Sockeye salmon specimens. (Photo Credit: Watershed Watch Salmon Society)
Encouraging sockeye forecast does not relieve uncertainty
Tuesday, July 01, 2014, 00:50 (GMT + 9)
Although Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is forecasting a summer sockeye return to Fraser River in British Columbia ranging from low 7.3 million to high 72.5 million, no stakeholder would dare celebrate, given the memory of the disastrous result recorded in 2009.
The ministry had expected about 10 million sockeye would return but only 1.4 million specimens reached the Fraser River.
For her part, DFO’s area director for the lower Fraser River Jennifer Nener, recognized there is particularly high uncertainty this year because of the high returns they had in 2010 and explained the figure of 23 million is based on what is known as a 50-per-cent probability, The Canadian Press reported
“At 23 million, there is a 50 per cent chance of the returns being higher and a 50 per cent chance of returns being lower,” she stressed.
Referring to the forecast, Rob Morley of the Canadian Fishing Company, a firm that harvests, processes and markets seafood, seafood, pointed out that despite the fact that uncertainty is a constant in the industry, much has changed since 2009, and sockeye survival rates have improved in the past three years thanks to better ocean conditions.
Meanwhile, conservation organisations warn that the DFO is allowing commercial fishermen to catch five times as many endangered coho salmon in anticipation of this year's massive sockeye run on the Fraser River, The Tyee reported.
These NGOs have voiced their outrage with the federal decision, which they say will further threaten the coho species in the rush to allow fishermen a greater catch during the annual sockeye return.
Sockeye and coho swim together in the areas open to commercial fishing, which means coho are at risk of getting caught in the net along with the sockeye.
Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance executive director Gord Sterritt accused the DFO of allowing open season on an endangered salmon that has not yet been declared recovered.
According to DFO's 2014 forecast, about 50,000 of the endangered salmon will return, which exceed the department's long-term recovery goal of 40,000.
However, Aaron Hill, a biologist with Watershed Watch Salmon Society, said that the federal decision was "very short sighted" and delaying the species' recovery.