The test gill-net fishing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca began this week, and not much has been revealed just yet to get an idea of pink and sockeye run strength.
Two test boats on Wednesday, July 15 netted 163 sockeye, seven coho, three chinook, one chum and two steelhead.
The Pacific Salmon Commission will meet on Friday, July 17 to provide an in-season assessment of the pink and sockeye runs.
The Fraser River Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission has developed management plans for 2015 Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon fisheries in Panel Area waters.
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Noted below is their pre-season expectations from a news release that can be seen at http://www.psc.org/NewsRel/2015/NewsRelease01.pdf:
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) provided forecasts of Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon abundance to the Panel, as well as a schedule for calculating sockeye spawning escapement targets at different run sizes.
The 2015 cycle ranks third highest in average adult return abundance of the four cycles of Fraser River sockeye salmon, with an average return (1951-2011) of 5,300,000 fish.
The total Fraser sockeye forecast mid-point (50% probability level forecast) is 6,778,000 fish for 2015. The primary reason for the larger than average forecast return of Fraser sockeye in 2015 is that the smolt outmigration from Chilko Lake and the spawning escapements to Harrison were above average for the 2011 brood year.
In addition, there is an expectation of larger than average returns of 5 year old sockeye to most systems from the very large escapements in 2010. DFO has advised that Fraser River sockeye salmon forecasts for 2015 remain highly uncertain due to variability in annual survival rates and uncertainty about changes in their productivity.
To put the recent forecast uncertainty into context, there is a one in four chance that the actual number of returning sockeye will be less than 3,824,000 fish (25% probability level forecast) and there is a one in four chance that the actual number of returning sockeye will be greater than 12,635,000 fish (75% probability forecast).
For pre-season planning purposes, the Panel used the Fraser sockeye 50% probability level forecast abundance (equal chance that actual return will be higher or lower) for all management groups except Early Stuart Sockeye for which they used the 25% probability forecast of 16,000 fish.
The Early Stuart sockeye return forecast at the 50% probability level is 30,000 fish (ranges from 16,000 to 58,000 fish at the 25% and 75% probability levels). The 25% probability level forecast of 16,000 fish was used for pre-season planning, due to the expectations for overall low abundance and the very high proportions of age 5 fish in the forecast.
The forecast for Early Summer-run sockeye at the 50% probability level is 837,000 fish (ranges from 424,000 to 1,603,000 fish at the 25% and 75% probability levels). The Summer-run sockeye return forecast at the 50% probability level is 4,675,000 fish (ranges from 2,681,000 to 8,764,000 fish at the 25% and 75% probability levels), with Chilko and Harrison sockeye expected to comprise more than 80% of the total Summer-run sockeye return.
The Late-run sockeye return forecast at the 50% probability level is 1,236,000 fish (ranges from 703,000 to 2,210,000 fish at the 25% and 75% probability levels) with the largest production expected to come from the Late Shuswap, Birkenhead and Weaver systems.
The pre-season forecast for Fraser River pink salmon is also highly uncertain, primarily due to high inter-annual variability in marine (fry to adult) survival rates. For pre-season planning purposes, the Panel used the 50% probability level forecast of 14,455,000 Fraser River pink salmon.
To put the pink run size forecast uncertainty into context, there is a one in four chance that the actual number of returning pink salmon will be less than 10,385,000 fish and there is a one in four chance that the actual number of returning pink salmon will be greater than 20,450,000 fish.
Marine conditions were used to forecast the 50% marine timing of Early Stuart sockeye through Area 20 of July 8, which is four days later than average. The forecast marine timing for Chilko sockeye is August 4, which is about four days earlier than average. The forecast proportion of Fraser River sockeye salmon diverting their migration through Johnstone Strait is 96%, compared to a recent year (1990-2014) average northern diversion rate of 62%.
For Fraser sockeye, high northern diversion rates have typically been associated with later than average timing. Thus, the Panel assumed historical timing for Chilko in the planning rather than the earlier than average timing that was forecast. Forecasts of the migration timing and diversion rate of Fraser River pink salmon will not be available until early August. For pre-season planning, their recent historical average 50% migration timing (2009-2013) through Area 20 of August 28 and average Johnstone Strait diversion rate since 1997 of 56% were used.
