Four years after disastrous sockeye runs on the Fraser River spurred the federal Cohen Commission, fisheries managers in Canada and the U.S. are waiting anxiously to see how returns will fare this summer for that same cycle of salmon.
Mike Lapointe, chief biologist with the Pacific Salmon Commission, said the main summer runs are later than expected and that he won’t know for a few more days whether total Fraser sockeye returns will match the pre-season estimate of almost 4.8 million fish.
“There is still ambiguity with that run,” he said in an interview. “It’s frustrating ... but all we can do is wait.”
The estimate of 4.8 million sockeye is a median figure based on spawning success four years ago, he said, noting there is a one-in-four chance of returns as low as 2.7 million fish or as high as 8.6 million.
In 2009, Fraser River sockeye returns totalled only about 1.5 million fish, down from expectations of 10.4 million, the majority of which went unfished in order to maximize numbers on the spawning grounds.
“It gave us hope for rebuilding,” Lapointe said.
Appointed by the federal government in late 2009, the Cohen Commission into the decline of Fraser River sockeye delivered its report in October 2012, making 75 recommendations to improve the sustainability of the fishery.
© Copyright 2013