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2013 Annual Review

January, 2014

The audit team conducted the third annual surveillance site visit October 7-11, 2013 and published the surveillance report on January 20, 2014. Across all units of certification, 34 conditions were closed (completed), and 11 remained open and behind schedule. For the Fraser unit, 12 conditions were closed and 6 were open and behind schedule.

Condition 1: Review exploitation rates for Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon.

The Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon stock is depleted but caught in the Fraser River fishery.

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The objective is to estimate exploitation rates on the stock to better understand fishery impacts and determine if management measures have successfully reduced harvest on Sakinaw sockeye. The run timing assumptions used to obtain the exploitation rate estimates will be reviewed as well.

Update:

Estimated exploitation rates on Sakinaw Lake sockeye were less than 1% from 2007 to 2009, when the Fraser sockeye commercial fisheries were closed. Harvest rates from years when the fishery operated (2010, 2011) were requested and provided at the second surveillance audit. However, the assessment team had concerns about the 2010 estimate because it was based on limited data that did not span the full run timing period for the stock. Thus DFO provided a document with exploitation rates for 2010 and 2011 that were estimated using the historical average run-timing for Sakinaw. These estimates were deemed sufficient for closing this condition.

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Timeline: 
Closed at third surveillance audit, Oct 7-11, 2013
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed
Relevant Performance Indicator: 

Condition 2: Confirm that indicator stocks are representative of other stocks within the management unit.

The objective is to assess whether indicator stocks (stocks that are monitored and assumed to be representative of non-monitored stocks) reflect the status of other stocks within the management unit.

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Update:

DFO intensively monitors 19 stocks in the Fraser River, which represent more than 95% of the total spawner abundance, are distributed throughout the region, and span a broad range of abundances and population productivities over time. Because these monitored stocks include the majority of Fraser sockeye, the assessment team closed the condition. However, there was no direct evidence that depleted stocks are adequately monitored. 

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Timeline: 
Closed at first surveillance audit May 9-13, 2011
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed
Relevant Performance Indicator: 

Condition 3: Update the analysis of harvest rates on Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon.

The objective is to estimate fishery catches of Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon.

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Although some catch estimates exist, they are based on analyses that need to be updated and refined. Accurate catches are needed to determine if management actions have successfully reduced exploitation rates on the depleted Sakinaw stock.

Update:

Exploitation rates on Sakinaw sockeye were provided at the second surveillance audit. However, the assessment team had concerns about the 2010 estimate because it was based on limited data that did not span the full run timing period, as described under Condition 1. The Client has since provided a more scientifically defensible estimate of the 2010 exploitation rate, and thus the audit team closed the condition.

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Timeline: 
Closed at third surveillance audit, Oct 7-11, 2013
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed
Relevant Performance Indicator: 

Condition 4: Estimate productivity of Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon and assess whether the stock is recovering.

The objective is to obtain information on the productivity of the Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon stock relative to that of other Fraser River sockeye stocks that migrate to freshwater at similar times.

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Productivity information will then be used to determine if fishery harvest guidelines are likely to allow the Sakinaw stock to recover.

Update:

Data on salmon returns to Sakinaw Lake suggest that the natural productivity of the stock is low. DFO has used this information to help develop management approaches for stock rebuilding. Specifically, fisheries that may intercept Sakinaw sockeye will be delayed prior to the last week of July to help ensure that a significant proportion of the Sakinaw sockeye return will escape these fisheries.

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Timeline: 
Closed at the first surveillance audit May 9-13, 2011
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed
Relevant Performance Indicator: 

Condition 5: Define limit reference points for each Fraser sockeye conservation unit.

The objective is to define conservation units (CU) for Fraser sockeye as well as limit reference points (LRPs) for all units. LRPs are useful for assessing stock status and setting harvest guidelines.

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Update:

DFO provided documents that described reference points for each CU, stock status, and methods for assessing harvest rules. Since the requested information was provided, the audit team closed this condition. 

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Timeline: 
Closed at third surveillance audit, Oct 7-11, 2013
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed
Relevant Performance Indicator: 

Condition 6: Define target reference points for each Fraser sockeye conservation unit.

The objective is to define conservation units (CUs) for Fraser sockeye as well as target reference points (TRPs) for all units. TRPs are useful for assessing stock status and setting harvest guidelines.

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Update:

DFO provided documents that described reference points for each CU, stock status, and methods for assessing harvest rules. Since the requested information was provided, the audit team closed this condition.

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Timeline: 
Closed at third surveillance audit, Oct 7-11, 2013
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed
Relevant Performance Indicator: 

Condition 7: Obtain commitment from the management agency to implement the recovery plan for Cultus Lake sockeye salmon.

