Supporting Salmon Populations on the Central Coast

Creekwalkers count salmon returns on a river in the Central Coast.

As the cumulative effects of fishing, climate change and habitat degradation continue to impact salmon populations across the Pacific Coast, Central Coast Nations are taking
initiative by implementing salmon catch monitoring and restoration programs to help the species.

For years, salmon abundance has been on a steady downward trajectory, and addressing this decline is no simple matter. To date, funding and capacity limitations have restricted our ability to address salmon declines in a comprehensive way. In 2021, Central Coast Nations successfully acquired funding to invest in two new salmon programs: one, to improve recreational and food fishery catch monitoring; and two, to invest in restoration planning and restoration activities in priority watersheds.

With a grant from BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF), Central Coast Nations are expanding catch monitoring to increase understanding of current fishing
pressures. Currently, little is known about the impact of recreational fisheries on salmon populations. This Nation-led project will help build capacity to fill major gaps in salmon catch monitoring as well as population dynamics in order to inform better fisheries management decisions. It’s a critical step in supporting salmon populations and addresses some of the Nations’ most pressing objectives within the Integrated Marine Use Plan.

A salmon stream on the Central Coast.
Photo: Olivia Nowak

What Does this Program Look Like?

Each Central Coast Nation will conduct interview-based fishing effort surveys based on their management needs and information gaps (e.g. recreational fishing effort, community perceptions, food security concerns). Surveys are paired with overflights that count fishing effort on the water, and genetic sampling, which allows us to trace the salmon populations that a catch is coming from. This work is supported by Megan Adams, CCIRA’s salmon programs coordinator, including coordination, sourcing equipment, field capacity, and data management. CCIRA analyst Kyle Wilson provides the end-of-season analyses that compile
survey effort information, so we can estimate recreational and food fishing effort on Central Coast salmon.

Being able to trace caught salmon in this way provides adequate baseline information about the genetic make-up of each salmon population in each river. In some cases, that baseline information has never been collected. This summer and fall, the Nations are also sampling baseline genetic information on Central Coast salmon populations in under-studied streams and rivers, to link back to the genetic sampling being done with the fishing effort surveys. By understanding which fish are caught and where, the Nations can better understand and manage the impacts of mixed-stock recreational and commercial fisheries in the ocean.

Restoring Salmon Systems

Central Coast Nations also secured additional funds to develop restoration plans and implement restoration actions in priority watersheds and for priority populations. Supported by Megan Adams and CCIRA, Central Coast Nations are investing in restoration planning and activities for important salmon-bearing streams informed by habitat quality indicators, mapping and Indigenous knowledge. An initial assessment of habitat quality and population status will determine the most effective restoration activities for each impacted watershed. Restoration activities will be implemented starting in 2022, while ongoing community engagement, planning and monitoring will evaluate success or the need for further improvements in the future.

A salmon after spawning on a stream in the Central Coast.
Photo: Olivia Nowak

Looking Ahead

This is just the beginning of this work—we know that restoration takes time and fisheries management requires a lot of effort and capacity. By building a strong foundation, we aim to create lasting benefit for Central Coast salmon and salmon people. Of course, both programs build on years of work by each Nation’s Fisheries, Guardian Watchmen, and research programs, who have long been working on stewardship projects monitoring salmon populations, including creek walking and collecting DNA baselines.

Overall, these two multi-year, Nation-led programs will build capacity within Central Coast Nations to improve our understanding of recreational and food fishing, advance salmon habitat restoration, and provide opportunities for stewardship staff and community members to engage and participate in sustainable management of salmon populations. Together, these projects provide a foundation for a coordinated strategy to improve monitoring and management of Central Coast salmon, with clear leadership by Central Coast Nations.

Salmon swimming upstream in the Central Coast.
Photo: Olivia Nowak

Similar Posts