Fishermen on the Fraser River toss freshly caught sockeye into a tote during the 2010 fishery. Officials are cautiously optimistic there will be a commercial fishery this year.

Fraser sockeye watchers see stock rebuilding

Forecast calls for run of nearly 4.8 million sockeye, close to nine million pink salmon

Salmon watchers are hoping this is the year the troubled Fraser River sockeye run turns the corner on its disastrous collapse four years ago.

If returns come in as forecast, nearly 4.8 million sockeye will make their way up the Fraser this summer.

That’s still well short of the longer term average of 8.6 million for this part of the four-year cycle.

But it would be a huge improvement from 2009, when more than 10 million salmon were expected and just 1.5 million arrived, prompting the federal government to appoint the Cohen Commission into the decline.

“Hopefully we’ll get a run that’s much improved relative to 2009,” said Mike Lapointe, chief biologist for the Pacific Salmon Commission.

“If the run returns bigger and we’re able to get some rebuilding, that will be very important for the sockeye moving forward. It will be definitely be more than what we had in the parent year that produced it.”

Nobody is guaranteeing a commercial fishery yet.

The pre-season forecast shows a one-in-four chance of a Fraser sockeye run below 2.7 million, which would likely rule out commercial fishing, and a one-in-10 chance it will be as bad as 2009.

But after the Cohen inquiry failed to come up with a single cause or solution to the slide, observers like Lapointe would be happy to continue to see an improving trendline.

“We definitely did better in 2012 than 2008, we did better in 2011 than in 2007. If we can do better again in 2013 from 2009 we’ll have gotten some rebuilding off of those three very low years.”

Last year’s sockeye return, while up, wasn’t enough to allow commercial fishing or sports angling.

There are no concerns about 2014 – next year marks the return of the huge Adams River run, which came back with a stunning return of more than 30 million sockeye in 2010, meaning enough fish spawned to assure at least a healthy run.

The bulk of this year’s sockeye are summer-run salmon, concentrated in two stocks – the Quesnel and Chilko lake systems.

Also coming back this year are pink salmon, which run on a two-year cycle.

Nearly nine million pinks are forecast to return – below average and down from the last couple of runs of more than 15 million.

Still, Lapointe said there are good odds of some commercial fishing for pinks, which typically fetch around 40 cents a pound, compared to $1.50 to $2 for sockeye.

“It’s going to depend on how many pinks there are and how much interest there is [from the commercial fleet].”

Sockeye salmon returning to the Adams River in 2010.

Salmon named official fish emblem

The provincial government on Saturday declared Pacific salmon to be B.C.’s official fish emblem, in recognition of its high ecological, cultural and economic significance.

The designation captures all Pacific salmonids – sockeye, chinook, coho, pink and chum, plus ocean-going steelhead and cutthroat trout.

“With the epic migration of Pacific salmon from B.C.’s rivers and streams to the ocean and back, there is no symbol more iconic of British Columbia,” Environment Minister Terry Lake said, adding they’re integral to First Nations and often seen as indicators of overall ecosystem and wildlife health.

Salmon take a place among B.C. official symbols like the spirit bear (official mammal), western red cedar (official tree), Steller’s jay (official bird), jade (official mineral and Pacific dogwood (official floral emblem).

Just Posted

After 30 years, Agassiz’s Miss Marge set to retire from Variety Play

From 1989 to today, Miss Marge has taken generations of kids through the district play program

RCMP believe Missing Hope teenager was headed to Chilliwack

Keely Reeze Loewen, 18, last in contact with a family member on June 13

Summer service by bus from Chilliwack to Cultus Lake starting soon

Seasonal change will see bus service from Vedder Road to Cultus elementary until Labour Day

Chilliwack trustees divided on Trans Mountain pipeline route near two schools

School district will pen letter to NEB to ask for re-routing away from schools to be considered

Agassiz RCMP finally able to get outdoor picnic table

Funds from Harrison and Kent will allow the detachment to purchase the outdoor seating area

VIDEO: Reading splashes into Agassiz’s Ferny Coombe Pool

The Agassiz Library held its annual Reading in the Pool event Friday, June 14

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

Most Read