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Certified

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 Skeena unit, 12 conditions were closed and 3 were open and behind schedule.

Condition 13: Assess effects of Pinkut and Fulton spawning channels on wild stocks.

The Pinkut and Fulton spawning channels produce enhanced Babine Lake sockeye salmon stocks that are the primary target of the Skeena sockeye fisheries.

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However, the mixed-stock fisheries also catch fish from wild Skeena sockeye stocks, other salmon (such as chum), and steelhead with similar migration timing. The objective is to assess the impact of spawning channel production on the status of wild stocks, particularly in the context of their limit and target reference points (LRPs and TRPs) which are used to assess stock status and guide harvest levels. Although provisional LRPs have been proposed for wild stocks, none have been formally used in management planning for Skeena sockeye. Thus LRPs and TRPs should be defined for the wild Skeena sockeye stocks to help meet this condition.

Update:

Although no official LRPs and TRPs were established, DFO developed interim lower and upper benchmarks for 16 of 30 Skeena CUs. These benchmarks were used to assess stock status where sufficient data were available. Three wild stock CUs in Babine Lake showed signs of reduced productivity in recent years despite declines in harvest rates, suggesting that harvest needs to be reduced further. The 2013 fishery management plan includes a harvest control rule designed to achieve adequate escapements for most of the wild CUs. The audit team decided that the interim benchmarks and harvest control rule are sufficient for guiding harvests of wild stocks.

The Client was also supposed to demonstrate that hatchery-produced salmon have no adverse effects on wild stocks. A one-year study on juvenile sockeye rearing in Babine Lake was initiated in 2013, with the aim of investigating whether ecosystem changes in the nursery habitat, including competition from hatchery fish, are limiting wild salmon production. In addition, monitoring of salmon juveniles (smolts) was re-instated in 2013. To close this condition, study results showing whether hatchery-produced sockeye salmon have negative effects on wild sockeye salmon need to be reported by the next audit.

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

Condition 13a: Implement a monitoring program for obtaining reliable estimates of steelhead bycatch.

Steelhead bycatch in the Skeena sockeye fisheries is thought to be substantial, but the reliability of existing bycatch estimates is uncertain as they are based on voluntary reports from fishers.

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The objective is to implement a scientifically-defensible program for estimating steelhead bycatch.

Update:

DFO used several methods to estimate steelhead bycatch, including approaches based on observer data and on logbook data. They then compared observer-based bycatch estimates against logbook-based bycatch estimates and found that logbooks may underreport steelhead catch by about 50%. Based on this result, they doubled the logbook data to obtain rough but potentially improved bycatch estimates.

DFO then estimated total steelhead escapements to the Skeena watershed using escapement estimates from SKR Consultants, genetic data from a lower river test fishery, and assumptions of 50 and 100% mortality for released fish. Estimated steelhead bycatch mortality was 2.3% or lower each year from 2007-2010, except in 2008 when mortality may have been as high as 13.5%. The assessment team determined that DFO had developed a reasonable approach to obtaining steelhead bycatch estimates that generally indicated low harvest rates. The condition has been closed, but the intent is for DFO to continue the bycatch monitoring program.

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Timeline: 
Closed at the second surveillance audit May 14-18, 2012
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed
Relevant Performance Indicator: 

Condition 13b: Implement a scientifically defensible program for monitoring escapements and juvenile densities.

The objective is to obtain reliable escapement estimates for all stocks harvested in the Skeena sockeye salmon fishery by implementing a scientifically defensible monitoring program for adult escapements and juvenile densities.

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Although escapements to Lake Babine are regularly monitored because it is considered the primary target stock, escapement estimates for other stocks are not considered reliable. Juveniles (specifically fall fry) will also be surveyed to examine how juvenile densities relate to adult abundances. DFO will develop and implement an escapement monitoring program and cooperate with the Skeena Fisheries Commission in the planning and funding of their juvenile surveys. Monitoring programs will be implemented as part of the Core Stock Assessment Review for North and Central Coast salmon stocks.

