national objectives, operational frameworks and guidance, as well as policy and regulatory tools. SEP uses extensive biological assessment to evaluate program performance, as well as support production planning and work prioritization. It is the means by which SEP measures program contribution to fisheries and rebuilding populations, fish production levels, the effectiveness of enhancement strategies, and the effects of hatchery salmon on wild populations.

SEP is delivered through


SEP Planning and Assessment (SPA) provides biological ecosystembased advice for fish production by planning, directing, monitoring, evaluating and reporting on SEP enhancement activities. It is integrated with other DFO branches and consults with stakeholders through fisheries.


Major Operations (OPS) includes DFO facilities that rebuild stocks, support assessment, and provide harvest opportunities through hatcheries and spawning channels.


Community Involvement and Resource Restoration (CIRR) is comprised of:

Habitat restoration

Restoration Pacific salmon depend on healthy habitats to survive. Human-caused landscape changes can lead to changes in ecosystem processes and degrade freshwater habitats, estuaries and nearshore areas that salmon require for spawning, rearing and migration. Habitat restoration aims to repair or rehabilitate salmon habitat at the local and watershed level to rebuild and recover salmon populations and sustain salmon fisheries.

SEP is DFO’s primary mechanism to deliver on the ground habitat restoration working collaboratively with Indigenous communities, community stewardship groups, non-government organizations, stakeholders, and other agencies (local, provincial, federal). Teams of Restoration Biologists, Restoration Engineers, Technicians and Community Advisors, provide technical assistance to implement solutions at the local and regional level for salmon recovery and stewardship.

SEP provides technical input and key funding to joint federal-provincial committees and external review boards to coordinate and prioritize habitat restoration activities. In 2019-2020, SEP provided input to 7 DFO and partner funded programs, resulting in over $24 million of investments in salmon habitat restoration. SEP was directly involved in 83% of salmon restoration projects across Pacific Region leveraging SEP in-kind contributions dollars at a ratio of 25:1 ($1 SEP in-kind = $25 Leverage).

Over the year, biological and technical expertise was provided to over 379 partners in 39 watersheds engaged in watershed planning, construction, maintenance and monitoring projects to improve or restore important salmon habitats.

Pie Chart: Salmon habitat restoration investments in 2019-2020

Figure 1: Salmon habitat restoration investments in 2019-2020 through DFO and partner funding programs. Funding programs represented above include Coastal Restoration Fund, Canada Nature Legacy Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, Aboriginal Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Community Salmon Program and BC Provincial Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.

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$24.8 M 2019-20 F.Y. investment in salmon restoration

83% SEP supported (approx. $860,000 in-kind)

17% DFO, FWCP, PSF supported

Funding Jobs created Partners Riparian habitat restored Estuary habitat restored Nearshore and marine habitat restored Freshwater habitat restored Stream lengths made accessible
$20.6 million 186 jobs 379 partners 32,043 m2 1,758,108 m2 5,456 m2 240,595 m2 86.5 km

Table 1: SEP supported salmon habitat restoration project accomplishments for 2019-2020. Number of habitat restoration projects represented in the table is 106.

Map: SEP supported habitat restoration projects delivered in 2019-2020 by project stage

Figure 2: Map of SEP supported habitat restoration projects delivered in 2019-2020 by project stage.

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Map of SEP supported habitat restoration projects delivered in 2019-2020 by project stage.

Stewardship and education


Salmon are fundamental to Indigenous communities, central to our economy, and are a significant indicator of overall environmental health. SEP has a long history of supporting community stewardship to provide the public opportunities to learn and participate in salmon and ecosystems. The passion, expertise and spirit of collaboration of all people who care about salmon has been invaluable to the salmon enhancement program.

SEP maintains collaboration and connection with community volunteers directly through its network of Community Advisors as well at the management level through the Salmonid Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board (SEHAB), an organization representing communities across the Pacific Region. A network of 15 Community Advisors located across the Pacific Region provided ongoing technical support and guidance to assist community groups and Indigenous peoples in achieving their goals of supporting salmon and ecosystem health. These goals included re-establishing or strengthening salmon populations in local streams, undertaking site specific stream restoration projects, participating on watershed planning committees and groups, conducting stream enumeration, collecting genetic samples to identify adult salmon, and gathering stream biophysical data to understand changing stream conditions and potential factors limiting salmon recovery. These activities and outreach events engage thousands of students, families and individuals who support their local community environment for the greater good of the salmon resource.

Funding through SEP’s Community Involvement Contribution Program was provide to 102 non-profit groups and Indigenous peoples participating in community-based projects and hatcheries. Under the Community Economic Development Program (CEDP) and the Public Involvement Program (PIP), the following activities were supported through annual contribution agreements: restoration, salmon enhancement, stock assessment, and stewardship.

