Salmon Leaks Part 8: Fraser Sockeye Management, Habitat Use and Dynamics Expert Reports

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Sockeye salmon swimmingThe Cohen Commission continued its examination of Fraser sockeye through several expert reports and a quick look at habitat enhancement and restoration.  Consultants and academics were the primary authors of the reports and were questioned while their reports were entered as evidence.

See transcripts for expert reports and habitat restoration below:


On April 14, Karl English from LGL ltd., the lead author of the expert report comparing Fraser sockeye management to Bristol Bay was questioned by commission counsel. On April 15, counsel questioned English on harvesting at the aggregate level and the resultant inadvertent harvest of endangered stocks such as Cultus Lake sockeye (see page 3, line 22).

On April 18, Mark Johannes of Golder Associates, the lead author of the expert report on Fraser sockeye habitat use in the lower river and Georgia Strait, took questions from counsel. It was suggested by several counsel that less weight be placed on Johannes’ report because of his past employment with DFO and due to his current position as a consultant where DFO is a significant client (see page 15, line 34). Counsel inquired about a field audit (see page 41, line 7) regarding Canada’s No Net Loss of Habitat Policy. The report states:

“Approximately 86 percent of authorizations had larger HADD and are small in compensation areas than authorized.”

Counsel also reiterated from the report that:

“Habitat compensation to achieve NNL as currently implemented in Canada is, at best, only slowing the rate of habitat loss in all likelihood increasing the amount of authorized compensation habitat in the absence of institutional changes will not reverse this trend.”

Despite indications in this field report of widespread habitat loss in Canada, Johannes argued that a net gain of sockeye habitat has occurred in the Fraser River (see page 41, line 45).

On April 20, Dr. Randall Peterman from Simon Fraser University presented his expert report on Fraser sockeye production dynamics. When questioned by Watershed Watch counsel about Fraser River sockeye in comparison with Alaskan sockeye stocks, Peterman summarized his opinion succinctly by pointing out the distribution of BC and Alaskan stocks in the Gulf of Alaska are in the same area (starts on page 53, line 30). Since some Alaskan stocks such as those arising from Bristol Bay are doing reasonably well, Peterman suggested the key to the problem with Fraser stocks could lie in a part of the lifecycle outside this common area of the Gulf of Alaska. Peterman also suggested (page 54, line 42) that,

“sea surface temperature encountered by the juveniles, as they enter the ocean in their first summer of life, is a reasonable indicator of the conditions that would affect their survival rates.”

Peterman went on to say,

“when the sea surface temperature is above average, when the [Fraser] smolts hit the ocean, they tend to have lower productivity on average than when the ocean is at a moderate temperature level. The converse is true for the Alaskan stocks. When the Alaskan stocks enter the ocean that’s warm, their productivity seems to be higher or it is higher.”

Counsel brought up the research of Dr. Kristi Miller from DFO, regarding the purported viral signature found in sockeye (previously reported in Salmon Leaks Part 6) and whether this issue seems important (page 56, line 25). Peterman responded, “Well, I think it would definitely be something worth looking at, absolutely.”

Watershed Watch counsel also confirmed with Peterman that there is “little to no evidence” supporting the theory that excessive escapement has reduced the productivity of stocks (page 57, line 23). In addition, two reviewers of Peterman’s report—Dr. David Welch and Dr. Sean Cox—agreed with this conclusion.


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