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What Happened to Fraser River Sockeye?

04 October 2016

CANADA - For this special 300th episode, Tradex Foods investigated the question that has been in the back of everyone’s mind – where has all the Fraser River Sockeye salmon gone? Robert Reierson reports.

In the final in-season assessment of the Fraser River, the Pacific Salmon Commission reported parts of the Fraser at 2.5 degrees higher than average for this time of year, as well as 15 per cent lower water discharge.

We spoke with Angela Bates, the Area Director for Fraser and BC Interior at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Vancouver, to investigate recent spawning trends.

A big challenge with Sockeye is the dynamic outlook for this fishery, which Angela attributed to habitat availability, ocean conditions, and difficulty monitoring stocks.

Angela indicated it’s not all doom and gloom, parts of the Columbia system and Barkley Sound saw good returns this year, a comment that was paralled by many fishermen we spoke to.

So why are Sockeye stocks doing poorly when other stocks are successful?

Kyla went in the field yesterday to discuss this question with a local molecular geneticist at DFO.

We are headquarted on the West Coast of B.C. so Kyla was also able to speak with Jeffery Young, a Senior Science and Policy Analyst for the David Suzuki Foundation, about environmental factors in more depth.

Jeffery alluded to the warm “blob” that travelled the West Coast this summer as a significant factor of low run estimates, but that larger environmental factors are at play.

Several Fraser River fishermen we spoke to indicated that aquaculture plays a big role in the area, a topic which DFO is still doing research on, but Jeffery was able to comment on.

Jeffery noted that as fresh water detriments steadily increase, there are unprecedented conditions to indicate the Fraser is on a steady track to worsening.

Chinook are also struggling, indicative of poor sockeye runs in the future as they spend less time in 

Analyzing all of these perspectives and scientific research we can see that successful spawning could bring Sockeye back to the area but climate change will ultimately challenge this fishery in the long term.

As a staple on the West Coast to many industries, families, and local businesses, we all continue to follow this fishery closely.

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