SEP collaborates with the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation to train and builds the capacity of community volunteers to apply their experience and knowledge to advocate and act to improve aquatic health, habitat status, land use, and stock assessment at the local level. 2019 was International Year of the Salmon (IYS). SEP supported IYS by hosting a Community Workshop held in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Over 250 participants shared how salmon provide people with food, recreation, employment, and community connections.

Community salmon stewardship


The Salmonids in the Classroom is the flagship of the education program. Through a team of 18 Education Coordinators contracted throughout British Columbia and their Community Advisors, approximately 70,000 salmon eggs were incubated, hatched and reared in classrooms in 2019. This Program directly engaged 19,200 students and their families in learning about the environmental conditions affecting salmon, paving the way to become the future Stewards of Tomorrow and supporting a Culture of Salmon into generations to come.

80% of BC School Districts rely on the S2S Program

Education and outreach are key activities SEP engages in to raise awareness and provide hands on learning opportunities to communities throughout BC and Yukon. The Stream to Sea (S2S) Education Program provides a powerful platform to provide students with a wide range of learning opportunities. This Program has been incorporated into the British Columbia Ministry of Education curriculum for over 35 years, and in 2019-2020, was implemented in 48 school districts over 1,000 schools.

70,000 salmon fry raised and released by students

Salmon enhancement

Assessment of enhancement

Map: Salmonid Enhancement Program major facility and community hatcheries
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Map of Salmonid Enhancement Program major facility and community hatcheries, including:

Biological assessment is fundamental for evaluating the performance of SEP enhancement activities and the program as a whole. As mentioned in the introduction, SEP uses a structured assessment framework to measure enhanced contribution to fisheries and salmon populations, fish production levels, the effectiveness of enhancement strategies, and the influence of hatchery salmon on wild populations. SEP’s production for assessment supports regional DFO stock assessment and harvest management planning, and is inextricably tied to meeting obligations under the Canada-US Pacific Salmon Treaty.

SEP’s production for assessment is divided into those that support SEP’s core assessment programs and those that are linked through SEP to other essential Pacific Region assessment objectives. This work contributes to the evaluation and tracking of stock status for many populations, and in some cases is the only information available for certain stocks.

Figure: SEP assessment objectives

Figure 3: SEP assessment objectives and the key relationships SEP assessment has with program operational and management functions. From SEP Biological Assessment Framework (DFO, 2019)

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SEP assessment objectives

Regional assessment objectives requiring SEP support

SEP core assessment objectives

All enhancement projects are assessed directly or indirectly, with the method dependent on the species, project size, release group, and enhancement strategy. Assessment of SEP production is dependent on the marking of juvenile salmon and their subsequent recovery as adults in fisheries and the escapement. Marking may entail removal of a fin, insertion of a coded-wire tag, thermal marking during incubation, or utilizing naturally occurring genetic markers. However, due to the intensive and expensive nature of assessment this is not possible for all projects, so several enhanced stocks are used as indicators to represent similar stocks in the same geographic region.

The information gained from assessment includes: total juvenile production, survival rate to adult, exploitation rate from fisheries, biological metrics, and metrics of the influence of hatchery salmon on wild salmon. These parameters determined for indicators stocks (direct assessment) can be applied to stocks that are monitored less rigorously (indirect assessment).

Reporting by community and federal facilities of non-indicator stocks contributes to stock forecasts, as well as survival rates and exploitation rates calculations for all five species of Pacific salmon. Specifically, details around total juvenile releases, and total adult escapement from hatcheries, combined with fisheries recovery data, are reported internationally to PST technical commissions and the Regional Mark Processing Centre, which has been delegated by the PST to report to the public.

Community members also actively provide assessment information to SEP by participating in the Salmon Head Recovery Program. By submitting the heads of adipose-clipped Chinook and Coho salmon, fishers provide valuable information necessary to monitor and assess salmon stocks. In 2019, 226 Pacific salmon stocks were marked for assessment purposes at community and federal hatcheries. Information gained from this assessment will support harvest and conservation activities throughout the region, as well as meet obligations under the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

SEP enhancement for assessment, and particularly assessment of SEP enhancement, is critical to the program operating defensibly and for management of many salmon stocks and fisheries. For more information please refer to SEP Biological Assessment Framework.

- Chinook Chum Coho Pink Sockeye Total
Coded Wire tagged 33 - 11 - 1 45
Adipose fin clip 3 1 43 - 4 51
Genetic tagging 50 - 40 - 2 92
Thermal 21 9 2 2 4 38

Table 2: Total number of stocks marked for assessment purposes in 2019.

