About 6 million late-run sockeye now expected to return to Shuswap

Early estimates are that 2.2 million of those fish will make their way to the Adams River

The Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band manages a fish fence on Scotch Creek where early sockeye salmon are counted. The early sockeye run is giving way as the late-run Shuswap run begins, including the dominant run on the Adams River. (Rick Koch photo)

So far, so good!

That’s the somewhat optimistic estimation that Mike Lapointe, senior biologist with the Pacific Salmon Commission, is providing on late-run sockeye salmon.

Based on test fisheries, officials have recalculated the run size for the 2018 dominant year of late-run sockeye returning to the Shuswap, from a median forecast of 6.9 million to 5.7 million. Of those, 2.2 million are expected to spawn on the Adams River.

Related: Nearly 7 million late-run sockeye due to return to Shuswap

Commercial, First Nations and recreational fisheries, have already accounted for 1.66 million of an allowable late-run sockeye catch of 2.29 million, says Lapointe.

Some Canadian fishers are angling for another fishery, but Lapointe says the problem for Fisheries Canada is whether to permit the total allowable catch or try to ensure the expected numbers arrive to spawn on the Adams River.

Complicating the matter is that there is no way of knowing exactly how many fish are holding in the Strait of Georgia, he says. That is why another run survey will be undertaken on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

“You’re trying to make estimates using two trawlers over a three-day period, and based on the troll survey from Thursday, (Sept. 6), the best estimate is 3.5 million (are holding in Georgia Strait).”

Lapointe says there is a one-in-10 chance that as few as 1.9 million more late-run sockeye are yet to arrive in the strait or as many as 6.6 million.

Related: Shuswap symposium unites science, First Nations perspective on salmon

For most of the season about 70 per cent of the late-run sockeye travelled down the west side of Vancouver Island and took the southern approach through Juan de Fuca Strait.

However, in the last week, over 90 per cent of returning fish, a number estimated to be about 160,000, are enroute to the Strait of Georgia primarily through Johnstone Strait.

Lapointe says the safest place for the sockeye right now is the Strait of Georgia. The peak run on the Adams River is six weeks away and once salmon enter fresh water to begin their 600-plus kilometre trip to the Shuswap, their chances for survival drop.

Related: Shuswap artists explore impact of climate change on salmon

He is somewhat concerned the rain and cooler temperatures in the forecast might start drawing the salmon into the river this weekend.

“The temperature this morning in the Lower Fraser was 15.7 C, which is half-a-degree below normal, and it is predicted to remain near or below average temperatures,” he says.

This is the dominant year of a four-year cycle, an event that spawns the world-famous Salute to the Sockeye at Tsútswecw Provincial Park (formerly Roderick Haig Brown) from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.

Information on the event is available at www.salmonsociety.com.


@SalmonArm
newsroom@saobserver.net

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