Salmon Watersheds Program

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Nass Salmon Data Live in the Pacific Salmon Explorer

January 30, 2019

The Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) has collaborated with the Nisga’a, Gitanyow, and Gitxsan First Nations, LGL Limited, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to bring together the best available data for describing the dynamics and characteristics of all genetically, ecologically, and geographically distinct populations of salmon (known as Conservation Units under Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy) in the Nass Region. All of the compiled information has been visualized and made accessible to the public through an online platform, called the Pacific Salmon Explorer. This dynamic and interactive platform allows the public to track and compare status and trends among Nass salmon Conservation Units and explore the cumulative human and environmental pressures facing freshwater salmon habitats in the region.

Many of the salmon-related data sets visualized in the Pacific Salmon Explorer are compiled annually through First Nations-led monitoring programs. The Nisga’a Nation, who have successfully operated the Nisga’a Fisheries Program since 1992, owns and operates six fish wheels for monitoring, tagging, and collecting data on all five species of Pacific salmon migrating through the Nass River. The Nisga’a Nation also collects data on returning salmon through fishways, weirs and stream walks. Additional data on salmon in the Nass Region has been collected since 2000 by the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority with ongoing projects in the Cranberry and Meziadin River basins and Brown Bear Creek. Annual monitoring programs such as these provide critical data inputs for evaluating the current salmon status in comparison to established benchmarks and for determining when the status of a salmon Conservation Unit may be changing over time in response to changing human uses and environmental conditions.

However, despite these long-term monitoring programs, critical information gaps remain for a number of Nass salmon Conservation Units. For instance, more than one-third of all Nass salmon Conservation Units lack the data required to assess their current biological status. In the absence of this baseline information, it is difficult to determine when management and conservation actions might be required to prevent salmon declines.

Of the salmon Conservation Units with sufficient data for assessing their biological status, coho and pink salmon overall appear to be doing well with the majority of the Conservation Units above their upper biological benchmarks. Other species however, such as chum salmon, remain depressed with spawner abundance at historic lows, indicating the need for management and conservation intervention. Additionally, since 2009, Nass Chinook have experienced ongoing declines in spawner abundance. Although the current biological status assessments for both Chinook CUs is mixed based on data to 2014, more recent observations suggest a pattern of declining abundance. Note that these results reflect data up to 2014. In the coming months, we will update the analysis with more current data and share the updated results via the Pacific Salmon Explorer.

This project was driven by a shared interest in providing open access to data to support the development of coordinated strategies to manage and conserve Pacific salmon and the ecosystems they are a part of. This project was made possible through financial support provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and DFO’s Coastal Restoration Fund. Providing free and open access to data is consistent with DFO’s Policy for Scientific Data. As such, funds provided by the Coastal Restoration Fund are helping the PSF provide broad public access to salmon data beyond the Nass Region and expand this online platform to other major salmon-bearing watersheds in BC including Vancouver Island and the Fraser River watershed.

You can read more about the project and the methodology for salmon population assessments in our technical report or by visiting the Pacific Salmon Explorer: