Ministry of Environment

Fisheries InventoryFisheries Inventory

FISS Background and Further Information

What is FISS

The Fisheries Information Summary System (FISS) is a geo-referenced database of overview fish and fish habitat, macro-reach and lake classification data. It is a joint project between Fisheries and Oceans Canada and BC Fisheries. Like its predecessor, the Stream Information Summary System (SISS), the primary objective of FISS is to assist with four business functions: planning, project reviews, requests for information, and research. Unlike the SISS database, FISS is fully geo-referenced for use with a geographical information system (GIS).
Conceptually, the system consists of fish and fish habitat, macro-reach and lake classification databases, overlaid on a 1:50,000 digital stream network of British Columbia and Yukon Territory. Information is accessible through queries on the Web. Standardized hard copy maps and reports are also produced.

The following summary level lake and stream fish and fish habitat attribute data are included in FISS:

  • fish distribution
  • enhancement & management activities & objectives
  • gradient & macro-reaches
  • land use, water use & water quality activities
  • obstructions
  • resource use
  • flow
  • fisheries potential & constraints
  • escapement
  • value & sensitivity
  • life history timing
  • harvest & use

The Fisheries Information Summary System (FISS) has been developing and progressing for several years and finally is at the point where it can begin to supply critical information to users in government, First Nations, the private sector, and the public. As FISS is a continually growing database, new data being summarized and added as it is collected, it will never reach completion. However, as new information is received and entered, the breadth and value of information generated from FISS will continue to increase. See our Status Update page for current statistics on the number of waterbodies and the number of records contained in the FISS Database. Statistics are broken down into different FISS categories and are displayed in both graphical and tabular format.

Where FISS Began

The government of Canada should invite the government of British Columbia to participate in a joint program aimed at compiling a comprehensive inventory of fish habitats in freshwater streams and estuaries in British Columbia. The inventory should describe the biophysical characteristics of individual areas of fish habitat, and should include an assessment of their potential for producing fish.

Pearse, 1982:23

With this recommendation, Peter H. Pearse, Commissioner of the Commission on Pacific Fisheries Policy provided the original impetus which has resulted in a digital fisheries database and associated GIS mapping system for British Columbia and Yukon Territory. The commission's findings were that the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) "knows surprisingly little about the present quality of fish habitats in the Pacific region or their ability to support fish. ...to date the Department has made no comprehensive inventory of habitat in the region." (Pearse, 1982:23). Pearse was concerned that this lack of basic information stood in the way of effective planning and the ability to assess impacts of and plan mitigation measures for operations in other resource industries.

In 1984, the Fish Habitat Inventory and Information Program (FHIIP) was launched as a joint venture between DFO and Ministry of Environment Lands and Parks (MELP) [now Ministry of Environment) (MoE)]. The primary goal of this program was "to compile a comprehensive inventory of the quality, quantity and productive capability of fish habitats in freshwater, estuarine and marine environments of British Columbia. This information is required by DFO and MOE for effective management of the fisheries resource. In addition, this information will be made available to private industry and public organizations."

Integral to FHIIP was the compilation of existing summary level fish habitat information and reference sources for streams in B.C. and Yukon Territory. This database became known as the Stream Information Summary System (SISS). The data were collected from federal and provincial fisheries staff, local residents and a variety of literary sources such as consultants' reports, personal memos, as well as DFO and BC Ministry of Environment reports and files.

Containing information on approximately 4100 streams, the information was intended for use in several areas:

  • initial screening of habitat referrals;
  • providing an overview of production potential for stock management purposes;
  • selecting streams for enhancement, restoration or management activities;
  • identifying streams for research programs;
  • providing fish habitat information to agencies, companies and the public

The SISS database included information on:

  • stream location
  • life history and timing
  • gradient
  • enhancement & management activities
  • obstructions
  • land use, water use & water quality activities
  • flow
  • fish production potential and constraints
  • escapement
  • general comments

While the SISS database was digital and was designed to be easily accessed and updated, the reality was somewhat different. The system was maintained by the DFO Habitat Management Division in Vancouver on the regional DFO VAX computer. Few people had access to this and it was not a 'user friendly' environment. Hardcopy catalogues for each DFO Subdistrict were printed and corresponding 1:50,000 hardcopy maps were hand scribed. These catalogues became the standard for accessing SISS and proved to be very useful; they are still used regularly. However, information in the SISS database is very outdated. Also, there are many streams and even whole areas of BC and the Yukon Territory which are not included in SISS. The 'hardcopy' aspect of SISS provided other problems as well. With 1173 1:50,000 maps in BC and nearly 200 in the Yukon, the expense of providing copies was considerable. Had the SISS database been updated, a corresponding update of the maps would have been time consuming and impractical. A need was seen several years ago to update and add on to SISS, to make it more comprehensive and to ensure that it could be updated easily and regularly. This necessitated a number of changes and ultimately began the evolution from SISS to FISS.

MELP in conjunction with the DFO began to develop a watershed atlas; this is a 1:50,000 digital stream, lake, and wetland network for all of BC. The digital atlas provided the technology necessary to develop a truly digital, 'intelligent' fisheries mapping and database system. In 1992, the federal/provincial Resources Inventory Committee (RIC) Aquatic Inventory Task Force was established to focus on information needed to define and monitor conservation levels for wild fish populations and to protect fish habitat in stream, lake, and foreshore environments. As a result of RIC and other initiatives such as Forest Renewal BC, the Forest Practices Code, the Corporate Resource Initiative, the DFO Habitat Action Plan and the Fraser River Action Plan, the Fisheries Information Summary System (FISS) program began and has continued its development to where it is today.

Future Goals and Objectives

FISS will be continually updated as new reports and surveys are received. The long-term goal is to automate the process so that detailed 1:20,000 Reconnaissance Level Reports will be submitted digitally. Summary routines will be run that will extract the points and information and add it to the FISS database. Historical reports will continue to be compiled manually as they are collected and received. It is stressed that there are several technical issues to resolve before this can occur.

A project was initiated to input all Water Survey of Canada Stations in BC into FISS, including details on the period of activity for each station.