Kitwanga River Salmon Enumeration Facility – 2012 Annual Report

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Abstract

In 2012, the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority (GFA) operated the Kitwanga River Salmon Enumeration Facility (KSEF) for the 10th consecutive year to count all five Pacific salmon species returning to the Kitwanga River. From July 28th to October 14th a total of 5,476 sockeye, 848 chinook, 16,320 pink, 426 chum, and 2,961 coho salmon (including 77 Coded Wire Tag (CWT)) were enumerated through the facility. The 2012 sockeye return was well below the highest recorded of 20,804 in 2010, well above the lowest return of 240 fish in 2007, but exceeds the overall run average (2003-2011) by approximately 1,200 fish. The 2003 to 2012 sockeye return data suggests that a sporadic but positive rebuilding of the population is occurring since the 2007 low–point. The 2012 chinook return is the third lowest recorded at the KSEF since the year 2003, is 47 percent below the running average from 2003 to 2011, and marked the fifth consecutive decline in the running average since the KSEF record return of 3,225 fish in 2007. The 2012 even year pink run compares to a maximum even year return of 71,070 fish in 2004 and a minimum return of 4,245 fish in 2008. The 2012 pink returns was approximately 9,000 fish less than the even-year running average of 25,625 (years 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010; skewed by 2004 return), however was the second highest recorded in an even year since 2003. It is important to note that the 2011 odd year pink salmon return was the lowest ever recorded by GFA, which is striking since the 2011 fish originated from the highest ever recorded run of 559,865 fish (88% decrease). Broodstock from this run will be returning to the KSEF in 2013, and results are highly anticipated. The 2012 chum salmon return was 50% of the average escapement  recorded from 2003-2011, and marks the 7th year of numbers well below the running average. The 2012 coho escapement was 81% of the average escapement recorded from 2003-2011. However, the running average is skewed by two abnormally high returns in 2005 and 2009 (7,100 and 12,080 fish respectively), while most of the other years runs ranged between approximately 1,000 and 3,000 fish. GFA assumes that the 2012 coho escapement is underestimated due to flooding and fence damage leading to the closure of the fence on October 15th before the coho run was likely complete. GFA presumes that only escapement counts for coho salmon were compromised. Based on previous runtime records, the other salmon species likely passed though the KSEF before its closure.