FN0899-Salmon – Fraser River Sockeye and Pink Update – Areas 11 to 29 – September 7, 2021

The Fraser River Panel met Tuesday, September 7, to receive an update on the migration of the Fraser Sockeye and Pink salmon runs to date and review the status of migration conditions in the Fraser River watershed.

The Area 12 and Area 20 purse seine test fisheries ended on September 3 and 4, respectively. The Area 12 purse seine test fishery catch on September 3 was 104 Sockeye and 1,640 Pink salmon. The Sockeye and Pink catches in the Area 20 purse seine test fishery on September 4 were 9 and 376, respectively. Gill net test fishing catches of Sockeye at Cottonwood have been relatively low over the last 4 days with a slight increase to a catch of 10 Sockeye on September 6. The Sockeye catches at the Whonnock gill net test fishery have declined over the last 4 days to a low of 5 Sockeye on September 6. The catches of Pink salmon at the Cottonwood and Whonnock increased over the last 4 days with the highest catch of 142 Pinks for the season at Whonnock on September 4.

The most recent Sockeye DNA samples from the marine area test fisheries indicated that 2% are Early Summer run stocks, between 66% and 81% are Summer run stocks, and between 17% and 32% are Late run stocks.  The most recent DNA samples from Cottonwood and Whonnock gill net test fisheries indicated that between 0% and 2% are Early Summer run stocks, between 61% and 63% are Summer run stocks, and 37% are Late run stocks. The diversion rate for Sockeye through Johnstone Strait is 27% based on the annual average diversion rate as the Areas 12 and 20 purse seine test fisheries are now complete and the 5 day average Sockeye diversion rate through Johnstone Strait is no longer available.

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The most recent Pink DNA samples from the Area 12 and Area 20 purse seine test fisheries indicated that the Fraser River Pink salmon contributions have increased in Area 12 from 51% to 58% and in Area 20 from 47% to 76%. The annual average diversion rate through Johnstone Strait is estimated to be 23%.

The total Sockeye escapement at Mission to September 6 is estimated to be 1,860,000 of which 69,200 are Early Stuart Sockeye, 111,900 are Early Summer run stocks, 1,470,100 are Summer run stocks and 208,800 are Late run stocks. The total Pink escapement at Mission to September 6 is estimated to be 3,036,500.

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During the Panel call today the run size for Early Stuart Sockeye remained unchanged at 69,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of July 5 and the run size for Early Summer run Sockeye also remained unchanged at 115,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of August 4. As a reminder there is no TAC for Early Stuart and Early Summer run Sockeye at these run sizes. During the Panel meeting the run size for Summer run Sockeye was increased to 1,550,000 and an Area 20 peak timing of August 14. The Panel also adopted an updated proportional Management Adjustment (pMA) of 0.18 for Summer run Sockeye and at this updated run size and pMA there is a very small amount of TAC for the Summer run Sockeye. The run size of Late run Sockeye was increased during the Panel call today to 320,000 and an Area 20 peak timing of August 18. The Panel also adopted an updated pMA of 1.04 for Late run Sockeye and at this updated run size and pMA there is no TAC available for Late run Sockeye as the run size remains below the spawning escapement target.

During the Panel call today the run size of Fraser River Pink salmon was increased to 6,000,000 Pinks with an Area 20 peak timing of August 19. The US is planning some modest commercial fisheries to harvest the small amount of US TAC that remains at this updated run size. At the Panel meeting today US Pink fisheries were planned in 4b, 5, 6c and 6, 7, 7A with non-retention in place for Sockeye. For details on US fisheries planned for Panel Area waters refer to the Pacific Salmon Commission Regulatory Announcement from today’s Panel meeting. For details on US fisheries planned for Panel Area waters refer to the Pacific Salmon Commission Regulatory Announcement from today’s Panel meeting. In Canada, Pink salmon First Nations FSC fisheries are being considered, and consideration is also being given to how to manage extremely limited sockeye retention opportunities (associated with the very small amount of Summer run TAC) particularly in areas where Summer run stocks may not be available to harvest. The Pink run size will continue to be assessed and will be re-evaluated during upcoming Panel meetings.

