Kitwanga River Salmon Enumeration Facility – 2011 Annual Report

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In 2011, the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority (GFA) operated the Kitwanga River Salmon Enumeration Facility (KSEF) for the 9th consecutive year to count all five Pacific salmon species returning to the Kitwanga River. From July 13th to October 12th, 2011 a total of 2,366 sockeye (including 63-hatchery sockeye), 845 chinook, 68,410 pink, 460 chum, and 1,422 coho salmon (including 209 Coded Wire Tag (CWT)) were enumerated through the facility. The 2011 Kitwanga sockeye escapement is slightly below the running average, since GFA started counting in 2000, but well above the extremely poor returns experienced in 2000, 2001, and 2007. Hatchery sockeye represented 2.7% of the 2011 return. Aging results from wild and hatchery sockeye combined, showed that 61% of the adult sockeye returns in 2011 were 4-year old fish and the bulk of the remainder was 5-year old fish (38%). The 2011 odd year pink salmon return was the lowest ever recorded by GFA, which is striking since the 2011 fish originated from of the highest ever recorded run of 559,865 fish (88% decrease). Compared to previous returns, chinook and chum escapements were low and the GFA have been observing a decline in escapements from both species. The 2011 coho escapement was low when compared to previous years but it is likely underestimated due to the closure of the fence on October 12th before the end of the run when a flood event damaged the facility. GFA believes that only escapement counts for coho salmon were compromised because all other salmon species were predicted to have already migrated past the KSEF before its closure.