SkeenaWild participates in various government, non-government, and multi-stakeholder processes that work toward improving fisheries management, including the annual Integrated Harvest Planning Committee (IHPC), the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat peer review process, The Northern Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification audit process. We also work independently from these processes using public communications, and legal strategies, and by providing peer reviewed assessments of various fisheries, Skeena salmon stocks, and their related monitoring plans. Much of this independent work takes place in collaboration with other conservation organizations and First Nations.
A large part of SkeenaWild's work includes working to implement the Wild Salmon Policy (WSP), a progressive policy developed by DFO and interest groups to conserve the diversity and abundance of wild salmon. SkeenaWild worked hard to make the Skeena a pilot for WSP implementation and will continue to support and help implement this policy in its entirety.
Wild Salmon Policy (WSP)
Approved by the government of Canada in 2005, the Pacific Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) is a progressive plan to protect salmon's abundance, diversity, and benefits to ecosystems and communities. The WSP contains 6 strategies, which outline specific actions that need to be taken to implement the policy and meet its objectives. These include: standardized monitoring of wild salmon status; assessment of habitat status; inclusion of ecosystem values and monitoring; integrated strategic planning; annual program delivery; and standardized performance reviews (details below).
To date, much of SkeenaWild's WSP work has been focused on defining genetically distinct populations (Conservation Units), and setting benchmarks (minimum and optimal population levels) for each genetically distinct population (CU) of salmon in the watershed. These levels will guide management to help ensure populations do not drop to levels where they are at risk of extirpation. Helping develop plans for rebuilding populations found to be below their lower benchmark is a critical next step in our work. These plans will detail different harvest and habitat impacts, and recommend management strategies for rebuilding. Several Skeena sockeye and chum populations are currently below their lower benchmark and require rebuilding under the WSP and Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certification. SkeenaWild is also in the process of developing a plan for implementing a freshwater salmon habitat monitoring program in the Skeena. This program will help bring together different government agencies, First Nations, and interest groups to understand land use effects on salmon, and identify high risk habitats to improve habitat protection and restoration. Specific strategies defined within the WSP include:
Standardized monitoring of wild salmon status – This strategy is focused on managing to protect genetically unique and geographically distinct populations of salmon. This involves the delineation of individual population conservation units (CU’s), identification and monitoring of their status, developing thresholds at which management actions should be taken, and developing rebuilding plans for populations which are at risk of extirpation or below their desired levels.
Assessment of Habitat Status – This strategy helps provide the tools necessary to inform decision makers and interest groups about how land use decisions are cumulatively affecting salmon habitat. This involves implementing a habitat monitoring program to assess and monitor habitat on an ongoing basis, build collaborative habitat data systems, and develop impact thresholds where management actions should be taken.
Inclusion of Ecosystem Values and Monitoring – Strategy 3 builds on strategy 2 to include tools for ensuring ecosystem functions are maintained, such as providing nutrients from salmon carcasses to help maintain ecosystem productivity, and maintaining food for orca whale and bear populations. Specific actions include integrating ecosystem monitoring capacity into a habitat monitoring program, integrating climate change and ocean information into annual decision-making processes, and informing decision makers when ecosystem values are at risk of not being maintained.
Integrated Strategic Planning – Strategy 4 will attempt to build a planning process which develops long-term strategic plans to protect individual populations throughout their life history based on knowledge provided by strategies 1 – 3. This integrated strategic planning process will attempt to include the diversity of interests that depend on and manage salmon and steelhead. The process will identify long-term biological targets for individual populations to ensure conservation and sustainable use. The process will also recommend resource management actions to protect or restore salmon and their habitats and ecosystems to achieve these targets, and establish timeframes and priorities for actions.
Annual program Delivery – Annual plans will identify the specific annual activities to be undertaken, the short term operational targets for those activities, and the linkages to longer term goals and objectives. Specific activities will include planning and conducting annual fisheries, planning and implementing annual habitat management activities, and planning and implementing annual enhancement activities.
Performance Review - Performance reviews will determine what is and is not working in both the strategic plan and annual management plans, and provide the potential for adaptive management. This will mean conducting post-season reviews of annual work plans, and conducting regular reviews of the overall strategic plan and success of the WSP.