Pink salmon surge draws caution for fishery managers

Weaker sockeye, coho runs at risk of bycatch: conservationists

Craig Orr

A huge number of pink salmon returning to the Fraser River has conservationists warning that the temptation to fish them heavily could still threaten at-risk sockeye salmon.

The Pacific Salmon Commission estimates 26 million pinks are returning to the river this year – almost three times as many as expected.

Commercial fishermen, anglers and First Nations all got the go ahead to fish for pinks after sockeye fishing was closed this summer to ensure enough of that species get upstream to spawn after a lower-than-forecast return and dangerously warm river temperatures.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society executive director Craig Orr warned the pressure to fish abundant pinks can result in an accidental bycatch of sockeye, as well as weak runs of Interior coho salmon.

“This return of sockeye this year are the ones coming back from the disastrous 2009 return that triggered the Cohen Inquiry,” Orr said. “We have to take special care with these sockeye. There’s not a lot of them around.”

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans did halt commercial pink fishing near the river mouth Tuesday night, a decision Orr applauds.

He said it’s deceptive to look solely at the overall number of sockeye estimated to be returning this year – about 3.7 million compared to just 1.6 million in 2009 at the previous point in the four-year life cycle – and conclude stocks are rebounding.

Individual runs of sockeye returning to specific streams can go extinct if they’re victims of a bycatch when fishermen target stronger sockeye stocks, like the Quesnel Lake run, or, in this case, large numbers of pinks.

“We still have many sockeye stocks in the Fraser River that are in the red zone that have been declining rapidly over the past several generations,” Orr said.

“We don’t want to cause local extinctions because people can’t move and they’re depending on those fish coming back to their back yards.”

Orr is urging care to fish selectively and release sockeye caught accidentally when fisheries are permitted.

He was also critical of the federal government for so far failing to formally respond to the 75 recommendations of the Cohen Commission to address the sockeye decline, released nearly a year ago.

Just Posted

45-year-old ID’ed as victim of South Surrey stabbing

Delphin Paul Prestbakmo died at the scene, near 18 Avenue and 152 Street

Volunteers help remove invasive plants from Surrey park

Environmental groups can be a ‘stepping stone’ for future career

Puppy rescued from smoky South Surrey condo

Fire alarms brought firefighters to the Morgan Crossing residences around 7 p.m. Thursday

UPDATE: Arrest made in early-morning stabbing death in South Surrey

Police say victim was found just after 3 a.m. and incident is ‘not believed random’

Fashion Fridays: How to dress and feel powerful

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

‘Easy Rider’ star Peter Fonda dies at 79

Actor and writer was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing the 1969 psychedelic road trip movie

Bob Lenarduzzi out as Vancouver Whitecaps president

MLS team is at the bottom of the Western Conference standings

B.C. daycare operator denies negligence in death of ‘Baby Mac’

Infant died in early 2017 after biting an electrical cord, according to a lawsuit filed by his mom

BC SPCA reopens animal cruelty investigation at Abbotsford pig farm

Additional alleged footage released from Excelsior Hog Farm sparks new investigation

Donor upset no one noticed B.C. school’s sculpture had been missing for a year

Agassiz’s Fraser River Lodge owner baffled how theft went undetected

Purple fentanyl among items seized in B.C. drug bust

Youth being recruited as drivers for more-established drug dealers, police say

Fatal overdoses in B.C. drop 30% during first half of year

A total of 538 people have died between January and June, BC Coroners Service reports

VIDEO: B.C. RCMP officer’s stunt at motorcycle festival prompts internal investigation

The officer was part of a stunt event at the Squamish Motorcycle Festival

Most Read