Sakinaw Lake Sockeye – Stock Assessment Smolt Emigration Bulletin #2

The Sakinaw sockeye Conservation Unit was identified as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in 2002 and again most recently in 2006. This designation has resulted in a recovery strategy lead by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO); which includes a captive breeding program with fry released into the lake each year. The Sechelt (shíshálh) people have a long history with this unique sockeye stock, which are the first salmon to return to this region each year. The adult returns historically provided an important food source for the shíshálh people. Adult sockeye return from the open ocean and migrate primarily through the Johnstone Strait before entering the lake in June to September each year. Based on run timing data and incidental catch data of Sakinaw sockeye, migration through Johnstone Strait to the lake takes about 8 days and most of the run has entered the lake by mid-August. Most adult returns are 4 year olds, although some return as age 3 or 5 adults. The adults hold in the lake until they are ready to spawn in November and December. The fry from natural spawners emerge from the spawning gravel in the spring each year and fry releases from the captive breeding program are released between May and July each year at 0.5 years old. Fry remain in the lake for one year until they smolt and migrate to the ocean (at age 1.5) from April to June. The enumeration of smolts migrating to the ocean and adults returning to the lake are important measures of the success of the recovery strategy. This bulletin provides weekly updates on annual Sakinaw Lake Sockeye assessment activities involving DFO and the Sechelt (shíshálh) First Nation. In the spring, this bulletin focuses on smolt emigrations and through the summer the bulletin highlights adult returns