The Fraser River Panel met August 30, 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 remained low over the last 4 days ranging between 128 and 366. It should be noted that the Area 12 purse seine test vessel did not fish on August 27 due to weather and only 5 sets and 4 sets were completed on August 26 and August 29, respectively. Recent test fishing catches in Juan de Fuca have also been low over the last 4 days with catches ranging from 114 to 222. The Area 20 purse seine vessel experienced mechanical issues with both power skiffs on August 26 and only completed 3 of the 6 sets planned for the day. As of August 27, a temporary replacement vessel started fishing the Area 20 test fishing locations until the end of August 30. It is uncertain at this time whether the Area 20 test fishery will continue for the remainder of the season. The marine area gulf troll test fishery in Area 29 started the second round of surveys on August 29, with all 6 quadrants to be surveyed by August 31. Catches in the gulf troll totalled 303 for quadrants 3 and 4 on August 29. Gill net test fishing catches in the Fraser River over the last 4 days have been relatively strong at Cottonwood, with catches ranging from 40 to 147. With the exception of a catch of 9 Sockeye at Whonnock on August 29, catches were extremely strong recently ranging from 149 to 247 for the 3 days previous. Qualark catches over the last 4 days have been consistent, ranging from 66 to 71.
The most recent DNA samples collected from the Area 12 and Area 20 purse seine test fisheries on August 25 and 27, indicated that between 0% and 3% are Early Summer run Sockeye, between 73% and 74% are Summer run Sockeye, and between 23% and 27% are Late run stocks. The Gulf Troll DNA samples from Quadrants 1 and 6 collected on August 25 indicated that between 2% and 6% are Early Summer run stocks, between 29% and 53% are Summer run stocks, and between 41% and 68% are Late run stocks. Recent DNA information from in-river test fisheries collected between August 26 and 28, indicated that between 1% and 5% are Early Summer run stocks, between 65% and 81% are Summer run stocks and between 14% and 34% are Late run stocks. The current 5-day average diversion rate through Johnstone Strait is 55%.
The total escapement estimate to August 29, 2022, is estimated to be 3,759,700, of which 243,300 are estimated to be Early Stuart Sockeye, 564,500 are estimated to be Early Summer run stocks, 2,599,800 are estimated to be Summer run stocks, and 352,100 are estimated to be Late run stocks. During the Panel call, there were no changes to the run sizes and timings for any of the stock management groups. Early Stuart Sockeye remain at 244,000 and Area 20 peak timing of July 6, Early Summer run Sockeye remain at 600,000 and Area 20 peak timing of July 30, Summer run Sockeye remain at 3,500,000 and Area 20 peak timing of August 14, and Late run Sockeye remain at 1,600,000 and 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 29 was 19.4° Celsius which is 2.0° Celsius above average for this date. Water temperatures are forecast to remain at 19.4° Celsius by September 4. The Fraser River discharge at Hope on August 29 was 3,045 cubic meters per second which is 19% above the average discharge for this date. Discharge levels are forecast to drop to 2,935 cubic meters per second by September 4. 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 fourth spawning ground report of the season was provided by DFO Stock Assessment on August 25. Early Stuart Sockeye are past peak die-off, with very few live fish remaining. The estimated spawning success and the ratio of females to males were both lower than average. Cyclic visual surveys began in the North/South Thompson system on August 17, with Sockeye in the Upper Barriere River approaching peak of spawn, while Sockeye in Anstey River and McNomee Creek are reported as primarily holding. Cyclic visual surveys in the lower Fraser River began on August 2, with Sockeye in the upper Chilliwack River observed at peak of spawn. The Scotch Creek counting fence was operational on August 10, and to date, 4,570 Sockeye have passed through the fence and reported as primarily holding. The Eagle River and Seymour River hydroacoustic sites were operational August 10, and as of August 24 and 23, an estimated 11,079 and 5,107 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 22, an estimated 58,410 Sockeye have migrated passed the Nadina site and as of August 23, an estimated 164,156 Sockeye have migrated passed the Stellako site. There was a power failure at the Nadina site between August 17 and 20, and data for August 18 and 19 has not been infilled at this point. Visual surveys of Gates Creek began August 20, water levels were very high and no Sockeye were observed during the first survey. The Chilko River and Quesnel River hydroacoustic sites were operational on August 4 and 5, respectively. As of August 23, Sockeye passage estimates were 36,678 at Chilko and 204,754 at Quesnel. Cyclic visual surveys of the Raft River began August 16, with the most recent survey reporting Sockeye as primarily holding. The Birkenhead River hydroacoustic site was operational on August 18, a total of 342 were estimated passed the sonar site as of August 23. Cyclic visual surveys in the Harrison-Lillooet began August 22, and no Sockeye were observed in Big Silver or Cogburn Creeks. The Cultus Lake fence was installed on July 25 and as of August 24, 9 Sockeye have been manually counted through the fence or passively recorded on video. The water temperature in Sweltzer Creek is 26°Celsius.
Given the Late run Sockeye are returning at a level similar to the p25 pre-season forecast, they remain in a low abundance exploitation rate situation. First Nations food, social and ceremonial (FSC) and Treaty domestic fisheries in most marine areas are closed to Sockeye retention to limit impacts on Late run Sockeye. First Nations FSC and Treaty domestic fisheries in the Fraser River will continue at this time, and may be reduced to achieve escapement objectives for the Late run management group. 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. There are limited First Nations commercial demonstration fisheries and recreational fisheries being planned or underway in areas of the mid to upper Fraser River watershed above the Thompson River confluence, where Summer run Sockeye total allowable catch is available and there are little to no impacts on returning Late run Sockeye.
The next in-season meeting of the Fraser River Panel is scheduled to occur on September 2, 2022.