Cultus Lake sockeye salmon are a severely depleted stock, and it is unclear how harvest regulations might affect their recovery, especially since the Fraser sockeye fishery is managed as a stock aggregate that does not set escapements goals for individual stocks.

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The objective is to obtain DFO’s commitment to implementing a recovery plan with specific measures for protecting and rebuilding the Cultus Lake sockeye stock. Although DFO has conducted a recovery planning process, the assessment team was unsure how their plan would achieve specific recovery goals.

Update:

DFO confirmed their commitment to implementing a recovery strategy for Cultus Lake sockeye, which they provided at the first surveillance audit. The strategy includes specific actions for stock recovery such as control of exploitation through fishing plans, population assessment, a captive breeding project, habitat assessment, and research on the timing of adult migrations back to the lake. The assessment team noted that Cultus Lake sockeye were incidentally caught in 2010 fisheries targeting Shuswap sockeye, likely at exploitation rates of 20-30% or higher, but they closed the condition based on progress for recovery objectives.

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Timeline: 
Closed at the first surveillance audit May 9-13, 2011
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed

Condition 8: Assess whether recent target stock sizes are above appropriate limit reference points.

The goal is to evaluate the current status of target stocks by examining whether they are consistently maintained above their limit reference points (LRPs).

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Update:

DFO provided documents that described reference points for each CU and escapements relative to these reference points from 2007-2012. There was one CU that did not achieve its LRP in 2012 due to harvest, but commercial MSC-certified fisheries did not target Fraser sockeye stocks that year. Since LRPs were described and generally met, the audit team closed this condition.

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Timeline: 
Closed at third surveillance audit, Oct 7-11, 2013
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed

Condition 17: Assess fishery impacts on endangered, threatened, or protected species (white sturgeon, steelhead) and stocks (Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon).

There are two objectives for this condition. 

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The first is to obtain reasonable, reliable, and defensible estimates of harvest of white sturgeon and steelhead, as no credible estimates were provided during the assessment. Catch monitoring programs will be improved to provide more accurate and fishery-independent data, and the obtained catch estimates will be used to assess fishery impacts on these species. Specifically, DFO plans to develop a two-year monitoring program, based on censuses or observers. The second objective is to identify and understand hatchery impacts on Sakinaw sockeye, both in terms of how supplementation may assist stock recovery and how hatchery-origin fish may affect natural spawning in the wild.                           

Update:

There was no evidence that catch monitoring programs have been improved. DFO submitted a two page memorandum summarizing sturgeon and steelhead catch estimates for sockeye-directed fisheries in the Fraser River for 2010 and 2011, but the estimates were based solely on voluntary reports from fishers. To close this condition, DFO needs to implement a rigorous catch monitoring program that will provide scientifically defensible estimates of bycatch rates for sturgeon and steelhead.

Regarding the second objective, fishery exploitation rates on Sakinaw sockeye were estimated for 2010 and 2011. The audit team considered these estimates adequate for addressing concerns regarding fishery impacts on this depleted stock, even though no information was provided on hatchery impacts specifically.

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Timeline: 
May 2012 (due at second surveillance audit)
Priority: 
High
Status: 
Behind schedule

Condition 18: Perform a risk assessment of the Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon recovery strategy.

The objective is to perform a risk assessment of the recovery strategy for Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon, which will include two items:

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1) examination of how harvesting at different times may impact Sakinaw sockeye returns and stock recovery and 2) refinement and peer review of run reconstruction analyses for Sakinaw sockeye. Run reconstructions use fishery data and simulation models to estimate the run timing and abundance of salmon stocks. Although some run reconstructions were provided, the assessment team had concerns about the assumptions they made and therefore the credibility of the estimated harvest rates. DFO will complete the risk assessment and estimate exploitation rates on Sakinaw sockeye.

Update:

The DFO Recovery team proposed a list of actions to achieve recovery of Sakinaw sockeye, including reductions in fishing mortality, hatchery supplementation, and habitat restoration. Some of these actions were implemented starting in 2003, and the continuing low returns and data obtained suggested that Fraser sockeye fisheries have had minimal effect on recovery. The assessment team determined that stock recovery depends primarily on returns from hatchery releases and improvements in marine survival rates.

As described under Condition 3, estimated exploitation rates on Sakinaw sockeye in 2010 and 2011 were provided. These newest estimates appear credible and meet the requirements of Condition 18. However, the scores for this condition cannot be raised until Condition 19 is closed.

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Timeline: 
May 2011 (due at first surveillance audit)
Priority: 
High
Status: 
Behind schedule

Condition 19: Develop and implement recovery plans for depleted stocks.

