The Fraser River Panel met August 23, 2022, to receive an update on the migration of the Fraser Sockeye run to date and review the status of migration conditions in the Fraser River watershed. Recent marine test fishing catches in the Area 12 purse seine have dropped off, with catches ranging between 107 and 590 over the last 4 days. The Area 13 purse seine test fishery ended on August 20, with catches of 2,154 and 2,615 for the final 2 days of operation. Test fishing catches in Juan de Fuca were consistent over the weekend, with catches of around 3,500 Sockeye daily, followed by a jump in the catch to 7,825 on August 22. The marine area gulf troll test fishery in Area 29 started on August 23, with all 6 quadrants to be assessed by August 25. Gill net test fishing catches in the Fraser River over the last 4 days have been strong and variable at Cottonwood and Whonnock, with catches at Cottonwood ranging between 58 and 124 and catches at Whonnock ranging between 38 and 88. The gill net test fishing catches at Qualark declined over the weekend, but increased to 82 on August 22 from a catch of 25 on August 21.
The most recent DNA samples collected from the Area 12 and Area 20 purse seine test fisheries on August 19 and 21, indicated that between 0% and 4% are Early Summer run Sockeye, between 45% and 71% are Summer run Sockeye, and between 29% and 54% are Late run stocks. Recent DNA information from in-river test fisheries collected between August 19 and 21, indicated that between 4% and 10% are Early Summer run stocks, between 72% and 87% are Summer run stocks and between 9% and 18% are Late run stocks. The current 5-day average diversion rate through Johnstone Strait is 20%.
The total escapement estimate to August 22, 2022, is estimated to be 2,780,200, of which 243,300 are estimated to be Early Stuart Sockeye, 536,800 are estimated to be Early Summer run stocks, 1,768,400 are estimated to be Summer run stocks, and 231,700 are estimated to be Late run stocks. During the Panel call, there were no updated run sizes and timings recommended for the stock management groups. Early Stuart Sockeye are currently at 244,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of July 6, Early Summer run Sockeye are currently at 600,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of July 30, Summer run Sockeye are currently at 3,500,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of August 14, and the Late run Sockeye are currently at 1,200,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of August 15. There still remains uncertainty in the assessment information for Summer run and Late run stock management groups. Based on the updated run sizes adopted by the Panel, no new fisheries were proposed in Panel waters for Canada or the United States.
Sockeye salmon continue to migrate above the Big Bar Landslide, with fish at various stages of spawning in many areas of the upper Fraser watershed. Robust assessment programs to evaluate passage success, as well as mitigation measures such as fish transport and brood stock collection for enhancement purposes will continue for the 2022 season. Additional information can be found at the following link:
The observed water temperature at Qualark on August 22, 2022, was 20.3° Celsius which is 2.0° Celsius above average for this date. Water temperatures are forecast to decrease to 19.2° Celsius by August 28. The Fraser River discharge at Hope on August 22 was 3,437 cubic meters per second which is 19% above the average discharge for this date. Discharge levels are forecast to drop to 3,214 cubic meters per second by August 28. Actual water temperatures and discharge levels will be monitored closely during the 2022 return to determine if migration issues develop.
Management adjustments are additional fish that are removed from identified harvest levels and allowed to escape upstream in an attempt to assist in the achievement of identified escapement objectives for the different run timing groups. For pre-season planning purposes, the Fraser Panel adopted management adjustments for Early Stuart based on the median for all years since 1995, Early Summer based on the historical all years median, Summer run Sockeye based on the pre-season 31-day temperature and discharge model, and Late run based on the dominant/other years median. The in-season approach to determining management adjustments will remain similar to pre-season for all management groups except for the Early Stuart, which will shift to the in-season Supplemental Approach based on all years since 1977. The Panel will continue to be provided and review the results from the historical temperature and discharge models, as well as observations of fish health throughout the watershed when making in-season decisions.
The third spawning ground report of the season was provided by DFO Stock Assessment on August 18. Early Stuart Sockeye are past peak of spawn and are nearing peak die-off in many systems, with observations of late arriving Sockeye to some creeks. To date, spawning success is lower than expected at this stage in the run. Cyclic visual surveys began in the North/South Thompson system on August 17, with limited observations of Sockeye reported off the mouth of the river in North Barriere Lake and visual surveys of the upper Chilliwack River observed Sockeye in the early stages of spawning. The Scotch Creek counting fence was operational on August 10, and to date, 192 Sockeye have passed through the fence. The Eagle River and Seymour River hydroacoustic sites were operational August 10, and as of August 16, an estimated 1,067 and 274 Sockeye have migrated passed each hydroacoustic site, respectively. The Nadina River and Stellako River hydroacoustic sites were operational on July 28 and July 30, respectively. As of August 13, 1,808 Sockeye have migrated passed the Nadina site and as of August 16, 39,224 Sockeye have migrated passed the Stellako site. The Chilko River and Quesnel River hydroacoustic sites were operational on August 4 and 5, respectively. As of August 16, Sockeye passage estimates were 1,054 at Chilko and 46,393 at Quesnel. Cyclic visual surveys of the Raft River began August 16, with no Sockeye observed during the initial survey. The Cultus Lake fence was installed on July 25 and as of August 17, 7 Sockeye have been manually counted through the fence or passively recorded on video. The water temperature in Sweltzer Creek is 26°Celsius.
First Nations food, social and ceremonial (FSC), Treaty domestic and Five Nations communal sale fisheries in the marine area and First Nations FSC and Treaty domestic fisheries in the Fraser River are underway. Based on the updated run sizes for Early Summer run and Late run Sockeye, future fisheries may be reduced to achieve escapement objectives for these management groups. 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 directed at Fraser Sockeye remain closed at this time.
The next in-season meeting of the Fraser River Panel is scheduled to occur on August 26, 2022.
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