Update:

DFO was supposed to submit an updated Core Stock Assessment Review report demonstrating implementation of escapement and juvenile monitoring. They did not update the report but instead provided a summary table showing that most spawning and juvenile surveys were completed as scheduled. Additionally, an annual smolt monitoring program was implemented at Kitwanga, and the Babine Lake smolt program was re-instated in 2013. Analysis of relationships between numbers of adults and numbers of recruits was conducted for 16 of 30 CUs, and results indicated that salmon CUs vary in productivity. The audit team deemed the monitoring and analysis adequate for closing this condition.

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

Condition 13c: Periodically assess the relative productivity of each Skeena sockeye conservation unit or justify the use of current indicator stocks.

The goal is to periodically assess the relative productivities of all Skeena sockeye conservation units (CUs), especially for non-target stocks, or demonstrate that the productivities of monitored indicator stocks are representative of those for unmonitored stocks.

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Productivity assessments will include estimation of the relationship between the number of adults and number of recruits produced (stock-recruitment relationships). Non-target stocks can comprise a significant proportion of the Skeena sockeye harvest, and improved knowledge of their productivities can help management sustain these stocks and prevent them from being overexploited.

Update:

Stock recruitment relationships and life cycle productivities have been estimated for about 50% of Skeena sockeye CUs, as these were the only CUs with sufficient data for analysis. For all CUs, numbers of juveniles (smolts) that could be theoretically supported in the nursery lakes have been estimated. These productivity assessments were considered sufficient to close this condition.

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

Condition 14: Demonstrate that the productivities of non-target stocks were considered when defining the interim target reference point for the Lake Babine sockeye stock.

The objective is to show that the interim target reference point (TRP) for Lake Babine sockeye salmon takes the lower productivities of non-target stocks into account.

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Interim TRPs are being used until upper benchmarks have been defined for all salmon conservation units under the Wild Salmon Policy (WSP), and there is some scientific disagreement about whether the interim TRPs are sufficient for guiding harvest decisions. Historically, the productivities of non-target Skeena stocks were not considered when defining the Lake Babine sockeye TRP.

Update:

DFO significantly reduced target exploitation rates (considered proxy TRPs by the assessment team) on Skeena sockeye in 2009, aiming to take the lower productivities of non-target stocks into account and allow depleted stocks to begin rebuilding. This management action was determined sufficient for closing the condition. In addition, an update of the Skeena simulation model that is used to estimate harvest rates on individual CUs is underway, which may provide confirmation of low exploitation rates on non-target stocks.

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

Condition 21a: Estimate fishery impacts on steelhead.

Steelhead bycatch in the Skeena sockeye fisheries is thought to be substantial, but the reliability of existing bycatch estimates is uncertain as they are based on voluntary reports from fishers.

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This condition has the same general objective as Condition 13a, to implement a scientifically-defensible program for estimating steelhead bycatch, but here the focus is on providing the actual bycatch estimates.

Update:

DFO used several methods to estimate steelhead bycatch, including approaches based on observer data and on logbook data. They then compared observer-based bycatch estimates against logbook-based bycatch estimates and found that logbooks may underreport steelhead catch by about 50%. Based on this result, they doubled the logbook data to obtain rough but potentially improved bycatch estimates.

DFO estimated total steelhead escapements to the Skeena watershed using escapement estimates from SKR Consultants, genetic data from a lower river test fishery, and assumptions of 50 and 100% mortality for released fish. Estimated steelhead bycatch mortality was 2.3% or lower each year from 2007-2010, except in 2008 when mortality may have been as high as 13.5%. The assessment team determined that DFO had developed and provided reasonable bycatch estimates and closed the condition.

The redundancy in conditions (13a, 21a, 35a, 35b) suggests poor development of the initial conditions.

