Port Authority gives big to historic-salmon research project

Skeena Sockeye Century Project using salmon DNA to map future recovery strategies

Fishermen in the port of Prince Rupert at an unknown date. The Prince Rupert Port Authority is investing $50,000 into a research project using historic salmon DNA samples to help map out future salmon recovery strategies in a time of global climate change. Prince Rupert Archives photo

The Prince Rupert Port Authority is investing $50,000 into a research project to help map out salmon recovery strategies in a time of global climate change.

Skeena Sockeye Century Project, led by Simon Fraser University PhD candidate Michael Price, in partnership with the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, is using records from as far back as 1913 to establish a baseline for sockeye populations in the region. Then, using the DNA from thousands of scales collected from the mouth of the Skeena River in the 1930s and 1940s, researchers will reconstruct the historical abundance and diversity of individual populations to examine whether climate change has impacted freshwater nursery lakes for sockeye in the Skeena Watershed.

“The Prince Rupert Port Authority recognizes that a healthy salmon population is vital to the entire Northwest region,” said Shaun Stevenson, president and CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority. “We take our commitment to our communities and the environment seriously, and we are pleased to partner with organizations like SkeenaWild and the Pacific Salmon Foundation who share our sustainability values, and will pursue informed approaches and innovative solutions related to the health of Skeena River salmon.”

READ MORE: How history is teaching scientists about wild Skeena salmon today

SkeenaWild executive director, Greg Knox, believes the research will provide the right scientific insights to better inform management decisions on naturally fluctuating populations.

“It’s important for us to understand how different populations contributied to the overall abundance before significant impacts to their habitats like climate vaiability and large-scale fishing pressures arrived,” Knox said.

“This historical information gives us a better understanding of what the potential is for individual populations in the future, and what our potential is to rebuild them.”

The findings of the $160,000 project will also allow researchers to more accurately identify the lakes most vulnerable to climate change that require priority in sockeye conservation planning, and be a significant contributor to scientific databases aligned with the recovery of B.C. sockeye populations.

PRPA’s $50,000 contribution is being channeled through its Skeena River Salmon Enhancement Program, a $1 million endowment from its Community Investment Fund. The goal of the program is to team up with regional partners such as First Nations, non-governmental organizations, and community groups on projects that enhance the salmon population and protect their habitat in the Skeena River and its watershed.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

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