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.”

Just Posted

Langley Cruise-In makes some changes for second year in Aldergrove

The annual car show will adjust its site and brings in a new “guest star.”

Condo approvals set to break records in Langley Township

If approved, the numbers could signal even more construction.

Ball Park Sports bids Cloverdale a fond farewell

After 10 years in the business, the sporting goods store will close its storefront

Housing vote a no-go in Langley until autumn

There is no vote planned on the Langley supportive housing project.

VIDEO: Langley couple reunite with Tugger three years after his disappearance

A purebred Pomeranian is back with his parents, likely after years in a puppy mill.

Stolen sunshade puts damper on Lower Mainland woman’s pet-relief effort

Broken umbrella taken from White Rock lawn ‘within 10 minutes’

Owner of B.C. fruit stand recounts ‘flames popping up everywhere’ from wildfire

The Mount Eneas wildfire is burning at about 200 hectares south of Peachland

Ontario, Saskatchewan premiers join together to oppose federal carbon plan

Saskatchewan is already involved in a court case over the tax

For-profit ridesharing legislation long overdue: BC Conservatives

Interim party leader Scott Anderson said the provincial government should step out of the way

5 to start your day

A woman is dead in a Mission crash, friends celebrate life of South Surrey train victim and more

One dead after fatal motorcycle crash on BC’s Highway 11

Mission RCMP are investigating a crash that claimed one life

After cave rescue, soccer boys pray for protection at Thai temple

On Wednesday evening, the boys and coach were released from hospital

Gymnastics sex abuse victims join hands, accept courage award at ESPYs

The women who spoke out against the abuse by Larry Nassar stood together Wednesday night

Most Read