The objective is to develop and implement recovery plans for Fraser sockeye salmon stocks that are below their limit reference point (LRP).

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The proposed recovery plans must provide information on the probability of recovery and its timing.

Update:

As described under Condition 5, DFO provided documents that described reference points for each CU, stock status, and methods for assessing harvest rules. These documents indicated that seven Fraser sockeye CUs are at low abundances (below their LRPs) and that four other CUs are very close to having low abundances. To close this condition, recovery plans need to be developed and implemented for the seven CUs with low abundances. Furthermore, fishery management needs to ensure that LRPs are appropriate for stocks that show regular cycles in abundance, as some of the largest stocks in the Fraser watershed are highly cyclic.

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Timeline: 
May 2012 (due at second surveillance audit)
Priority: 
High
Status: 
Behind schedule

Condition 24: Define management objectives.

The goal is to define a clear set of management objectives that include measures for setting limit and target reference points (LRPs and TRPs), improving bycatch monitoring, and reducing bycatch.

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As described under Conditions 5 and 6, LRPs and TRPs have not yet been established for BC salmon stocks, and as described under Condition 17, no credible estimates of white sturgeon and steelhead bycatch were provided during the assessment. To address all of these conditions, LRPs and TRPs will need to be set, and catch monitoring programs will need to be improved to provide more accurate and fishery-independent data.

Update:

As described under Condition 5, DFO provided documents that described reference points for each CU, stock status, and methods for assessing harvest rules. However, there was no evidence that catch monitoring programs have been improved.  To close this condition, DFO needs to implement a rigorous catch monitoring program that will provide scientifically defensible estimates of bycatch rates for sturgeon and steelhead.

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Timeline: 
May 2012 (due at second surveillance audit)
Priority: 
High
Status: 
Behind schedule

Condition 25: Obtain commitment from the management agency to implement recovery plans for Cultus and Sakinaw Lake sockeye salmon.

Both Sakinaw Lake and Cultus Lake sockeye salmon are depleted, and there have been concerns about how harvest regulations might affect their recovery because the Fraser sockeye fishery is managed for an aggregate abundance rather than escapements for individual stocks.

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The objective is to obtain DFO’s commitment to implementing a recovery plan with specific measures for protecting and rebuilding Cultus Lake sockeye.

Update:

As described under Condition 7, DFO provided a recovery strategy for Cultus Lake sockeye and committed to implementing it. The strategy includes specific actions for stock recovery such as control of exploitation through fishing plans, population assessment, a captive breeding project, habitat assessment, and research on the timing of adult migrations back to the lake. As described under Condition 18, recovery actions for Sakinaw sockeye were implemented starting in 2003. The assessment team determined that DFO had addressed information gaps regarding these stocks and had initiated suitably precautionary measures.

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Timeline: 
Closed at the first surveillance audit May 9-13, 2011
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed

Condition 26: Show that there are incentives for fishers to not exceed catch limits.

The goal is to demonstrate that management measures are being implemented that provide incentives for fishers to not exceed target catches.

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At the time of the assessment, there was no evidence of such measures for commercial fishers. However, First Nation treaties allow salmon allocations to be defined and penalize fishers that exceed harvest limits by reducing their harvest opportunities in future years.

Update:

First Nation Treaty negotiations have created incentives for fishers to not exceed target catches, as shown by implementation of the Tsawwassen Treaty in 2009 and the Maa-nulth Treaty in 2010. Additionally, individual transferable quota (ITQ) purse seine and troll fisheries were implemented for Fraser sockeye. ITQ systems allocate catch shares to individual fishers, providing incentives to stay within harvest limits and help maintain overall fishery abundance. The gillnet fisheries lack an ITQ system, but some pilot monitoring programs were implemented in 2013 to improve verification of catch volumes and increase fishery compliance. As there were no commercial fisheries for Fraser sockeye in 2012 and 2013 due to low returns, it is unclear if the new monitoring programs increased compliance. Nevertheless, the attempt to establish better monitoring programs was deemed sufficient for closing this condition.

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Timeline: 
Closed at third surveillance audit, Oct 7-11, 2013
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed

Condition 27: Provide a research plan.

The objective is to develop and provide a research plan that addresses concerns that have been identified for this fishery, including fishery impacts on the ecosystem (with an emphasis on non-target stocks) and anticipated changes to the fishery.

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The plan should take socioeconomic factors affected by the management program into consideration. DFO will identify ecosystem and socioeconomic research objectives as part of the Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) and development of a Resource Assessment Framework (RAF) for Fraser sockeye. RAFs guide assessment priorities based on knowledge gaps and the biological status of each conservation unit.

