Habitat Status Report for the Sarita River Watershed, Vancouver Island, BC

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The goals of Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy (DFO, 2005) are to restore and maintain healthy and diverse salmon populations and their habitats by safeguarding the genetic diversity of wild salmon populations, maintaining habitat and ecosystem integrity, and managing fisheries for sustainable benefits. The Policy will be implemented through 6 strategies which aim to integrate information on wild salmon and their habitat with other biological, social and economic information to produce strategic plans, followed by the development of operational plans and ongoing review.

Implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy (WSP) is based on identified Conservation Units (CU’s) for all species of Pacific Salmon. A CU can be defined as a group of wild salmon sufficiently isolated from other groups that, if extirpated, is very unlikely to recolonize naturally within an acceptable timeframe, e.g., a human lifetime or a specified number of salmon generations (Stahlberg et al., 2009). In the Sarita River watershed area, the 5 CUs that have been identified include: South West Vancouver Island Chinook, West Vancouver Island Chum, Juan de Fuca – Pachena Coho, West Vancouver Island Pink and West Vancouver Island Sockeye.

In Strategy 2 of the WSP, the Assessment of Habitat Status, the following 4 steps have been identified:

  1. Document habitat characteristics within Conservation Units
  2. Select indicators and develop benchmarks for habitat assessment
  3. Monitor and assess habitat status
  4. Establish linkages to develop an integrated data system for watershed management.

In Step 1, factors that are limiting production and high value habitats that require protection are to be identified in order to identify options and priorities for habitat protection and restoration. The habitat status reports should also identify appropriate indicators and benchmarks (Step 2) which can be monitored to assess changes in habitat condition over time. (Step 3).

The goal of this project is to complete a Habitat Status Report for the Sarita River Watershed. A watershed scale was selected over an entire CU to expedite and explore the pilot nature of the project, and for the practicality of acquiring information on multiple CU species through single interviews with local watershed-based personnel. The scope of work for the present project included the following general objectives:

  • Obtain and synthesize habitat information for the systems of interest in the Sarita River watershed;
  • Complete Habitat Status Template Tables provided by DFO for 5 species of Pacific salmon;
  • Identify appropriate indicators and benchmarks (or thresholds), where possible, in conjunction with DFO, and
  • Prepare a report documenting the data sources and results obtained (this report) outlining the methodology used.

— Excerpt from the report