Using ITQ Data to Inform In-season Management of Salmon Fisheries

Project Details

Johnstone Strait, British Columbia; N 50° 26′ 38″, W 126° 0′ 54”
Pacific Salmon Commission
2018 – 2019
Team Member(s):
Brian Ma, Matthew Siegle and Marc Nelitz
Service Area(s):
Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences
Services Employed:
Facilitation & Stakeholder Engagement, Monitoring Design & Evaluation, and Decision Support Tools

The Problem We Aimed to Solve

Return migrations of Fraser River sockeye populations overlap in space and time, which affects their vulnerability in mixed-stock fisheries. Test fisheries are key to informing reasonably accurate and timely estimates of Fraser River sockeye run strength. These test fisheries sample small fractions of daily abundance, and catches can be highly variable among sites and days, limiting their ability to provide abundance estimates of sufficient certainty prior to verification by lower Fraser River acoustics one week later. Previous work with commercial Individual Transferrable Quota (ITQ) data, completed between 2015 and 2017, demonstrated a strong link between post-season logbook catch-per-set data and daily abundance estimates (Cave 2017), however, it did not consider how feasible it was to access these data in-season. The use of the data in-season is the missing link that gives a direct line of sight between the data and the decisions that they influence.

How We Helped

This project developed and piloted a technical solution to evaluate the feasibility and use of in-season commercial catch data to inform daily Fraser River sockeye abundance estimates and demonstrate the utility of this information to inform in-season management decisions.

Our corporate mission it to “bring together people, science and analytical tools to sustain healthy ecosystems and human communities” – and this project allowed us to do exactly that. With respect to science and tools, the pilot project identified and implemented vessel monitoring system (VMS) and electronic logbook (ELOG) technology to capture real-time fisheries data. ELOGs allowed the information to be transmitted more rapidly than a phone-in system where wait times could exceed 45 minutes. All catch-per-set data were then stored on DFO’s Fishery Operations System (FOS) – the central database for the Pacific Region’s fishery monitoring and reporting.

To ensure the project was truly a success, our team also worked hard to bring the key people together. We worked with the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) to fully define the data requirements to support in-season assessment, with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to understand the flow of catch data and tools used, and with the commercial harvesters from Area B to understand the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of alternative reporting processes from their perspective.

Our Project’s Impacts

This project was a collaborative effort between harvesters, DFO, the PSC and ESSA. Together we completed a successful pilot project that demonstrated that collecting ITQ catch-per-set data in-season is both feasible and of high value for the PSC’s Fraser River sockeye salmon daily abundance estimates. We demonstrated that accurate data from commercial fisheries can support test fishery data, leading to more reliable estimates of sockeye. The promising results from the Johnstone Strait sockeye salmon fishery suggest that the information can complement data from the test fishery and suggest that there are strong merits in exploring ways to apply this approach to other fisheries on the west coast. We continue to look for funding opportunities to support this important initiative.