Salmon Watersheds Program

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Atnarko Sockeye Recovery Plan

Sockeye from the Atnarko River have been harvested by the Nuxalk for millennia. These fish have played an important role in the Nuxalk culture but declines in Atnarko Sockeye abundance over the past several decades have threatened their cultural significance. In
response, the Nuxalk Fisheries Department along with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) staff from the Snootli hatchery have attempted to stop the decline and promote recovery. However, Atnarko Sockeye have remained at very low levels of abundance. In the spring of 2015, the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance secured funding from the Aboriginal Species at Risk Fund to support working with the Nuxalk Nation’s
Stewardship Office and DFO to develop an Atnarko Sockeye recovery plan. The goals of the recovery planning process were to:

1. compile, update and synthesize existing data on Atnarko Sockeye;

2. hold a workshop with recovery plan committee members to critically review the available data to identify potential factors limiting Atnarko Sockeye survival and productivity (by life stage) and actions that could be taken to promote recovery;

3. use traditional knowledge information from a food fisher workshop to document how and when Nuxalk food fisheries have changed in response to the Atnarko Sockeye decline; and

4. draft a recovery plan that synthesizes available information, identifies the most likely
factors limiting productivity, outlines prioritized recovery activities, evaluates habitat and restoration prospects and recommends additional management actions to promote recovery.

Recovery planning efforts for Pacific salmon can be extensive (and expensive) processes
involving detailed population viability analyses, numerous workshops and broad
jurisdictional and stakeholder engagement, all over multiple years. In contrast, this recovery
plan was developed with a modest amount of resources over a short period of time and with
a single opportunity to bring the recovery planning committee together. However, it should
be noted that the majority of the recovery planning team has worked together on Atnarko
Sockeye for many years and so it was felt that what was primarily needed was someone to
lead the compilation and synthesis of information and data so that a prioritized set of actions
could be identified to help recover Atnarko Sockeye.

This document details the results of the recovery planning process and is modelled after
recovery plans developed for other Sockeye populations in British Columbia including
Lakelse Lake and Kitwanga Sockeye.