A commercial fishery for sockeye salmon on the Fraser River is so far looking unlikely this year

A commercial fishery for sockeye salmon on the Fraser River is so far looking unlikely this year

Low return of sockeye salmon projected for Fraser River

Commercial fishery unlikely for sockeye,which may have been weakened by warm ocean 'blob' and now face poor river conditions

A low forecast for this summer’s return of sockeye salmon to the Fraser River means a commercial fishery looks unlikely, or very small at best.

Just under 2.3 million sockeye are projected to return this year, according to the median forecast released by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

That number is no surprise to sockeye experts.

“It’s pretty small but it’s also the cycle year that typically has the smallest return,” said Mike Lapointe, chief biologist for the Pacific Salmon Commission.

The fish now heading for the Fraser were spawned by a run of 2.05 million sockeye in 2012.  (In contrast, the strong phase of the cycle includes the abundant Adams River run and saw a return of 30 million in 2013.)

Lapointe said he doubts there will be any commercial fishing planned in Canadian waters, as aboriginal fisheries for food, social and ceremonial purposes have priority.

Actual returns often end up way off the median forecast, and this year’s projection indicates there’s a 25 per cent chance the sockeye run could be high as 4.2 million or as low as 1.3 million.

Last year about 2.1 million sockeye returned to the Fraser and no commercial fishing for sockeye was allowed to ensure enough fish made it upriver to spawn and meet stock conservation objectives.

But Lapointe said there are also concerns that the warm “blob” of ocean water that peaked in 2013-14 in the Gulf of Alaska may result in fewer or weaker sockeye, because of either a reduced food supply in the ocean, or more predators.

“It’s dissipated some over this period, but the water is still very warm,” Lapointe said, referring to the blob. “These fish would have gone to sea two years ago in 2014.”

Once the salmon do reach the Fraser River and its tributaries, they may be in for more trouble in fresh water, because of the growing likelihood of low stream flows and the potential for dangerously warm water temperatures.

“We’ve had very poor snowpack and that is likely going to mean the Fraser River is going to be quite low,” Lapointe said.

“It’s similar to water in a bathtub,” he said. “If the water is shallow it’s much more sensitive to what the air temperature is than if the water is deeper. So it will all depend on what kind of summer we have. If we have a hot summer, the Fraser River will react to that quite quickly.”

Last year also saw a low snowpack and low flow conditions, and he said it’s fortunate the survival rate for migrating sockeye wasn’t worse.

“It’s shaping up to be a pretty lean year,” Lapointe said. “Folks are definitely preparing for the fact this is going to be a low return and environmental conditions are not looking good.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As a former reporter and editor at the Tribune, Diana French carries on sharing her ideas through her weekly column. (Photo submitted)
FRENCH CONNECTION: Skating rink welcomed

This lake one will not last long but is still worth it

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.
FOREST INK: New batteries close to industrial level applications

The good news is the hope that this cost should come down each year

Researchers in B.C. say earlier than usual return of bats or dead bats can indicate trouble, such as signs of white-nose syndrome. (Cathy Koot photo)
Public help is essential for monitoring for bat disease

Anyone finding a dead bat is asked to report it to the BC Community Bat Program

Sandi Griffiths is the region’s new district manager of transportation for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
New MOTI district manager takes the wheel in Williams Lake

Sandi Griffiths replaces Todd Hubner who retired recently

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Most Read