As another salmon season comes to an end, we look back on an extremely busy season for Ecotrust Canada staff working to support the programs being run from our Skeena office. Over the last year, the team has been working tirelessly to ensure the successful implementation of the North Coast Areas 3 & 4 Salmon Catch Monitoring & Biosampling Program and, in conjunction with the Metlakatla Fisheries Program, the 2011 FSC Salmon Harvest Monitoring program in Areas 4-9, 4-12 4-15. This undertaking has involved:

  • adding an additional 15 team members for the summer to participate as Observers and/or in patrols, catch validation and data entry;
  • the monitoring of 457 commercial salmon sets;
  • 2117 samples collected;
  • six weeks of patrols in Area 4; and
  • validating Food, Social & Ceremonial catch deliveries over two months.

Our work in this arena began as a result of a primary objective identified by our industry, community, and First Nations partners to build the local infrastructure and expertise for a First Nations-supported monitoring, compliance, and traceability (MCT) program. Building on the work done this season and in 2010, we will continue partnering with First Nations in the North Coast region to identify community members with experience in fisheries and data collection who can potentially train as Fisheries Observers and/or Sampling Technicians during current and future Catch Monitoring and Biosampling programs. We will also continue to support discussions and planning of local monitoring infrastructure and expertise as we build on getting this program off the ground by working with people in place – to keep them as stewards in that place.

A further goal of the collaboration between Ecotrust Canada and First Nation community members during this and future MCT initiatives is the establishment of relationships between Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and First Nations communities around MCT programs. This strategy will provide employment for local residents, as well as help to build capacity for First Nations to engage with DFO in future MCT programs.

In terms of results achieved to these ends this past season, 14 community members successfully completed the Pacific Fisheries Observer Training Program in March 2011 in Prince Rupert. Individuals joined us from Prince Rupert, Lax Kw’alaams, Gitxaala, Metlakatla, Gitga’at, and Heiltsuk/Haisla. A second, shorter training program was run just prior to the season (June 2011) and further training was conducted as needed before each opening to ensure that all Observers were supported. This work on training with communities began in December 2010, working together through January to March to make sure that the curriculum was relevant and to ensure the proper support for the program and participants was in place. The training brought together an enormous breadth of people with incredible skills and passion – both participants and instructors – involving folk from industry (processing, fishermen), First Nations (two local FN managers), DFO (management, science, and Conservation & Protection), Environment Canada, the Vancouver Aquarium and local government.

Shouldering on the success of this (and past) training, 15 community members received work as Certified Fishery Observers or through participating in validation and data entry with Ecotrust Canada during the 2011 salmon fishing season. This work encompassed recording all catch monitoring information, and conducting all sampling activities as outlined by the DFO Science Authority for the season while on board fishing vessels. On any given day, this could see Observers collecting scales and DNA tissue from  Sockeye and Chum; recording Chum lengths; removing Chum heads for further testing by DFO; the sexing of those fish; the completion of set-by-set catch monitoring data sheets and Environment Canada bird species data sheets; and observing and recording compliance information. The role Observers play is invaluable in building more resilient fisheries – and communities – for the future.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all communities, individuals and organizations who participated and collaborated with us during the past season to work towards achieving the objective of a First Nations-supported MCT program and look forward to building on the good work done this season in the future.

For more information please contact:

Devlin Fernandes
Program Manager, Skeena Program
T 250.624.4191
E devlin@ecotrust.ca