Babine Sockeye Smolt Enumeration

The Babine Lake Watershed is the principal sockeye salmon (Oncorhyncus nerka) rearing area for Skeena River sockeye salmon, producing up to 90% of the sockeye returns to the Skeena River over the last few decades. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has estimated the number of out-migrating Babine Lake Watershed sockeye smolts between 1959 and 2002 at a trap located at the outlet of Nilkitkwa Lake. Since 2002 the lack of information on the Babine Lake Watershed sockeye smolt population abundance has been a problem for Skeena sockeye management.

In the spring of 2013, the Lake Babine Nation, in collaboration with the Skeena Fisheries Commission, successfully resumed the Babine Lake Watershed Sockeye Smolt Enumeration Project using the exact same facility, and mark-recapture protocol employed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the past.

The resumption of the Babine Lake Smolt Enumeration Project was a great success, and an example of a fruitful collaboration between two First Nations organizations, LBN and SFC. This project exceeded expectations. Daily out-migrating Babine Lake Watershed sockeye smolt population estimates were calculated for the whole 2013 smolt migration season.

2013 Babine Sockeye Smolt Enumeration Final Report (LINK)

Juvenile Sockeye Hydroacoustic Surveys

The SFC hydroacoustic program has been ongoing since 2005. Since then, SFC has conducted 40 hydroacoustic surveys at 23 sockeye rearing lakes in the Skeena and Nass Watersheds.

The main objective of these surveys is to enumerate sockeye fry (Oncorhynchus nerka) in their rearing lakes using a scientific echosounder. Acoustic data are combined with trawl and gillnet sampling to determine the species composition and sample the population at each lake.

Hydroacoustic surveys are a cost-effective means to study small lake sockeye populations.  Most of the sockeye lakes in the Skeena and Nass watersheds aren’t accessible by road, and we use air transportation and portable technology to access the more remote systems.