The Fraser River Panel met Friday, September 10, 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.
Gill net test fishing catches of Sockeye at Cottonwood and Whonnock have remained relatively low over the last 3 days with catches ranging from 4 to 8 daily. The catches of Pink salmon at Cottonwood and Whonnock have fluctuated over the last 3 days with the highest catch of the season of 143 Pinks at Whonnock on September 9. The most recent DNA samples from Cottonwood and Whonnock gill net test fisheries with limited sample sizes indicated that between 0% and 5% are Early Summer run stocks, between 47% and 52% are Summer run stocks, and 48% are Late run stocks.
The total Sockeye escapement at Mission to September 9 is estimated to be 1,906,100 of which 69,200 are Early Stuart Sockeye, 112,900 are Early Summer run stocks, 1,496,000 are Summer run stocks and 228,000 are Late run stocks. The total Pink escapement at Mission to September 9 is estimated to be 4,612,600.
During the Panel call today the run sizes for all Sockeye management groups remained unchanged. The run size for Early Stuart Sockeye remained at 69,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of July 5, the run size of Early Summer run Sockeye remained at 115,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of August 4, the run size of Summer run Sockeye remained at 1,550,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of August 14 and the run size of Late run Sockeye remained at 320,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of August 18. The Panel adopted a reduced proportional Management Adjustment (pMA) of 0.11 for Summer run Sockeye based on updated information from the 31-day Temperature and Discharge model. The pMA for Late run Sockeye remained unchanged at 1.04. There is a small amount of TAC for Summer run Sockeye at the current run size and pMA. There is no TAC available for Early Stuart, Early Summer and Late run Sockeye.
During the Panel call today the run size of Fraser River Pink salmon was increased to 6,500,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of August 19. The US is planning commercial fisheries to harvest the small increase in 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.. In Canada, Pink salmon First Nations FSC fisheries are being considered, and consideration is also being given to how to manage limited sockeye retention opportunities (associated with the small amount of Summer run TAC) particularly in areas where Summer run stocks are available to harvest. An Area B Fraser Pink Assessment fishery is also planned to start Sunday, September 12 in Area 29 with up to 2 vessels fishing with observers and Sockeye non-retention in place. The Pink run size will continue to be assessed and will be re-evaluated during upcoming Panel meetings.
Large numbers of Sockeye salmon continue to migrate above the landslide at Big Bar in the Fraser River upstream of Lillooet. 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 9 was 17.3°Celsius which is 1.1°Celsius above the average for this date. Water temperatures are forecast to decrease to 16.6°Celsius by September 15. The Fraser River discharge at Hope on September 9 was 1,580 cubic meters per second which is 30% below the average discharge for this date. Discharge levels are forecast to drop to 1,437 cubic meters per second by September 15.
The seventh spawning ground report of the season was provided by DFO Stock Assessment on September 9. The counting fence at Scotch Creek was fish-tight and operational as of August 4, and 13,695 Sockeye have passed through the fence up to September 8. Cyclic visual surveys of Early Summer run populations in the North and South Thompson Rivers began August 16 with Sockeye now at peak of spawning. Visual surveys have been conducted in the Lower Fraser watershed with Sockeye in the upper Pitt system reported to be near the peak of spawning, in the upper Chilliwack River reported to be nearing the end of peak die-off and in the Nahatlatch River at peak of spawning. The Nadina River and Stellako River hydroacoustic sites were operational on July 24 and July 25, respectively. To September 4, 8,312 Sockeye have been enumerated at the Nadina site and 26,991 Sockeye have been recorded at the Stellako site to September 7. The third visual survey of Gates Creek was conducted on September 4 with 16,868 Sockeye observed in the creek. On September 8, the first aerial survey was conducted on the upper Bowron River and Sockeye were observed in the early stages of spawning. The Quesnel and Chilko hyrdroacoustic sites have been operational since August 5 and 6, respectively. To September 7 a total of 56,958 Sockeye have been recorded at the Quesnel site and 387,266 at the Chilko site to September 7. Visual surveys of the Raft and Bridge River systems observed Sockeye observed as near the end of peak of spawning and at the peak of spawning, respectively. Tagging of Late Stuart Sockeye in the Tachie River for a mark-recapture program began on September 3 with 599 tags applied and no recoveries to date. The majority of the Sockeye are reported in good condition. The Birkenhead River hydroacoustic site was operational on August 20 and 1,004 Sockeye have been estimated past the sonar site through September 3, but the crew did note technical issues with power to the hydroacoustic system since the last update. The Cultus Lake fence was installed on July 26 and 8 Sockeye has been manually counted through the fence or passively recorded on video to September 8. A total of 5 Sockeye have been retained for brood stock to date. The water temperature in Sweltzer Creek is 21°Celsius.
With the exception of terminal Sockeye-directed harvest opportunities in the Chilcotin and Stuart River watersheds given the expectations for strong returns of Chilko and Late Stuart Sockeye, First Nations food, social and ceremonial (FSC) Sockeye directed fisheries have been closed to Sockeye retention. As a result of the recent increase in the run size for Summer run Sockeye and the reduced MA, a small amount of Summer run TAC has been identified and possibilities for very limited Sockeye retention in FSC fisheries are being planned and evaluated. Directed Sockeye harvest opportunities are currently being considered in the upper portions of the Fraser River watershed where Summer run Sockeye are the dominant stock group. In areas of the mainstem where Chinook and Pink salmon directed fisheries are proposed, limited retention of Sockeye salmon by-catch may be considered where Summer run sockeye are the dominant stock group. Fisheries are being planned in accordance the remaining TAC available for Summer run Sockeye after accounting for updated catch information.
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 Monday, September 13, 2021.
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