Unusually warm ocean temperatures were observed in the central NE Pacific Ocean throughout 2014 and have continued into 2015; warm temperatures of this magnitude and duration have not been observed in over 50 years. The implications of these conditions on salmon returning in 2015 and future years is unclear, but could include effects on abundance, age-at-return, fish condition, migration routes and timing.
The warm spring and near average April snowpack volume resulted in higher than average Fraser River flows from January to May and extremely low June snowpack volume throughout the province. Consequently, Fraser River discharge levels are forecast to be at or below historic minimum levels during the sockeye migration period.
Air temperatures are forecast to be higher than average this summer which are expected to result in higher water temperatures particularly in light of the low water levels. Fraser River water temperatures have been near historic maximums throughout June and into early July. If these extremes in flow and temperature conditions continue, they will likely result in difficult migration conditions for sockeye en route to their spawning streams and the Panel has adopted pre-season management adjustments to reflect these conditions as a precautionary measure. Management adjustments are additional fish that are removed from identified allowable harvest levels and instead allowed to escape upstream to help achieve spawning escapement targets for Fraser River sockeye.
Management Constraints and Expectations
Early entry of Late-run sockeye stocks has occurred in most years since 1996 and it continues to adversely impact their survival and productivity, which substantially reduces harvest opportunities on these stocks and on co-migrating Summer-run sockeye salmon as well as Fraser River pink salmon.
The Panel’s management approach for Late-run sockeye assumes that, similar to recent years, Late-run sockeye will enter the Fraser River earlier than the long-term average, and some proportion will not survive to spawn.
Panel management objectives will place a high priority on achieving Fraser sockeye escapement goals, including those for Late-run sockeye. In consideration of the current and expected adverse environmental conditions for fish survival and productivity as well as the projected high diversion rate through Johnstone Strait pre-season plans were developed which indicate that that neither Canada nor the United States will fully harvest their total allowable catches (TAC).
Initiation of both U.S. and Canadian commercial fisheries openings were modeled in response to conservation needs for the Early Summer sockeye stock group, resulting in modeled catches for each country being at or below 50% of their available TACs.
Additional management actions may be taken by Canada to protect Cultus and Sakinaw sockeye. Conservation concerns for other species and stocks identified by Canada and the United States will be taken into account throughout the management season.
If in-season conditions are consistent with pre-season expectations, low impact fisheries would be expected to commence during late July in Panel Waters. The actual start dates and duration of fisheries will depend on in-season estimates of timing, abundance, diversion, and agreed management adjustments as well as concerns for other co-migrating species.
Gillnet test fishing began on June 22nd in Area 29 (Fraser River at Whonnock) and on June 29th at Qualark creek. Only a handful of sockeye have been caught to date. Results from stock identification analyses will be reported when sufficient sample sizes are available. In-season assessments of Early Stuart sockeye should be available later in July after their peak migration through marine areas has occurred. In-season assessments for the other run timing groups will be available shortly after their peak migration has been determined in marine areas.
On July 9th, the Fraser River water discharge at Hope was about 4,057 cms, which is approximately 30% lower than average for this date. The temperature of the Fraser River at Qualark Creek on July 9th was 19.3 °C, which is 3.6 °C higher than average for this date.
Monitoring Plans and In-season Resources
Gillnet test fisheries in Areas 20 (Juan de Fuca Strait) and 12 (Johnstone Strait; Round Island) were delayed to protect Early Stuart sockeye and are scheduled to begin on July 13th. The Fraser River gillnet test fishery at Cottonwood and hydroacoustic estimates at Mission are also scheduled to begin on July 13th. The gillnet test fishery in Areas 4B, 5 (United States waters) is scheduled to begin on July 17th. Reef net observations are scheduled to begin in Area 7 (United States waters) on July 20th.
The Pacific Salmon Commission reports daily test fishing catches of sockeye salmon on its recorded message at 604-666-8200 and on the internet at: http://www.psc.org/info_testfishing.htm.
In addition, Fraser River Panel news releases, fishery regulations, sockeye catch and escapement data and sockeye and pink salmon stock status reports will be available on this website.
Environmental data collected in the Fraser River watershed through DFO’s Environmental Watch program, will be included in weekly in-season news releases from the Pacific Salmon Commission (http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/habitat/frw-rfo/index-eng.html).
Fraser River discharge levels and water temperatures will be monitored closely this summer to guide specific Panel management actions that may be required during the in-river sockeye migratory period to help achieve escapement goals.