Update:

DFO provided some documentation of a Stock Assessment Framework (SAF) process that considers management needs, available information, risk assessment, and priorities for resource allocation, and provides strategies for addressing information gaps. The SAF process is still incomplete and lacks commitments from scientists and managers, synthesis documents for stakeholders, and funding arrangements. Nevertheless, the SAF process was considered adequate for closing this condition. 

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Timeline: 
Closed at third surveillance audit, Oct 7-11, 2013
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed

Condition 28: Implement a recovery plan for Cultus Lake sockeye salmon.

The objective is to define a clear and credible recovery plan for the depleted Cultus Lake sockeye stock.

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DFO will make a clear commitment to implementing the Cultus Sockeye Recovery Plan, provide target reference points (TRPs) that will be used to determine target abundances, and assess the probability and timing of stock recovery. The recovery plan will include restoration guidelines, timeframes, and a strategy for making incremental changes to management and funding when TRPs are not achieved within the specified timeframes. This condition will be met in part by implementing the portion of the Wild Salmon Policy that requires development of an integrated strategic plan for salmon management (Integrated Fisheries Management Plan, or IFMP).

Update:

As described under Condition 7, DFO provided a recovery strategy for Cultus Lake sockeye and committed to implementing it. However, the 2010 fishery may have had a high exploitation rate on that stock. A preliminary estimate of the 2011 exploitation rate was 24%, but no estimate was provided for 2010. DFO also gave a brief update on stock status: there was a high escapement of 10,000 sockeye in 2010, but it was estimated that 82% of those fish died before spawning, and there was a similarly high estimate of pre-spawn mortality (91%) in 2011. The assessment team noted that wording in the 2011 IFMP was somewhat ambiguous regarding the maximum allowable exploitation rate on Cultus sockeye. DFO provided a document at the third surveillance audit describing progress on recovery efforts for Cultus Lake sockeye, but it did not include an estimate of the 2010 exploitation rate or justification for the level of exploitation permitted each year, both of which are needed to evaluate whether management measures are adequate for stock recovery.

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Timeline: 
May 2011 (due at first surveillance audit)
Priority: 
High
Status: 
Behind schedule

Condition 29: Consult First Nations and address issues identified during the consultation process.

The objective is to consult First Nations regarding aboriginal and treaty rights and address any issues identified during the consultation process.

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Several of the First Nations that harvest Fraser sockeye expressed that the management system has not adequately addressed their legal priority rights for food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) fisheries. In additon, Chief Kelly of the Stó:lō Nation stated disagreement with the management approach for protecting Cultus and Sakinaw Lake sockeye. DFO will provide a report summarizing how the management system addresses issues regarding aboriginal and treaty rights for the sockeye fisheries.

Update:

DFO submitted a document describing their commitment to “compliance with all legal and most of the customary rights of First Nation peoples that are impacted by the fishery.” The goal is to manage fisheries so that, after conservation needs are met, First Nations’ FSC needs will have first priority in salmon allocation. Opportunities for involvement in the management and planning of the fishery will be provided through bilateral, sub-regional, and regional consultation processes. These processes will include opportunities for sharing technical information. Although the condition has been closed, it remains to be seen if the First Nations themselves agree that the objective has been achieved.

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Timeline: 
Closed at the first surveillance audit May 9-13, 2011
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed

Condition 30: Obtain credible bycatch estimates for white sturgeon and steelhead.

This condition shares an objective with Condition 17 but requires the client to work with fishers and other stakeholders to achieve that objective.

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The goal is to obtain reasonable, reliable, and defensible estimates of catches and discards of non-target species, particularly white sturgeon and steelhead, and undersized individuals of target species. No credible bycatch estimates were provided during the assessment. DFO will improve their bycatch monitoring program and submit a report summarizing their work.

Update:

There has been no evidence that the bycatch monitoring systems for this fishery have been improved. Additionally, DFO has not provided evidence that sufficient numbers of fish harvesters and processors comply with requests for data on bycatch and discards. To close this condition, DFO needs to implement a rigorous catch monitoring program that will provide scientifically defensible estimates of bycatch rates for sturgeon and steelhead. The audit team indicated that credible bycatch estimates should be provided by the fourth surveillance audit.

Although not explicitly mentioned in this condition, there are increasing concerns about post-release mortality of bycatch discards in BC salmon fisheries. For the purposes of management, it is important to consider both exploitation rates and discard mortality when assessing fishery impacts on bycatch species.

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Timeline: 
May 2012 (due at second surveillance audit)
Priority: 
High
Status: 
Behind schedule
Relevant Performance Indicator: 
2013 Annual Review - Log in or register to access this file.
2013 Action Plan - Log in or register to access this file.