Conservation and rebuilding based hatchery enhancement

SEP plays a important role in DFO's work to recover vulnerable salmon stocks through fish culture that directly increases abundance, and habitat restoration activities that improve fish habitat productivity. In the context of hatchery production, SEP defines conservation as the enhancement of a stock highly at risk of extirpation or extinction with the goal of preventing extinction and preserving the genetic diversity of the population. Rebuilding is defined as enhancement of a stock that is below apparent carrying capacity. SEP supports conservation and rebuilding initiatives throughout the Province of BC for all five Pacific salmon species. Conservation and rebuilding projects occur at a much smaller scale harvest than harvest, accounting for 1% of the juveniles released but over 20% of the stocks enhanced at community and federal facilities. This is in part due to the low abundance of the stocks that require enhancement to support conservation and rebuilding.

SEP’s conservation enhancement supports regional conservation initiatives, and typically is one of several actions for a given population as part of broader recovery plans. Hatchery production has been prescribed as a component of conservation strategies for at-risk stocks, supporting conservation initiatives for populations such as Cultus Lake Sockeye Salmon, Sakinaw Lake Sockeye Salmon, and Interior Fraser River Coho Salmon.

Rebuilding based enhancement includes projects on depleted populations and mitigating for habitat loss. Rebuilding initiatives generally do not require the same level of management as conservation stocks, in part due to the status of the populations, and goals of enhancement. Although rebuilding occurs across the region, the stock status of many middle and upper Fraser River salmon populations, particularly Chinook, are trending downwards. DFO and its partners have multiple projects underway to support salmon rebuilding in this area, utilizing 100% of hatchery capacity in the BC interior.

Figure: 1.1 M juvenile salmon released for conservation

Figure 4: Total juvenile salmon released from community and federal hatcheries in 2019 to support a conservation objective.

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1.1 M juvenile salmon released for conservation

Figure: 14.6 M juvenile salmon released for rebuilding

Figure 5: Total juvenile salmon released from community and federal hatcheries in 2019 to support a rebuilding objective.

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14.6 M juvenile salmon released for rebuilding

Harvest based enhancement

SEP production for harvest supports Indigenous, recreational, and commercial fisheries throughout the Pacific Region, accounting for approximately 30% of all stocks enhanced, and more than 75% of all hatchery fish released. It includes production from major DFO facilities and spawning channels, as well as production from SEP-supported community facilities. SEP defines harvest production as enhancement of stocks for fisheries that are reliant on this production, and would disappear or become severely constrained in the absence of enhancement.

The majority of harvest based releases are from Vancouver Island facilities, supporting large recreational, commercial, and first nation harvest. Though it is estimated that 10-20 % of all salmon harvested in BC are from SEP hatcheries and spawning channels, this can be much higher in some areas. The West Coast of Vancouver Island (WCVI) is an example where total Chinook salmon abundance and catch is hatchery driven, largely from the three main WCVI hatcheries (Nitinat, Robertson, Conuma,). Robertson Creek Hatchery in particular is a substantial economic driver supporting significant fisheries in Barkley Sound and Alberni Inlet, where hatchery contribution to catch can exceed 80%.

Declines of southern BC Coho in the 1990’s, particularly Interior Fraser River Coho, prompted the implementation of a mark selective fishery (MSF) in 1999. By 2003 Coho MSFs were expanded to include almost all southern BC recreational salmon fisheries, as well as seasonal WCVI troll fisheries.

Map: 2019 Robertson Creek Hatchery Chinook catch by stat area

Figure 6: 2019 Robertson Creek Hatchery Chinook catch by stat area. Values are calculated from expanded coded-wire tag recoveries.

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Map of 2019 Robertson Creek Hatchery Chinook catch by stat area. Values are calculated from expanded coded-wire tag recoveries.

Figure: 306 M juvenile salmon released for harvest

Figure 7: Total juvenile salmon released from community and federal hatcheries and spawning channels in 2019 to support a harvest objective.

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306 M juvenile salmon released for harvest

2019 program highlights

Southern Resident Killer Whales

The decline of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) is linked to threats such as noise and disturbance, environmental contaminants, and reduced availability of their preferred prey, Chinook salmon. SEP is taking a multi-pronged approach to support SRKW recovery, by (1) Conserving and rebuilding high-priority prey species, (2) Restoring high-priority prey habitat throughout the Pacific Region; and (3) Increasing production of high-priority prey.

SEP has multiple ongoing and new projects dedicated to the conservation and rebuilding of southern BC Chinook, such as Spius, Nanaimo, and Coldwater Chinook. These and other enhancement efforts, including restoration, indirectly support SRKW recovery by increasing the availability of high priority prey species throughout SRKW critical habitat.

A series of habitat restoration and rebuilding projects are currently underway in high priority watersheds to support vulnerable salmon populations that are anticipated to benefit SRKW. These restoration actions are considered long-term measures that focus on addressing habitat factors limiting priority prey species.