Increasing numbers of Sockeye salmon continue to migrate above the landslide at Big Bar in the Fraser River upstream of Lillooet, with moderate abundances of Sockeye spawning in their natal streams in the upper Fraser watershed. Pink salmon have been observed passing Big Bar and Chinook salmon continue to migrate above Big Bar as well. Significant work has occurred over the winter and spring months to further improve passage for fish, combined with robust assessment programs to evaluate passage success, as well as mitigation measures including fish transport and brood stock collection for enhancement purposes. Additional information can be found at the following link: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/pacific-smon-pacifique/big-bar-landslide-eboulement/index-eng.html.

The observed water temperature at Hope on September 6 was 16.5°Celsius which is average for this date. Water temperatures are forecast to increase to 17.0°Celsius by September 12. The Fraser River discharge at Hope on September 6 was 1,693 cubic meters per second which is 30% below the average discharge for this date. Discharge levels are forecast to drop to 1,458 cubic meters per second by September 12.

The sixth spawning ground report of the season was provided by DFO Stock Assessment on September 2.  The counting fence at Scotch Creek was fish-tight and operational as of August 4, and 9,141 Sockeye have passed through the fence to date. Cyclic visual surveys of Early Summer run populations in the North and South Thompson Rivers began August 16 with Sockeye observed as near the peak of spawn.  Visual surveys have been conducted in the Lower Fraser watershed with Sockeye in the upper Pitt system reported to be holding, in the upper Chilliwack River reported to be past peak of spawn and Sockeye in the Nahatlatch River are nearing the peak of spawn. The Nadina River and Stellako River hydroacoustic sites were operational on July 24 and July 25, respectively. To August 29, 6,152 Sockeye have been enumerated at the Nadina site and 11,969 Sockeye have been recorded at the Stellako site to August 31. The second visual survey of Gates Creek was conducted on August 28 with 3,342 Sockeye observed holding in the Creek.  The Quesnel and Chilko hyrdroacoustic sites have been operational since August 5 and 6, respectively. To August 31 a total of 26,183 Sockeye have been recorded at the Quesnel site and 126,653 at the Chilko site to August 31. Visual surveys of the Raft and Bridge River systems observed Sockeye spawning with Sockeye in the Bridge River nearing the peak of spawn. The Birkenhead River hydroacoustic site was operational on August 20 and 209 Sockeye have been estimated past the sonar site through August 31, but the crew did note technical issues with the hydroacoustic system between August 26 and 31.  The Cultus Lake fence was installed on July 26 and 3 Sockeye has been manually counted through the fence or passively recorded on video to August 22. The water temperature in Sweltzer Creek is 25°Celsius.

First Nations food, social and ceremonial (FSC) Sockeye fisheries have been closed to Sockeye retention to date as there has not been identified TAC for any Fraser management group until today. A Sockeye directed FSC fishery has been licenced in the Chilcotin watershed due to the strong return of Chilko Sockeye. Expectations are for a spawning escapement to the Chilko River that exceeds the Wild Salmon Policy upper benchmark by a considerable amount. The fishery and run size information will be reviewed regularly in the coming weeks to ensure management objectives are achieved. In addition another terminal FSC fishery has been licenced in the Stuart River watershed on Late Stuart Sockeye which are returning at a run size which is projected to result in an escapement in excess of 200,000 spawners. This would be one of the largest escapements since 1993 and well above the WSP lower benchmark of 126,400. As a result, a directed Sockeye fishery has been approved and is anticipated to catch less than 5,000 Sockeye. Fishing opportunities directed at Chinook salmon for FSC purposes have occurred to date with non-retention restrictions in place for Sockeye. Recent increases in Pink Salmon abundance in marine areas has resulted in an interest for Pink salmon directed FSC fisheries. As a reminder, all FSC fisheries in the Fraser River with the exception of the Chilcotin and Stuart fisheries have had non-retention restrictions in place for Sockeye. As a result of today’s identification of a small Summer run TAC possibilities for very limited Sockeye retention are being evaluated.

FSC fishers in marine approach areas as well as the Fraser River are requested to check for the opening times and any restrictions in their local area. Commercial and recreational fisheries are not anticipated on Fraser River Sockeye in 2021.

The next in-season meeting of the Fraser River Panel is scheduled to occur on Friday, September 10, 2021.

For more information:

Regional Salmon Team – DFO Pacific

DFO.PacificSalmonRMT-EGRSaumonduPacifique.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca