March 2017 – 2017 Expected Sockeye Return


Invisible Migration in Fort Babine

The Lake Babine Nation hosted and was co-sponsored by SWCC an Invisible Migration event to celebrate the sockeye smolts leaving the Lake to the Ocean (Estuary) on May 11,2015.  The event was a huge success! We had over 300 people attend the event.  The event consisted of:

  • Introductions
  • Fire made Bannock
  • Fire roasted Salmon
  • Snacks and Refreshments
  • Helicopter Flights
  • Smolt Program Boat Tours
  • Offering to the Smolts
  • Rekease if Smolts
  • The entertainment was provided by the LBN Drum Group
  • Lunch at the Fort Babine Gym – Including door prizes

Salmon Smolths Invisible Migration on CFNR Network Website:

Link: CFNR – Pictures from the Celebration in Fort Babine:

Mission Statement: “To protect and conserve the fisheries resources and habitats within the Lake Babine Nation Territory for the benefit of all members, present and future”

The Lake Babine Nation (LBN) Fisheries Program (Ned’u’ten Fisheries) was created in 1991 when LBN engaged Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) via the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (AFS). The Fisheries Program is funded in-part by Fisheries and Oceans Canada through the AFS. The purpose of the program is to co- manage salmonid stocks within the Lake Babine Nation’s Traditional Territory. The Lake Babine Nation values the fisheries resource within their Territory and therefore actively participates in all aspects of Fisheries Management.

The Lake Babine Nation is proud to act as stewards of the Longest Lake in BC and Babine River. Our Lake is the nursery to~ 90% of the Skeena Sockeye Run, which is the main staple of our diet. Since time immemorial LBN members have regarded the return of the salmon as an integral part of their survival.

Program Objectives:

    • To ensure productivity and viability of the fisheries resources for Future generations.
    • To Actively Participate in Fisheries Management decisions.
    • To monitor the health and status of salmonids and their habitat within the Nation’s Territory.
    • To actively participate in proposed projects that may impact on fisheries resources.
    • To monitor and research the effects of uncertainties such as Climate Change and the Pine Beetle Epidemic on Fish and Fish habitat.

The Fisheries Program Structure:

    • Fisheries Manager
    • Fort Babine Field Technician Crew (3)
    • Tachet Field Technician Crew (3)
    • Donald’s Landing Field Technician Crew (3)
    • Contract Biologists (2)
    • Catch Monitors (7-8)
    • Creel Clerks (3)
    • CEDP Project (3 Technicians)
    • Babine Fence (5 Technicians)
    • Special Projects (2-3)
    • Council Members – Fisheries Portfolio holders (2)

Crews are trained in:

    • Fish Identification
    • Habitat assessments including fry sampling, water quality monitoring
    • Access management techniques
    • Safe work procedures including: First Aid, Chainsaw Safety, Bear Aware, ATV, UTV safe handling, Flat water safety and other Safety Courses as pertains to the jobs at hand.
    • Biological sampling techniques
    • Biological sampling techniques

Our Projects

Stream Enumerations:

Crews in 3 locations (Fort Babine,Tachet and Donalds Landing) carry out spawning salmon enumeration surveys in  approximately 17 spawning streams every 8-10 days. The data generated is compiled and entered into the Department of Fisheries and Oceans BC 16 Data Base.

During the field season these crews also collect information such as water levels and temperatures, and note other physical parameters in order to detect any changes that may be caused from natural or anthropogenic activities. The crews also collect DNA and other biological samples from the returning salmon.

The other survey was conducted in the vicinity of the Fulton river assessing the new sports fishery that opened there in the mid-2000s. This fishery has been surveyed for 7 seasons and the results appear to show a fairly consistent fishing pressure from local non-LBN fishers. In 2015 it was estimated that sports fisheries took just over 20,000 adult sockeye from the area around Fulton.

Community Development Project (CEDP): Fort Babine Hatchery:

The hatchery located in Ft Babine was in operation for over 20 years and in the in the past has produced Coho and Chinook. The hatchery no longer operates but the community development project still works in the community through several other projects. One of the projects is the information center that is located in the community and is open in the summer months. The center has displays of fisheries interest and is the center of activities for BC Rivers Day in the community.

The CEDP project also carries out assessment and access management activities in some of the creeks that flow into Babine and have a wild salmon return to them. In 2014 their work was especially important as water levels were very low and the work of the crews helped salmon reach their spawning beds

Fish Ladders to assist with fish access. The straight lines of stones in the bottom left corner were set that way so that water would pool and the fish could go from ‘rung’ to ‘rung’

Smolt Project:

In the spring of 2013 the Lake Babine Nation Fisheries program, along with the Skeena Fisheries Commission re-initiated the Babine River smolt counting fence that DFO had discontinued in 2000. The declining wild stocks were one of the factors that propelled LBN to seek funding to restart the program.

The program is fairly simple, technicians catch a certain amount of smolts each day and “mark” a certain proportion of those fish and release them upriver. They then re-catch a certain amount of those marked fish and from that can estimate the total number of smolts leaving the Babine system.

The smolt trap as it is called is located upriver of the Babine counting fence at the outlet of Nilkitkwa Lake. Crews stay in camp at the Babine fence for the duration of the program.

View of two technicians examining sockeye smolts for tags using a coded wire tag detector as a metal detector

Future Activities 

The fisheries program faces several challenges in the future. There are several proposed pipelines that have routes through LBN territory and more specifically salmon spawning areas. There are other human activities like logging and mining interests going on within the watershed that may affect the wild salmon populations.

As well, within the past 3 years it has become worrisome that although the enhanced populations of Pinkut and Fulton Rivers appear to be healthy, the wild salmon in Babine Lake and the Babine River appear to be declining. The Lake Babine Nation Fisheries program is spearheading planning on a Recovery Plan for wild Babine sockeye stocks. With help from members, Chief and Council and a technical team the program hopes to come up with a effective strategy to rebuild the stocks.

This is a picture of the Skeena watershed broken down into colour coded Conservation Units. The green areas mean the sockeye populations are healthy. The yellow ones mean there is some concern for the sockeye stocks and the red ones mean the stocks are in trouble. Babine Lake has 2 healthy stocks (Pinkut and Fulton) both enhanced, one yellow stock( the Tahlo Morrison system) and rest of the creeks and the Babine River are in trouble.

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