A bin full of Fraser River sockeye salmon.

Sockeye salmon numbers ‘pretty positive’

Fraser run shows healthy gain from four years ago

An estimated 4.5 million sockeye salmon are returning to the Fraser River system this summer and the run size has fishery managers cautiously optimistic about the survival of the iconic fish.

Granted, it’s a tiny fraction of the record 30 million sockeye that returned last year.

But sockeye run on a four-year cycle, so managers aren’t comparing this run against last year – which was the high end of the cycle and was further amplified by mysteriously favourable ocean conditions.

Instead, Pacific Salmon Commission chief biologist Mike Lapointe notes these salmon are the spawn of the sockeye that migrated back in 2007 – a year when less than two million sockeye returned and the fishery was shut down.

That was the start of three years of similarly low returns that led the federal government to appoint the Cohen Commission to investigate the decline.

“The sockeye run is certainly better than forecast,” Lapointe said, noting it was expected to be as low as 3.1 million.

To now see more than twice as many sockeye four years later is “pretty positive” and might be the beginning of a turnaround for the runs that migrate on this part of the cycle, Lapointe said.

Unlike 2007, this year’s return has allowed a fishery while ensuring enough salmon get upriver to spawn.

An estimated 1.6 million sockeye have been caught, including 790,000 by aboriginal fisheries, 432,000 by Canadian commercial boats and 265,000 by U.S. fishermen.

A quarter of the incoming sockeye – 1.1 million salmon – are headed for Harrison Lake.

“It’s continuing to have really good returns and do its own thing,” Lapointe said of Harrison sockeye.

The Cohen Inquiry has heard evidence that the Harrison run spends less time in freshwater and migrates around the west side of Vancouver Island. Most other Fraser-bound sockeye tend to go around the east side where they pass by fish farms that activists blame for spreading disease or parasites.

An estimated 17.5 million pink salmon are also returning this year.

Lapointe said increased demand and higher prices for the traditionally lower value salmon has prompted more commercial fishing for them than usual.

Nearly six million pinks have now been caught, he said.

Surrey North Delta Leader

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

Just Posted

Police watchdog finds cops blameless for deaths in 2019 Surrey hostage-taking

Woman was killed as ERT officers fired on man holding a knife to her throat and ‘what appeared to be’ a gun in his hand

Surrey’s two largest hotels are now closed due to COVID-19; room bookings plummet elsewhere

Guildford’s 77-room Four Points property remains open with ‘minimum amount of business,’ GM says

Some Surrey landlords ‘kicking out’ businesses that can’t make rent

Surrey Board of Trade CEO suspects situation will be worse in May

UPDATE: Catalytic converters stolen from four ambulances being repaired in Delta

The thefts were reported on March 31, and police say they have no suspects at this time

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

VIDEO: Dog missing in Lower Mainland since winter sees his family again for the first time

Aldergrove helped find Buster, says dad, who has now witnessed ‘the power of social media’

COVID-19: Social media use goes up as country stays indoors

Overall messaging is up more than 50 per cent over the last month

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Call before you dig into spring projects during isolation: BC 1 Call

BC 1 Call gives free checks for utilities in the area of a desired outdoor project

B.C.’s intersection speed cameras putting more tickets in the mail

One Nanaimo location delayed after speed limit reduced

Update: Coquihalla re-opens, after incident requiring a medevac

DriveBC warns of continued delays and congestion

Most Read