Brown Bear Creek Sockeye and Coho Enumeration and Monitoring
Approximately 70 – 80% of all Nass River sockeye salmon migrate to the Meziadin Watershed to spawn on the beaches of Meziadin Lake and its major tributaries, Hanna, Tintina and Surprise Creeks (Plate, 2003). Meziadin sockeye have and continue to be intensively studied, but relatively little is known about the smaller non-Meziadin populations of sockeye salmon that frequent the waters of the Nass Watershed. One of these smaller non-Meziadin sockeye stocks spawn in Brown Bear Creek, which is located in Gitanyow Traditional Territory in the Huwilp (House) of Gamlaxyeltxw. 2014 marks the 12th consecutive year the Gitanyow Fisheries Authority (GFA) have enumerated sockeye and coho in Brown Bear Creek. Numerous lakes, including dozens originating from the Axnegrelga sub-watershed, feed Brown Bear Creek and water conditions in the stream are usually highly regulated and clear making it an excellent candidate for salmon counting.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) have kept Salmon Escapement records on Brown Bear Creek since at least the 1970’s, but counts have been sporadic and somewhat incomplete in some years (Kingston 2009, McCarthy 2013). Historical records of escapement for Brown Bear Sockeye show average returns in the 1970’s of less than 100, but as high as 400 fish in 1981. In 2003, the GFA initiated a sockeye and coho salmon enumeration program on Brown Bear Creek, which has continued every year since. Between 2003 and 2011 the estimated escapement of Brown Bear sockeye was highly variable ranging between 6 fish in 2012 and 1240 fish in 2004, while coho returns ranged between 16 fish in 2007 and 130 fish in 2005 (McCarthy 2013).
GFA, in conjunction with DFO, will continue the monitoring of the unique river-spawning sockeye and coho in Brown Bear Creek as part of their broader salmon monitoring conducted throughout Gitanyow Traditional Territory.