July 31, 2023 News Article: https://thetyee.ca/News/2023/07/31/Babine-Salmon-Closure/

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Stream Enumerations:

Crews in 3 locations (Fort Babine,Tachet and Donalds Landing) carry out spawning salmon enumeration surveys in  approximately 17 spawning streams every 8-10 days. The data generated is compiled and entered into the Department of Fisheries and Oceans BC 16 Data Base.

During the field season these crews also collect information such as water levels and temperatures, and note other physical parameters in order to detect any changes that may be caused from natural or anthropogenic activities. The crews also collect DNA and other biological samples from the returning salmon.

The other survey was conducted in the vicinity of the Fulton river assessing the new sports fishery that opened there in the mid-2000s. This fishery has been surveyed for 7 seasons and the results appear to show a fairly consistent fishing pressure from local non-LBN fishers. In 2015 it was estimated that sports fisheries took just over 20,000 adult sockeye from the area around Fulton.

Community Development Project (CEDP): Fort Babine Hatchery:

The hatchery located in Ft Babine was in operation for over 20 years and in the in the past has produced Coho and Chinook. The hatchery no longer operates but the community development project still works in the community through several other projects. One of the projects is the information center that is located in the community and is open in the summer months. The center has displays of fisheries interest and is the center of activities for BC Rivers Day in the community.

The CEDP project also carries out assessment and access management activities in some of the creeks that flow into Babine and have a wild salmon return to them. In 2014 their work was especially important as water levels were very low and the work of the crews helped salmon reach their spawning beds

Fish Ladders to assist with fish access. The straight lines of stones in the bottom left corner were set that way so that water would pool and the fish could go from ‘rung’ to ‘rung’

Smolt Project:

In the spring of 2013 the Lake Babine Nation Fisheries program, along with the Skeena Fisheries Commission re-initiated the Babine River smolt counting fence that DFO had discontinued in 2000. The declining wild stocks were one of the factors that propelled LBN to seek funding to restart the program.

The program is fairly simple, technicians catch a certain amount of smolts each day and “mark” a certain proportion of those fish and release them upriver. They then re-catch a certain amount of those marked fish and from that can estimate the total number of smolts leaving the Babine system.

The smolt trap as it is called is located upriver of the Babine counting fence at the outlet of Nilkitkwa Lake. Crews stay in camp at the Babine fence for the duration of the program.

View of two technicians examining sockeye smolts for tags using a coded wire tag detector as a metal detector

Future Activities 

The fisheries program faces several challenges in the future. There are several proposed pipelines that have routes through LBN territory and more specifically salmon spawning areas. There are other human activities like logging and mining interests going on within the watershed that may affect the wild salmon populations.

As well, within the past 3 years it has become worrisome that although the enhanced populations of Pinkut and Fulton Rivers appear to be healthy, the wild salmon in Babine Lake and the Babine River appear to be declining. The Lake Babine Nation Fisheries program is spearheading planning on a Recovery Plan for wild Babine sockeye stocks. With help from members, Chief and Council and a technical team the program hopes to come up with a effective strategy to rebuild the stocks.

This is a picture of the Skeena watershed broken down into colour coded Conservation Units. The green areas mean the sockeye populations are healthy. The yellow ones mean there is some concern for the sockeye stocks and the red ones mean the stocks are in trouble. Babine Lake has 2 healthy stocks (Pinkut and Fulton) both enhanced, one yellow stock( the Tahlo Morrison system) and rest of the creeks and the Babine River are in trouble.

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