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article imageCanadian Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans predicts good BC sockeye run

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 9, 2010 in Environment
Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans Pacific Region has released its pre-season estimates of the yet-to-come sockeye salmon run.
With a nod to last year's spectacular no-show of sockeye to the Fraser River, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) predicts a summer run of between 4.5 to 30 million sockeye salmon to the Fraser. However, the Pre-season run size forecasts for Fraser River sockeye salmon in 2010 predicts an the run will most likely be around 11.4 million sockeye, a forecast which is eerily similar to the 2009 forecast.
The news is welcomed by those who rely on Sockeye for their livelihoods. The National Post spoke with Ernie Crey, who is the fisheries adviser to the Sto: lo Tribal Council in the Fraser Valley region. Crey expressed the optimism people are hanging on to. "Everyone out here has their fingers crossed, and they're hoping that the forecasts are somewhere in the ballpark. They hope it will point to Fraser River sockeye probably surviving into the future."
Crey went on to tell the National Post that the DFO might have a correct projection this year, saying this year's Sockeye run will see the return of the Adam River Sockeye, a very special fish to those living along the Fraser River. The Adams River Sockeye are known to have peak runs every four years, and 2010 is one of those years. In anticipation of the October return of the Adam River Sockeye, the Adams River Sockeye Society is preparing celebrations.
Last year, Crey issued a press release published by Straight, saying the Fraser River sockeye were "commercially extinct." “We need to face up to the facts about Fraser sockeye. The summer of 2010 could be a bust for Fraser sockeye and, we already know that the following two summers will take us back to two successive low cycle years for sockeye. And the fish from this year’s spawning population will come back to the Fraser in 2013. This means we are staring four straight years of no commercial sockeye fishing squarely in the face. There is no way to candy coat the next four summers, Fraser sockeye are now commercially extinct for the foreseeable future."
Crey did not explain his his change of opinion on the 2010 sockeye run to the National Post.
Reports for the sockeye return in Washington State are mixed, although overall, the return was predicted to be excellent. The early run thus far is not holding up to promise in some locations, but reportedly improving in other areas.
While some are daring to hope the Fraser River sockeye run will be better this year, some think it is best to be cautious, said the Cloverdale Reporter . Last year, the DFO predicted the sockeye run would be around 10 million fish, but it is thought that around one million returned, forcing the closure of the fishery. The Sockeye fishery on the Fraser river was also closed in 2007 and 2008.
The Cohen Commission, an inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River Sockeye runs is currently underway. The hearing was tainted with controversy because the DFO had one of its scientists placed on an advisory panel for the hearing. However, under pressure from one local Conservative federal politician, John Cummins, Brian Riddell has resigned from the commission. The Nanaimo News Bulletin reported Riddell stepped off the Commission Wednesday.
Riddell and the Pacific Salmon Foundation announced his resignation in a press release. Riddell said he has stepped off the advisory panel because he would no longer be able to provide testimony.
"... I agreed to the Commission’s invitation to serve on the panel, but with my initial understanding that panel members could also be called as witnesses. However, that understanding has now changed. The Commission policy is now that panel members cannot also be called as witnesses.”
The Cohen Commission has not made any comment on Riddell's resignation. Cummins, however, maintains the other experts on the advisory panel should be removed, reported the Globe & Mail.
In late June, the Chilliwack Progress reported salmon have been returning, but did not provide any numbers. However, everyone should know by the end of July whether or not this year's sockeye fishery is viable.
More about Sockeye salmon, Fraser sockeye, Department fisheries oceans, Pre-season run forecast, Fraser river
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