Two weeks ago, authorities were concerned that high water temperatures in the Fraser River would hammer returning stocks of sockeye salmon.
That threat has now eased, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said on Thursday as it announced new commercial and sport fishery openings for Fraser pink and chinook stocks.
U.S. and Canadian officials with the Pacific Salmon Commission met to decide on a management strategy based on the pink count.
The count is increasing rapidly in abundance as they approach the river, giving impetus to re-open fisheries that were recently closed, said Jeff Grout, DFO’s regional resource manager for salmon.
However, Fraser River sockeye continue to be a conservation concern. The challenge is to avoid an incidental sockeye catch in pink and chinook fisheries while ensuring that any sockeye that are caught are safely released.
“As a result, we’re planning to provide re-openings to target on pink and chinook in some cases, in cases where we can minimize the impact on Fraser River sockeye,” Grout said.
They’re projecting a return of four million Fraser sockeye, down from a previous forecast of 4.7 million. Typically, 70 per cent of fish entering the river die en route before reaching spawning grounds, but cooler water temperatures will offset that.
“We’ll see more on the spawning ground,” said Les Jantz, co-chair of DFO’s Fraser River panel.
This is a pre-dominant year for the famed Adams River sockeye return with only about 10,000 spawners expected. Next year should bring the spectacle of millions returning.