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

Striking Western Forest Products workers could lose benefits in September

Union, forest company at odds over Vancouver Island benefit payments as strike enters third month

Chemainus Health Care Auxiliary outlines its mandate at North Cowichan council meeting

President Beaubier states her case for group’s tireless efforts

Current MP opens Cowichan-Malahat-Langford campaign office

MacGregor vowing to return to Ottawa for another four years

Environment and economy key issues for Liberal’s Cowichan-Malahat-Langford candidate

Herbert campaign focuses on party’s investments in both areas

Roundabout taxing for public purse strings

The need for four a short distance apart seems unfathomable

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

Cross-examination begins for B.C. dad accused of killing young daughters

Andrew Berry is charged in the deaths of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey in 2017

Dog attacked by river otters, Penticton owner says

Marie Fletcher says her dog was pulled underwater by four river otters in the Penticton Channel

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

B.C. Hydro applies for rare cut in electricity rates next year

Province wrote off $1.1 billion debt to help reverse rate increase

Most Read