It’s a sad year for Fraser River sockeye.
Although this is a sub-dominant year, scientists had initially estimated 1.2 million late-run sockeye would enter the Fraser River this fall – approximately half of them aiming for spawning grounds along the South Thompson River and into Shuswap Lake and Adams River.
“We’re now thinking 200,000, which is extremely disappointing and concerning,” said Stu Cartwright, acting area director of the federal Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the B.C. Interior, noting Monday that the run is very close to peak. “We don’t know what the reason is; there are lots of theories – warm water, all kinds of things, but at this point we don’t know.”
Cartwright says conservation is the number 1 priority when it comes to setting fisheries, with allocation to First Nations for food, social and ceremonial requirements next in importance.
In terms of complaints from some anglers that First Nations were using nets on Kamloops Lake when they were not allowed to fish, Cartwright said the fishery was chinook-driven and the only sockeye natives were allowed to keep were ones that could not be revived.
Fisheries are determined by scientists from Canada and the U.S. and are based on numbers provided by the Pacific Salmon Commission.
Prior to, and in conjunction with, the First Nations chinook fishery, commercial fisherman were in the approaches to the Fraser River and a recreational fishery was open in the South Thompson.
And therein lies the good news this year.
“There’s a very positive chinook return at this point in time – really good numbers,” Cartwright said of early assessment numbers for South Thompson, Adams River, Little River, Shuswap River and Eagle River. “It is likely going to surpass the brood year (130,000); it could be in the 150,000-plus range.”
The final tally for this year’s sub-dominant sockeye run will likely not be available until early in 2016.