Returning Shuswap sockeye drop by 700,000

Sockeye returning to local spawning grounds down by almost 700,000 fish

Sockeye Salmon swim in the Adams River towards their spawning grounds in Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park on Sunday, Oct. 12. (File photo)

The numbers prove what fisheries officials already knew in November – the late-run sockeye salmon return was lower than in 2014, the previous dominant year.

On the Lower Adams River, the spawning escapement dropped from 707,087 in 2014 to 535,564 in 2018.

The Lower Shuswap River escapement took a big hit, dropping from 832,810 in 2014 to 452,500 in 2018. On the Middle Shuswap, the drop was less dramatic – 194,780 in 2014 to 178,334 in 2018.

Spawning escapements were also lower on the Eagle River, dropping from 191,334 to in 2014 to 179,79 in 2018. The run from miscellaneous other locations dropped from 68,851 in 2014 to 43,711

The total late sockeye return to the Shuswap dropped from 2.2 million the 2014 dominant year to 1.5 million in 2018.

Related: Late run sockeye salmon numbers lower than 2014

“The estimates suggest that the mortality may have been a bit more than I was thinking in-season,” says Pacific Salmon Commission chief biologist Mike Lapointe. Fewer fish came up the Fraser River than the survey indicated, says Lapointe, noting late September surveys were indicating somewhere between 500,000 and one million and ended up at about 300,000 fish.

“We didn’t have the fish come out of the gulf and head upstream that we thought we would but we’re not sure why. Was there mortality or did the troller over-count?”

The 2018 estimates of fish reaching their spawning grounds was 76 per cent of the larger escapement in the 2014 parent year and Lapointe said it looks like 4.2 million late-run sockeye arrived to the Coast from their ocean homes in 2018 as opposed to 2014 when almost 9.6 million fish returned.

Related: VIDEO: Close to 6 million late-run sockeye heading for Shuswap

“That meant many fewer fish available to make it to the spawning areas,” Lapointe says, noting there can be huge variations in the rates of return. “The 2018 pre-season forecast was almost 7.4 million for late-run sockeye but there was a one-in-four chance the run could be as low as 4.8 million and that’s what we got.”

But Shuswap Environment Action (SEAS) president Jim Cooperman has another perspective.

He says the Watershed Watch Salmon Society has crunched all the information provided by the three responsible management agencies (Pacific Salmon Commission, Fraser River Panel and Fisheries Canada) into a spreadsheet that shows the “details missing from the government’s report.”

“While the pre-season expectation was 7.4-million, the majority of the fishing decisions were based on a 6-million run estimate, which was scaled back to the final estimate of 4.7-million after fishing was concluded,” he says. “The final total return was only 4.35-million of which nearly 2.7-million fish ended up in the fishing boats.”

Related: Race is on for Shuswap late-run sockeye salmon

Cooperman maintains management of the run is dictated by a goal of maximizing the harvest while playing lip-service to the sustainability of the population, despite the recognition that the all of the late run conservation units are listed with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as either ‘endangered,’ ‘threatened’ or of ‘special concern,’ he says.

“This year the panel, which is largely made up of harvesting interests and U.S. and Canadian government representatives, exceeded their planned ‘allowable exploitation rate’ of over 58 percent on late-run sockeye, with a final rate of 63 percent,” he says. “Consequently, only 1,58 million late-run sockeye returned to spawn, which was just 63 percent of the dominant cycle average. It was only luck, not good management that the harvest was not greater and the damage to the population more severe, as they were prepared to catch 3.5-million sockeye if they had been able to find the numbers.”

Lapointe meanwhile, points out that forecasts are usually based on the number of spawners that head to the ocean and while the range seems broad, it is a reflection of the huge natural fluctuation in run sizes that scientists don’t understand.


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cache Creek landfill extension set for September completion

Project has been delayed due to wildfires and floods over past two years

Drag races set to return for Graffiti Days weekend

Annual event features old favourites like the smoke show, and new events like a drive-in movie

Bonaparte River fishway, Thompson steelhead among projects awarded grant funding

More than $9 million will help 170 fish and wildlife projects around B.C.

Wellness clinics provide free, drop-in health information

New service in Clinton helps patients manage their health care and stay out of hospital

Police say it’s “impressive” no arrests were made after Raptors celebrations

Toronto will play the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors next

Social media giants in hot seat as politicians consider regulations in Ottawa

Committee members will also grill representatives from Facebook, Twitter

Wildfire crews watching for dangerous wind shift in High Level, Alta.

The Chuckegg Creek fire is raging out of control about three kilometres southwest of the town

UN urges Canada to take more vulnerable Mexican migrants from Central America

The request comes as the United States takes a harder line on its Mexican border

Mistrial declared in Jamie Bacon murder plot trial

Bacon was on trial for counselling to commit the murder of Person X

B.C. VIEWS: Money-laundering melodrama made for TV

Public inquiry staged to point fingers before 2021 election

Canadian homebuyers escaping high housing costs by moving to secondary cities

In British Columbia, exurbs have grown in the Hope Valley and Kamloops

Feds lay out proposed new rules for voice, video recorders in locomotives

Transport Canada wants to limit use of recorders to if a crew’s actions led to a crash

Most Read