During the 2019-2021 fiscal year, DFO funded 29 projects through the Coastal Restoration Fund, BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, and the Canadian Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, totaling approximately $8.4 Million for restoration of freshwater, estuarine, and nearshore habitats in addition to addressing gaps on habitat limitations for Pacific salmon.

To support SRKW recovery SEP is increasing the production of Fraser fall Chinook, which were identified as high-priority prey for SRKW in large part due to their year-round availability in SRKW critical habitat. Chilliwack River Hatchery already produces approximately one million Fraser fall Chinook annually for harvest, and will produce an additional one million juvenile Chinook to increase SRKW prey availability. This hatchery production is expected to increase Chinook abundance in SRKW critical habitat by an estimated 35,000 adults per year.

Habitat restoration efforts are focused on

Map: Prey index for SRKW
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Prey index for SRKW

Priority list of stocks focuses our salmon recovery efforts to help SRKW.

Scores of 1.38, 2.88, 4.25, 4.63.

SEP Contribution to the Big Bar Landslide Response

On June 23, 2019, a significant landslide was reported in a remote, rugged canyon along the Fraser River near Big Bar, north of Lillooet, British Columbia, on the traditional territory of the Secwepemc Nation.

Huge pieces of rock and substantial debris sheared off from a 125-meter cliff and crashed into the river, creating a five-meter waterfall. Further analysis confirmed that approximately 110,000 cubic meters of debris fell into the river. This barrier prevented migrating Pacific salmon from moving beyond the landslide to reach their spawning grounds, thus impacting the reproductive cycle of several key Upper Fraser salmon populations. To address this emergency, a tripartite governance structure was established, consisting of federal and provincial agencies along with First Nation leadership, responsible for planning and executing the Big Bar landslide response.

SEP made significant contributions to all of the Big Bar biological programming by providing subject matter expertise, leadership, human resources, specialized equipment, and facility space to support emergency enhancement. In fiscal 2019-2020 SEP dedicated over 3,900 staff hours and played an integral role in designing, implementing and operating the fish transport systems which included the helicopter and truck transport programs.

Diagram: Big Bar landslide
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Diagram of the Big Bar Landslide:

Transported by helicopter between July 23rd – September 3rd
Sockeye: 51,449 Chinook: 8,522 Coho: 3 Pink: 372

Emergency conservation enhancement

The Early Stuart sockeye stock was determined to be a good candidate for emergency conservation enhancement as the risk of intercepting any other sockeye at the beginning of the Fraser River sockeye migration is relatively low. This is due to the fact that Early Stuart sockeye are the first to migrate up the Fraser River and reach the slide. Space at both the Cultus Lake Laboratory and the Inch Creek Facility were dedicated to this program. In 2023 the majority of the Early Stuart escapement will be due to the unprecedented actions of dedicated SEP staff.

SEP Achieved
39,507 Green Eggs Collected 19,500 Juveniles Released 77 Distinct Family Crosses

Contribution Agreement Partnerships

Community and Indigenous partners supported by the SEP community involvement program

Bar graph: Contribution agreements under SEP in 2019-2020

Figure 8: Overall contribution agreement value to recipients in fiscal year 2019-2020

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Contribution agreements under SEP in 2019-2020

Indigenous groups $2,070,828 - $7,750
Community volunteer groups $1,270,966 - $526,350
SCH. board/municipal/charity - - $8,000
Pacific Salmon Foundation - $1,528,746 -
Total $3.34M $1.53M $.54M

Community Economic Development Program (CEDP)

$100,001 +

$50,000 - $100,000

Public Involvement Program (PIP)

$10,001 +

$5,001 - $10,000

$0 - $5,000

Reference documents

DFO. 2005. Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Salmon. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Vancouver, B.C. ISBN 0-662-40538-2.

DFO. 2013a. A Biological Risk Management Framework for Enhancing Salmon in the Pacific Region. Salmonid Enhancement Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.

DFO. 2013b. Community Involvement Program Best Management Practices Guide. Salmonid Enhancement Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.

DFO. 2015. SEP Planning Framework for Restoration Projects, Version 1. 28 pp. Salmonid Enhancement Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.

DFO. 2016. A Compilation of Operational and Planning Guidelines for the Salmonid Enhancement Program. Salmonid Enhancement Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.

DFO. 2018a. SEP Production Planning: A Framework. Salmonid Enhancement Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.

DFO. 2018b. Wild Salmon Policy 2018 to 2022 Implementation Plan.

DFO. 2019.SEP Biological Assessment Framework. Salmonid Enhancement Program, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region.

Photo credits

Report team

On behalf of the SEP Management Team and the staff located across the Pacific Region, we would like to thank each of our partners in working collectively to improve the conditions for salmon and their habitats.

We would also like to thank all of the staff that have contributed to this report, and we look forward to continuing to share our successes with all who are interested.

Adam Silverstein
Director, Salmonid Enhancement Program
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region

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