Sockeye salmon is an iconic species that is deeply woven into the cultural, social, and economic fabric of British Columbia (BC). Responsible stewardship of BC’s wild sockeye salmon fisheries is becoming more important as human pressures and environmental changes intensify. One of the key challenges in sustainable salmon management is the ability to identify and protect at-risk populations from a fishery composed of fish of varying ages, sizes, species, and origins. Current salmon monitoring and modelling methods are limited in their speed, accuracy, and sensitivity to resolve 253 unique sockeye salmon stocks. This is creating a significant knowledge gap in fisheries management. Presently, there is a lack of sufficient data to assess sockeye salmon populations' biological status in the North and Central Coast (NCC) of BC, leading to overharvesting of at-risk stocks and unwarranted fisheries closures in thriving stocks.
Researchers from Simon Fraser University, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Coastal River Conservancy and Wild Salmon Center in collaboration with the First Nations from Lax Kw’alaams Fisheries, Nuxalk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Heiltsuk, and the Coastal Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance will develop a cost-effective, rapid genomic tool to monitor and characterize 118 sockeye salmon populations in the NCC of BC. Using this tool, the team will also characterize migrations routes and spawn timing of four culturally-important fisheries. The results will allow careful assessment of NCC populations' temporal and spatial harvest risk to inform harvest strategies while supporting sockeye salmon recovery efforts.