Hidden Impacts of Climate Change on Canada’s Undersea Forests
Collaborative research between Central Coast First Nations and Simon Fraser University examined how the amount and quality of kelp responds to the combined effects of environmental factors, herbivory by crabs and snails, and outbreaks of bryozoans (a crust-forming invertebrate). The work was funded by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and uplifted by knowledge and guidance from Sandie Hankewich (Kitasoo Xai’xais Fisheries) and Mike Reid, Desiree Lawson, and Michael Vegh (Heiltsuk Nation). The results highlight that harvesting kelp at locally cooler, wave-exposed areas can help maintain sustainable harvests as ocean temperatures continue to rise.
Biological Hotspots along the Central Coast
Collaborative research between CCIRA and DFO scientists identifies biological hotspots—places with outstanding biodiversity or ecological features—along the Central Coast. Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the analyses contribute new and essential information to the ongoing design of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) for Canada’s Northern Shelf Bioregion.
Salmon Monitoring Report for BC’s Central Coast
With contributions from local scientists, fisheries managers and independent salmon experts, this report — a collaborative effort from CCIRA, the Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk, Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv First Nations, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, DFO and Charter Patrolmen — identifies more than 200 tangible actions to improve local salmon monitoring efforts, including hiring seasonal staff, creating salmon monitoring internships for local youth, utilizing new technologies for escapement monitoring and expanding First Nations led monitoring of recreational fisheries.
Adapting to Climate Change on the Central Coast
For this research paper in the journal Ecology and Society, community members from Central Coast Nations share their perceptions and approaches to issues related to climate change, marine-based food security and adaptation strategies. The research was designed and conducted as a partnership between the University of Victoria and the Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, and Wuikinuxv First Nations, and coordinated by CCIRA. Co-authors include Charlotte K. Whitney, Alejandro Frid, Barry K. Edgar, Jennifer Walkus, Peter Siwallace, Iris L. Siwallace and Natalie C. Ban.
Fisheries Framework Obscures the Long-term Picture of Declining Populations
In an article published in Policy Options, CCIRA’s science coordinator Alejandro Frid and co-author Will Atlas wrote that DFO’s Sustainable Fisheries Framework uses shifting baselines to determine if a fish stock is healthy, which fails to account for historical declines. They also proposed alternative management approaches that are more consistent with restoring and maintaining resilient ecosystems, Indigenous traditions and other intrinsic values appreciated by Canadians at large.
Examining the effectiveness of Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs)
Dive surveys conducted by CCIRA and technical staff from Central Coast First Nations found signs of rockfish recovery inside only two of six RCAs examined, where fish were bigger in protected than in fished areas. Increasing resources for monitoring and enforcing compliance by recreational fishers would likely improve the conservation effectiveness of the RCA network.
Prioritizing Conservation Actions for Pacific Salmon in Canada
This collaborative research, involving Simon Fraser University, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, CCIRA and Central Coast Nations, examined the financial investments that would promote salmon recovery on the Central Coast. Removal of artificial barriers to fish migration, watershed protection and stream restoration would cost $11.3-million per year, providing a high chance of recovery in nearly half the spawning areas. An additional $6-million per year might promote recovery in the remaining areas.
Examining the Ecological Role of Rockfish and Lingcod
Recent findings from this collaborative research, involving CCIRA, the Hakai Institute, and the University of Victoria, suggest that overfishing of large individuals degrades food webs, and that fisheries should be managed more conservatively to mitigate these impacts.
Conservation Risk and Uncertainty in Recovery Prospects for a Collapsed and Culturally Important Salmon Population in a Mixed‐stock Fishery
Highlighting collaborative research initiated and directed by the Nuxalk Nation, this study aims to better understand the collapse of Sockeye Salmon in the Atnarko watershed—specifically the role of mixed‐stock fisheries in impeding recovery of this culturally important species.
Assessing Bias and Solutions in Camera-based Groundfish Surveys
Since 2015, CCIRA has conducted groundfish surveys by towing a video camera equipped with lasers behind a boat. In this paper, CCIRA scientists assess sources of bias in these fish counts, and provide corrections to strengthen future research efforts and lead to better conservation outcomes.
Indigenous Perspectives Improve Research and Resource Management
Co-authored by representatives from all four of our Nations, this paper highlights the individual strengths of Indigenous knowledge and western science, illustrating how these complementary world views can be used in combination to enhance research and resource management. Critically, when Indigenous perspectives are not considered in research, policymakers may lack the information needed to make socially just decisions. The authors make recommendations to other ecologists for effective collaboration with Indigenous peoples.