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Timeline: 
Closed at the second surveillance audit May 14-18, 2012
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed

Condition 21b: Define limit reference points (LRPs) for Skeena sockeye stocks and implement recovery plans for stocks that are below their LRP.

The overall goal is to plan for the recovery of depleted sockeye salmon stocks.

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First, limit and target reference points (LRPs and TRPs) will be defined for all Skeena stocks. Second, comprehensive recovery plans will be developed and implemented for any stocks that are below their LRP, including information on the probability and timing of recovery. Stocks of concern likely include the Damshiquit, Kitwanga, Spawning, and Sicintine systems. Some of these depressed stocks have had low returns for a relatively long time, suggesting a low probability of recovery under current conditions.

Update:

DFO developed interim lower and upper benchmarks for about 50% of Skeena CUs. Based on these benchmarks, five CUs were at low abundances from 2006-2010. However, DFO did not commit to developing recovery plans for these CUs, instead choosing to manage the Skeena fishery at reduced harvest rates in the hope that stocks would rebuild. There is some evidence that these CUs have increased in abundance in recent years, but documentation of the analysis was not provided to the audit team. To close this condition, DFO needs to be clearer about determination of stock status and confirm their approach to rebuilding depleted stocks.

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

Condition 22: Implement recovery plans for depleted chum stocks caught in the Skeena sockeye fisheries.

The objective is to develop and implement recovery plans for depleted chum salmon stocks caught in the Skeena sockeye fisheries.

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Depleted stocks are defined as those that are below their limit reference point (LRP). Recovery plans must include procedures for: 1) determining the impacts of the existing fishery management system on the chum stocks and 2) decreasing incidental harvest rates, if necessary for facilitating stock recovery. LRPs and TRPs (target reference points) are needed as metrics for setting harvest rates, especially as stock abundances change over time, and should be defined as part of the recovery strategy.

Update:

DFO drafted a recovery plan for depleted Skeena chum stocks in DFO Statistical Area 4. The plan stated that Canadian exploitation rates on chum would be limited to 10% and described key activities for monitoring abundance and assessing chum stock status. LRPs and TRPs were also developed for three Skeena chum CUs. These actions were deemed adequate for closing this condition.

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

Condition 35a: Obtain reliable bycatch estimates for steelhead that can be used when setting harvest levels.

Steelhead bycatch in the Skeena sockeye fisheries is thought to be substantial, but the reliability of existing bycatch estimates is uncertain as they are based on voluntary reports from fishers.

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This condition has the same general objective as Condition 13a, to implement a scientifically-defensible program for estimating steelhead bycatch. For this condition the focus is on obtaining reliable bycatch estimates so that management can account for catches of non-target species when setting harvest levels.

Update:

As described under Condition 13a, DFO estimated that steelhead bycatch mortality was 2.3% or lower each year from 2007-2010, except in 2008 when mortality may have been as high as 13.5%. The assessment team determined that DFO had developed reasonable bycatch estimates that generally indicated low harvest rates and closed the condition.

The redundancy in conditions (13a, 21a, 35a, 35b) suggests poor development of the initial conditions. 

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Timeline: 
Closed at the second surveillance audit May 14-18, 2012
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed

Condition 35b: Show that the management system conducts research needed for implementing a precautionary approach.

Steelhead bycatch in the Skeena sockeye fisheries is thought to be substantial, but the reliability of existing bycatch estimates is uncertain as they are based on voluntary reports from fishers.

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This condition has the same general objective as Condition 13a, to implement a scientifically-defensible monitoring program for obtaining steelhead bycatch estimates. This condition specifically seeks a clear commitment from DFO to increase research efforts for obtaining information needed to manage the fishery in a precautionary manner.

Update:

As described under Condition 13a, DFO estimated steelhead bycatch and escapements using several data sources. The assessment team determined that DFO made efforts to fill information gaps needed for precautionary fishery management and closed the condition.

The redundancy in conditions (13a, 21a, 35a, 35b) suggests poor development of the initial conditions.

