New report on the significance and vulnerability of a important nursery habitat for BC salmon


Aerial photograph displaying the uncovered eelgrass beds of Flora Bank, which at excessive tide shelter juvenile salmon, Eulachon, and breeding Dungeness crabs. Credit: Brian Huntington

A brand new report on the worth and vulnerability of juvenile salmon habitat in northern BC’s Skeena River reveals how local weather change and growth are critically impacting the area—and gives a historic evaluation to assist inform the area’s future planning. Collaborators from the Lax Kw’alaams Fisheries Program, the Skeena Fisheries Commission and Simon Fraser University say proactive stewardship can be key.

The Skeena River is BC’s second-largest-salmon-producing watershed after the Fraser River and its estuary (the place freshwater meets salt water) gives nursery habitat for juvenile salmon, the oil-rich Eulachon (candlefish), Dungeness crab, surf smelt and Pacific herring.

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Lead creator SFU alum Ciara Sharpe, a fisheries biologist working with the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation, close to Prince Rupert, says the Skeena River estuary, BC’s second largest, has been poorly studied regardless of its important ecological, cultural, and financial significance, in comparison with the Fraser River estuary.

“This report is the first to synthesize historical and recent research on the estuary and its trajectory under climate change,” she says. “Now this information is out there to provide a scientific foundation for decision-making or planning.”

Impacts of Climate Change

The report discovered that over the previous 90 years, the quantity of freshwater getting into the estuary within the spring has elevated, probably on account of local weather change-driven will increase in glacial melting and shifts in precipitation patterns.

The ocean waters adjoining to the Skeena River estuary, into which younger salmon and Eulachon enter, have additionally been altering, warming by roughly one diploma over the previous 80 years.

Report co-author, SFU professor of biology and environmental administration Jonathan Moore, says that local weather change and human growth in estuaries is placing stress on the system.

“Estuaries bear the burden of stressors from both the ocean and upstream watershed,” says Moore. “With oncoming climate change, there is a need to think proactively about stewardship and management of estuaries to increase their resilience to this change.”

Skeena River estuary significance for salmon

Five years of sampling fish within the estuary revealed the significance of the Flora Bank area and its eelgrass beds, close to the mouth of the Skeena River for younger coho, Chinook and sockeye salmon.

“Each year, as many as 1 billion juvenile salmon may swim through the estuary on their way to the ocean,” says Sharpe. “We discovered that young salmon feed, grow, and reside in these waters for weeks to months. The food and shelter they find likely gives them a boost in growth that improves their chances of surviving to return to the Skeena as adults.”

Genetic evaluation revealed that these juvenile salmon come from the territories of 11 First Nations all through the Skeena and past, and a few will return dwelling to as adults to assist the fisheries of those Nations.

Lax Kw’alaams senior fisheries biologist and paper co-author Katherine Butts says the report additionally highlights the significance of the estuary for spawning surf smelt, breeding Dungeness crabs and younger Eulachon—all vital for native meals webs and fisheries.

“Coast Tsimshian peoples have managed fisheries resources and the environment for millennia and continue to do so to ensure that as the ocean, river and land feeds the people,” says Butts. “The Coast Tsimshian people monitor, protect and enhance them to ensure they are sustainable for future generations.”

Science journal letter highlights salmon vulernability

More info:
Report: 1322ef28-e49a-91ca-317b-f6db7b … 8ec89a8e3355dc3a.pdf

New report on the significance and vulnerability of a important nursery habitat for BC salmon (2021, September 14)
retrieved 14 September 2021

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