The Fraser River Panel met Friday, September 17, 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 last day of operation for the Cottonwood Gill net test fishery was September 14. Prior to Cottonwood ending, Sockeye catches for the final 3 days of operation were low, ranging from 4 to 5 Sockeye daily. The Pink catches for the final 3 days at Cottonwood fluctuated with a catch of 50 Pinks on the final day of operation. Catches of Sockeye and Pinks at Whonnock have fluctuated recently, with Sockeye catches ranging between 5 and 11 and Pink catches ranging from 10 to 43 over the last 3 days. The most recent DNA samples from Cottonwood and Whonnock gill net test fisheries with limited sample sizes indicated that between 5% and 35% are Summer run stocks and between 65% and 95% are Late run stocks.
At the Panel meeting on September 13, the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) provided updated Sockeye and Pink salmon escapement numbers to Mission based on a recent review of the species composition for the period of August 17 to 24, which resulted in an increase of approximately 200,000 Sockeye and an associated decrease for the same amount of Pink salmon. For the Panel meeting today, the PSC reverted to the Sockeye and Pink escapement numbers prior to the September 13 meeting based on feedback received during the September 16 Technical Committee meeting. The PSC committed to reviewing the numbers further with an update on the species composition and Mission numbers to be provided at the final in-season Panel meeting on September 28. As reported during the Panel call today, the total Sockeye escapement at Mission to September 16 is estimated to be 2,031,700 of which 69,200 are Early Stuart Sockeye, 113,700 are Early Summer run stocks, 1,529,600 are Summer run stocks and 319,200 are Late run stocks. The total Pink escapement at Mission to September 16 is estimated to be 6,824,000.
During the Panel call today, the run sizes, timing and proportional Management Adjustments (pMAs) 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 pMAs for Summer run and Late run Sockeye remained at 0.11 and 1.04, respectively. 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 remained unchanged at 6,500,000 with an Area 20 peak timing of August 19. The PSC did not recommend a run size increase to Fraser Pink salmon due to significant uncertainty in escapement estimates but information from run size models is suggesting the Fraser Pink run size is tracking closer to 8,000,000 Pinks depending on how many Pinks are seaward of the Mission hydroacoustic site. There were no US fisheries planned during the Panel call today. In Canada, Pink salmon First Nations FSC, demonstration and economic opportunity fisheries are being planned and conducted, and limited fisheries are being conducted in areas where Summer run Sockeye stocks are available to harvest. An Area B seine and Area H troll Fraser Pink individual transferable quota fishery is still ongoing with the Area B fishery set to close at 20:00 hours on September 18 and the Area H fishery extended until 11:59 hours on September 22. These fisheries have 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 and Pink salmon continue to migrate above the landslide at Big Bar in the Fraser River upstream of Lillooet. 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:
The observed water temperature at Hope on September 16 was 15.5°Celsius which is 0.3°Celsius above the average for this date. Water temperatures are forecast to decrease to 13.5°Celsius by September 22. The Fraser River discharge at Hope on September 16 was 1,699 cubic meters per second which is 18% below the average discharge for this date. Discharge levels are forecast to drop to 1,599 cubic meters per second by September 22.
The eighth spawning ground report of the season was provided by DFO Stock Assessment on September 16. The counting fence at Scotch Creek that was fish-tight and operational as of August 4 was removed on September 13, with a total of 14,276 Sockeye counted into the creek. Cyclic visual surveys of Early Summer run populations in the North and South Thompson Rivers began August 16 with Sockeye primarily past the peak of spawning. Visual surveys have been conducted in the Lower Fraser watershed with Sockeye in the upper Pitt system reported to be at the peak of spawning, in the upper Chilliwack River reported to be past peak of spawning and in the Nahatlatch River nearing the end of the peak of spawning. The Nadina River and Stellako River hydroacoustic sites were operational on July 24 and July 25, respectively. To September 11, 11,145 Sockeye have been enumerated at the Nadina site and 64,936 Sockeye have been recorded at the Stellako site to September 14. The fourth visual survey of Gates Creek and tributaries was conducted during September 11 to 13 with Sockeye reported as past peak of spawning. On September 13, the second aerial survey was conducted on the upper Bowron River and Sockeye were observed nearing the end of the peak of spawning. The Quesnel and Chilko hyrdroacoustic sites have been operational since August 5 and 6, respectively. To September 14 a total of 86,357 Sockeye have been recorded at the Quesnel site and 715,709 at the Chilko site. Sockeye in the Chilko River and North Chilko Lake are reported to be in the early stages of spawning. Visual surveys of the Raft and Bridge River systems observed Sockeye as past the peak of spawning, with the Bridge River project now complete. Tagging of Late Stuart Sockeye in the Tachie River for a mark-recapture program began on September 3 with 2,316 tags applied and no carcasses have been recovered to date. The majority of the Sockeye are reported to be healthy and vigorous at tag application. The Birkenhead River hydroacoustic site was operational on August 20 and 14,622 Sockeye have been estimated past the sonar site through September 9, but the crew did note technical issues with power to the hydroacoustic system during the current reporting period. The Cultus Lake fence was installed on July 26 and 19 Sockeye has been manually counted through the fence or passively recorded on video to September 15. A total of 13 Sockeye have been retained for brood stock to date. The water temperature in Sweltzer Creek is 20°Celsius.
At the current run size and MA for Summer run Sockeye, a small amount of Summer run TAC still remains. Directed Sockeye harvest opportunities are occurring in the upper portions of the Fraser River watershed where Summer run Sockeye are the dominant management group. In areas of the mainstem where Chinook and Pink salmon directed fisheries have been proposed and conducted, limited retention of Sockeye salmon by-catch has occurred where Summer run Sockeye are the dominant management 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 Tuesday, September 21, 2021.
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