Keeping sound research at the heart of our activities, we are building an ever-broadening range of conservation-related programs. They are run at a low cost with little or no external funding and labour is almost entirely volunteer-based.
Sea Lice and Juvenile Salmon Program
Continuing a data set that has been ongoing since 2001, station volunteers, veteran researcher Stephanie Peacock, and board member Andrew Bateman continued to monitor sea lice levels on juvenile pink and chum salmon passing local salmon farms this spring by sampling weekly throughout the spring out-migration season.
This program helped inform the research that led to this video, by Steph Peacock and Jordan Flanagan:
We are excited to continue to document the return of these great whales to the area. This work would not be possible without the shared expertise of the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS), and we are grateful for this collaboration. Funding from the Canadian Geographic Society enabled Salmon Coast coordinators, researchers and volunteers to run five surveys in 2015, circumnavigating Gilford Island to identify areas of key humpback habitat use and overlap with potential hazards such as prawn fishing gear and boat traffic. We are currently seeking funding to support further surveys.
Cetacean Sightings and Identification Photography
Station users continued recording all marine mammal sightings in our database, including opportunistic sightings while performing other research and data collected during surveys with high school and college students. All data is shared with the BC Cetacean Sightings Network. In 2016, we also took dozens of ID photos of killer whales and humpbacks. These photos were sent to local researchers for ID, enriching both party’s knowledge on behaviour and range of these fascinating animals.
Catch, Clip, Release – the genetics of salmon recovery
Only 5% of the salmon runs in the rivers and streams in this region have enough of the genetic information required by independent researchers and the federal government for their work. Our goal is 100%. The information contained in salmon DNA is required for local, and high-level, management decisions about these salmon, their rivers and their recovery. Salmon Coast is collaborating with Nimmo Bay Resort, Blackfish Lodge, and other local groups, to collect salmon tissue samples from local salmon rivers. We are adding to the DFO genetic stock baseline used to identify salmon captured at sea. This a step towards returning salmon management to those most intimately connected to, and invested in, these fish and the ecosystems they support. For more information please visit the Catch-Clip-Release website at www.catchcliprelease.org.
Unique kokanee salmon – a land-locked sockeye
In 2015, the Catch-Clip-Release (CCR) program helped to identify a unique population of kokanee salmon – land-locked sockeye – in a heavily logged watershed on Gilford Island. In 2016 the CCR program will continue to collaborate with the University of British Columbia (UBC), University of Toronto (UofT), and Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to: (i) complete one more year of research on the characteristics of the newly identified kokanee population, (ii) investigate the watershed’s current characteristics and industrial logging history in relation to the kokanee population’s evolutionary origins, and (iii) examine genetic relatedness between these kokanee and nearby ocean-run sockeye populations, some of which are understudied and will be sampled, analysed, and added to the genetic baseline.
The 2016 fall field research season will be led by MSc candidate, and key CCR personnel, Mack Bartlett, with help from a research assistant. Results from this research will inform discussions with collaborators, such as the MDTC, to explore research directions and sampling of other understudied salmon populations.
In collaboration with the Hakai Institute, Station Coordinators and volunteers continued a scaled-down version of the oceanographic sampling portion of the spring Juvenile Sockeye Salmon and Oceanographic Monitoring Project run by PhD candidate Sean Godwin and his crew.