Advisory: implementing the habitat and ecosystem components of DFO’s Wild Salmon Policy

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This advisory is intended to assist the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and their implementation partners in executing the habitat and ecosystem components of the Wild Salmon Policy. The challenge for the Minister in developing an appropriate habitat and ecosystem monitoring strategy for the Wild Salmon Policy is not in identifying the potential long suite of indicators. Rather, the challenge is in developing a cost-effective, user-accessible, up-to-date monitoring program that focuses on the most relevant and important indicators while ensuring that the monitoring program is integrally linked to management actions to achieve the habitat objectives of the WSP.

This advisory is consistent with the strategies of the WSP while providing clarity on how to identify benchmarks necessary to implement Strategies 2 and 3. This advisory provides critical additional advice on the need to link monitoring to management actions so that habitat and ecosystem integrity can be maintained. Specifically, this advisory:

  1. Describes a logical and unique eight step framework for implementation of the habitat and ecosystem management components outlined in the WSP;
  2. Provides clarity on the rationale and how each WSP step could be implemented;
  3. Recommends broad spatial mapping of salmon distributions and of high value habitat for CU’s. Emphasis is on a cost-effective program that is updated at intervals;
  4. Describes the prioritization of CUs and watersheds using broad-scale indicators of threats;
  5. Recommends detailed monitoring of habitat with high values;
  6. Recommends the development of up-front key indicators and standards for identifying threats to habitat along with associated data requirements;
  7. Recommends the inclusion of ecosystem components at the outset;
  8. Recommends management actions be undertaken to reduce if not eliminate habitat threats identified. More effort should be expended where values and risks are high but all habitat needs protection and management; and
  9. Identifies opportunities for partnering with other governments, First Nations and local stewardship groups.

In February of 2005, the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (PFRCC) provided comments on the draft WSP. With respect to salmon habitat and the salmon ecosystem, the Council recommended strengthening Strategies 2 and 3 of the draft by including a number of schemes (approaches) to address salmon habitat and salmon ecosystems (PFRCC 2005), including approaches to designation of habitat and ecosystem status, monitoring of habitat and ecosystem status, inclusion of management actions, reporting of information, and establishing meaningful partnerships. The final WSP remains quite vague in these areas, particularly with respect to salmon ecosystems.

Supporting this advisory was unpublished advice from LGL Limited Environmental Research Associates, specifically Robert Bocking and Marc Gaboury. LGL reviewed the WSP and provided information to Council on an applicable management system that would maintain habitat and ecosystem integrity.

Packman & Associates and Winsby Environmental Services provided an in-depth review of potential indicators to measure the habitat status of wild Pacific Salmon for Council (Packman and Winsby 2006). They reviewed other work, primarily for Washington and Oregon, identifying potential indicators, and convened a workshop with experts to develop recommended categories and indicators. In 1999, 2WE Associates completed a similar review for Fisheries and Oceans Canada to develop a catalogue of indicators of marine health in the Strait of Georgia (2WE 1999a, 2WE 1999b). The indicators referred to in this advisory are a subset of those listed by Packman and Winsby (2006) and 2WE (1999b).

The Council has also prepared a report on managing Pacific salmon for ecosystem values (Nelitz et al. 2006). In this report a suite of potential ecosystem indicators was identified to address two main issues or questions: 1) How salmon influence the ecosystem, and 2) How the ecosystem influences salmon.