Pink salmon surge draws caution for fishery managers

Weaker sockeye, coho runs at risk of bycatch: conservationists

Craig Orr

A huge number of pink salmon returning to the Fraser River has conservationists warning that the temptation to fish them heavily could still threaten at-risk sockeye salmon.

The Pacific Salmon Commission estimates 26 million pinks are returning to the river this year – almost three times as many as expected.

Commercial fishermen, anglers and First Nations all got the go ahead to fish for pinks after sockeye fishing was closed this summer to ensure enough of that species get upstream to spawn after a lower-than-forecast return and dangerously warm river temperatures.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society executive director Craig Orr warned the pressure to fish abundant pinks can result in an accidental bycatch of sockeye, as well as weak runs of Interior coho salmon.

“This return of sockeye this year are the ones coming back from the disastrous 2009 return that triggered the Cohen Inquiry,” Orr said. “We have to take special care with these sockeye. There’s not a lot of them around.”

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans did halt commercial pink fishing near the river mouth Tuesday night, a decision Orr applauds.

He said it’s deceptive to look solely at the overall number of sockeye estimated to be returning this year – about 3.7 million compared to just 1.6 million in 2009 at the previous point in the four-year life cycle – and conclude stocks are rebounding.

Individual runs of sockeye returning to specific streams can go extinct if they’re victims of a bycatch when fishermen target stronger sockeye stocks, like the Quesnel Lake run, or, in this case, large numbers of pinks.

“We still have many sockeye stocks in the Fraser River that are in the red zone that have been declining rapidly over the past several generations,” Orr said.

“We don’t want to cause local extinctions because people can’t move and they’re depending on those fish coming back to their back yards.”

Orr is urging care to fish selectively and release sockeye caught accidentally when fisheries are permitted.

He was also critical of the federal government for so far failing to formally respond to the 75 recommendations of the Cohen Commission to address the sockeye decline, released nearly a year ago.

Just Posted

Mission being challenged by growing opioid crisis

Community Opioid Dialogue will be held in Mission on Thursday, Jan. 31

Man, 24, charged with nine sexual offences in Abbotsford and Mission

Alleged victim, who he met online, is under the age of 16

Mission filmmaker tackles topic of youth and the social media epidemic

Kim Laureen teams up with her daughter to create documentary film Selfless

Mission to take a closer look at clothing donation bins

Recent deaths around the country have caused some communities to ban the bins for safety concerns

Live demos and stunt shows part of Vancouver Motorcycle Show

Annual event returns to Tradex in Abbotsford from Jan. 18 to 20

Students seen mocking Native Americans could face expulsion

One 11-minute video of the confrontation shows the Haka dance and students loudly chanting

B.C. VIEWS: Fact-checking the NDP’s speculation tax on empty homes

Negative-option billing is still legal for governments

May plans next move in Brexit fight as chances rise of delay

Some say a lack of action could trigger a ‘public tsunami’

Group challenges ruling for doctors to give referrals for services that clash with beliefs

A group of five Canadian doctors and three professional organizations is appealing

Major winter storm wreaks havoc on U.S. travel

Nearly 5,000 flights were cancelled Sunday around the country

VIDEO: Koch’s OT winner sends Giants to sixth straight victory

Three games, three cities, three victories for Lower Mainland-based G-Men’s major junior hockey team.

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

Most Read