Over the summer of 2016, Kwiakah First Nation has continued to work ceaselessly towards one of its key stewardship goals: better science-based management of the environment and species within Phillips Arm and the Phillips watershed.
Filling in the information gaps
With the assistance of scientific partners at the University of Victoria, Kwiakah has been analysing historical data as far back as the 1960s. Kwiakah is concerned that the environment in Phillips Arm is close to collapse as a result of industrial activity and management decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate data.
The hope is that the advanced analysis now under way will provide good information that forms the basis for improved decision-making, which in turn will help restore the health of the territory. Studies have focused on several areas, including salmon data and the impact of forestry activity and open-net finfish farming on the wild salmon of Phillips Arm.
Independent fish testing
Experts are helping Kwiakah to develop a fish health testing and diagnostic protocol. Kwiakah are concerned about the risks associated with viruses found in farmed Atlantic salmon, and the fact that current testing by the federal government doesn’t cover all known viruses. That testing is also based on assumptions that may not be correct.
That’s why Kwiakah is working to develop its own information for comparison, and actively endeavouring to partner with other interested parties to gain access to as complete a scientific index of existing information as possible. The hope is to begin independent fish health testing in 2017, based on the new protocol, as well as building baseline data for counting sea lice.
Working to save the bears
At the same time, Kwiakah are working with a grizzly bear biologist to develop a strategy and recommendations to prevent extinction of highly endangered grizzly bears in the Phillips watershed. With credible indications that the current population has dropped to as low as ten bears, Kwiakah is reviewing all bear data available since 2006 to support the strategy and recommendations.