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Timeline: 
Closed at the second surveillance audit May 14-18, 2012
Priority: 
Low
Status: 
Completed

Condition 35c: Obtain a commitment from the management agency to implement techniques that minimize bycatch and discard mortality.

The objective is for the management agency to demonstrate a commitment to implementing selective fishing and discard handling techniques that reduce mortality of non-target species.

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Managers were aware of selective fishing methods but did not require fishers to use them. There was also inadequate enforcement of the regulation requiring the use of revival boxes on all gillnet vessels. Revival boxes are tanks with water pumps that are used to revive captured fish and increase post-release survival.

Update:

DFO has implemented commercial fishery regulations that aim to decrease mortality of incidentally-caught chum. These include mesh size restrictions, mandatory release of fish with the least possible harm, and harvest limitations during time periods when depleted stocks are likely to encounter the fisheries.  Data on enforcement of these regulations were provided, although the Chief of Conservation and Protection cautioned that the data should not be used for tracking compliance rates over time due to inconsistencies in enforcement effort and reports of violations. The audit team concluded that DFO demonstrated a commitment to selective fishing and compliance monitoring and closed the condition.

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

Condition 35d: 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 and identification of stock reference points for guiding harvest.

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The plan should take into consideration socioeconomic issues resulting from management actions as well as anticipated changes for the fishery.

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. However, the SAF process is still incomplete and lacks commitments from scientists and managers, synthesis documents for stakeholders, and funding arrangements. It is also unclear how the plan addresses fishery impacts on the ecosystem. A more complete research plan should be approved and implemented by the next surveillance audit to close the condition.

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

Condition 36a: 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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First Nations representatives have expressed concerns regarding their access to sockeye salmon for food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) purposes in the Fraser, Barkley Sound, and Skeen fisheries. 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 to share 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 36b: Obtain a commitment from the management agency and fishers to minimize mortality of discarded fish, especially steelhead.

There is substantial uncertainty regarding exploitation rates on non-target species in the Skeena sockeye fisheries.

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The objective for this condition is to obtain clear commitments from the management agency (DFO) and fishers to minimize discard mortality by increasing incentives to fish selectively and properly handle discards.

Update:

In 2011, the Skeena purse seine fishery implemented an individual transferable quota (ITQ) system that was intended to reduce the speed of the fishery and provide more time for proper handling and release of non-target fish. Discussions with the gillnet fleet have been less successful, as gillnet fishers have been resistant to implementation of shorter nets and shorter set times that would reduce bycatch. Nevertheless, the assessment team closed this condition based on the ITQ efforts as well as the evidence for low harvest rates on steelhead (see Condition 13a). An independent monitoring program (such a fishery observer system) would further strengthen incentives for minimizing discard mortality, especially if combined with the ITQ system.

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

Condition 36c: Obtain commitment from fishers to provide sufficient and reliable information on catch and bycatch.

The objective is to obtain a clear commitment from fishers to comply with requests for data on total catches and discards of non-target species.

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Existing data records show that the numbers of fishers complying with data requests are insufficient for providing reliable catch and bycatch estimates.

Update:

DFO requires fishers to document retained and non-retained catches in logbooks. Although there is some evidence that reports of retained catches are accurate, initial analyses suggested that releases of non-retained species such as steelhead were underreported by approximately 50%.  Thus DFO compared 2012 observations of retained and non-retained species by at-sea observers against observations reported by fishers in their logbooks. They also worked with the Commercial Salmon Advisory Board to develop minimum requirements for catch monitoring and implemented pilot monitoring programs. The pilot programs required independent verification of 20% of the landed catch as well as some observer coverage of the fishery. The intent is to refine these monitoring strategies and continue their implementation, with fishery participants funding the process. Some stakeholders do not believe that DFO has accurate information on catches and discards of non-target species, but the audit team decided that DFO has sufficiently demonstrated the intent to ensure that estimates are reliable. The condition was therefore closed.

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