Key Habitats Identified for Rockfish Conservation
Rockfish are an important part of the ecosystems, cultures and local economies of Central Coast communities. This study sheds new light on the most important habitat types for the 22 species of rockfish that live in nearshore waters of our Nations’ territories. This new information could help strengthen the design of Marine Protected Areas with respect to long-term rockfish conservation. Researchers also discovered previously undocumented nearshore areas with a high diversity of rockfish and large concentrations of deep-water corals and glass sponges. The area–heterogeneity tradeoff applied to spatial protection of rockfish (Sebastes spp.) species richness(PDF)
Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Marine Protected Areas
Marine protected areas (MPAs) have the potential to recognize, honour, and re-invigorate Indigenous rights and support biodiversity conservation. This paper is a review of global case studies examining the inclusion of indigenous rights within marine planning processes. Special reference is given to the ongoing government-to-government collaboration in BC within the MPA network planning process.
Indigenous Knowledge Contributes to Crab Management and Conservation
Dungeness crab are an important part of our culture as a traditional source of local food for our Nations. As recreational and commercial fishing pressure has increased over time, the decline in the local abundance of crab has made it harder to catch enough to meet our food needs. However, long-term scientific data to support management actions for central coast crab are sparse. In this paper, the local and traditional knowledge of our fishers is used to fill in gaps in existing scientific data and provide new insights into changes in central coast crab populations. Results uncovered severe declines in crab populations since the 1990s, while illustrating that our fishers’ local and traditional knowledge can make important contributions to crab management and conservation.
Indigenous Knowledge Illuminates Yelloweye Rockfish Population Declines
Yelloweye rockfish are important components of marine ecosystems and they also have cultural and commercial value as a source of food. In recent decades this species has been experiencing dramatic declines in size and abundance on the central coast of BC. Our people’s knowledge of this species goes back decades further than any scientific dataset, and is the best source of data on historical yelloweye populations in this region. This paper, published by scientists at the University of Victoria and CCIRA, illustrates how our traditional and local knowledge has enhanced our understanding of changes in yelloweye populations over the past 65 years. This work also serves as a template for integrating indigenous knowledge into research and management of other fisheries in Canada and elsewhere.
Declining Size and Age of Rockfishes
Our fisheries and science coordinators, Madeleine McGreer and Alejandro Frid, have published a new paper showing that recent declines in the size and age of rockfishes in our territories are rapid, strong, and appear to be ongoing. These species, that our Nations rely on for food and cultural sustenance, are at historical low levels of abundance. Since older, bigger rockfish produce more young than smaller, younger fish, the authors suggest that managers strive to restore old and large fish to aid the recovery of central coast rockfish populations.
Rockfish Conservation and Indigenous Rights
Our science and fisheries coordinators, Alejandro Frid and Madeleine McGreer, just published research by our Nations linking the ages and sizes of rockfish in our territories to our indigenous right to harvest wild food for food and cultural practice. The research found that Yelloweye and Quillback rockfishes were larger in areas with lower fishery pressure. Possibly due to overfishing, however, old-aged Yelloweye rockfish were rare. Because older fish produce more larvae that survive better and grow faster, this finding raises concern about the conservation status of Yelloweye. The research also suggests that Rockfish Conservation Areas—where non-indigenous fisheries are excluded—can protect First Nation’s access to rockfish, as long as habitat suitability and effective monitoring and enforcement are included in spatial management.
Atnarko Sockey Recovery Plan
The Atnarko River watershed is located in Nuxalk Ancestral Territory on the Central Coast of British Columbia approximately 55 km east of the community of Bella Coola. The river flows 43km through a series of five connected Sockeye salmon nursery lakes (Elbow, Rainbow, Tenas, Lonesome, and Stillwater) before joining the Talchako River to become the Bella Coola River. Atnarko Sockeye have been observed spawning in and between all five lakes as well as downstream of Stillwater Lake. Sockeye from the Atnarko appear to exhibit three distinct life-history types that differ in the amount of time they rear in freshwater before migrating to sea.
Dungeness Crab and Spatial Closures
CCIRA’s science and fisheries coordinators, Alejandro Frid and Madeleine McGreer, recently published results our on-going Dungeness crab research. Research results confirm the hypothesis that fisheries decrease the abundance and size of exploited species, but spatial protection can reverse these effects. Read about it in global ecology.
Dungeness Crab Research by the Wuikinuxv Nation Crab
Our ongoing field studies are monitoring the status of Dungeness crab throughout our territories. This report presents interim results from a tagging study conducted by the Wuikinuxv Nation during May of 2014 at two sites in Rivers Inlet.
Social and Economic Assessment and Analysis of First Nation Communities
A social and economic assessment and analysis of First Nation communities and territorial natural resources in the region. Project components include a community survey to create a demographic profile of First Nation communities on the Central Coast and a commercial economic assessment of marine resource sectors in the region.