A gillnetter crew in the Fraser River off Surrey pulls sockeye from their net during the 2010 season.

Fishery opens for Fraser River sockeye

Run size estimated at around 3.2 million salmon

It won’t be the extraordinary run of 30 million sockeye salmon that surged up the Fraser River last summer and helped fill freezers along the way.

But fishery managers have decided there are enough incoming salmon to justify commercial fishing.

The Pacific Salmon Commission approved a three-hour opening for gillnetters in area E of the Fraser River this Thursday after the latest estimates pointed to a run of at least 3.2 million incoming sockeye.

Gillnetters who fish off Vancouver Island from Nanaimo to Port Hardy were the first to get their nets in the water, with an opening last Sunday.

The run strength is believed to be in line with pre-season projections but it’s too early to say with confidence how many later-running sockeye will return.

Bob McKamey, vice-president of the Area E Gillnetters Association, is hopeful the counts will rise and fishery openings will continue.

“There are some pretty promising numbers popping up,” he said of test fishing catches of Fraser sockeye off northern Vancouver Island.

McKamey said there’s more scope to allow fishing in the river this year because the Fraser is running so high.

The high water level means there’s more vertical room in the river for incoming salmon to avoid nets and continue upstream, he said, so escapement rates should be higher than usual.

“The height of the water is so far above anything we’ve fished in recent history,” McKamey said. “Our ability to catch the fish will be affected.”

First Nations, which get to fish ahead of other users for food, social and ceremonial reasons, have already been catching salmon for several weeks.

Aboriginal groups are also expected to be granted an economic opportunity fishery where sockeye can be sold now that some commercial fishing is approved.

Recreational angling for sockeye may also be opened soon although there’s been no announcement yet.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society executive director Craig Orr said last year’s huge sockeye run was a “pleasant blip” but noted the overall long-term trend – which triggered the Cohen inquiry – is of declining runs.

“We’re not out of the woods yet in needing to take a very precautionary approach in how many fish we harvest in the Fraser,” he said.

Pink salmon are expected to be plentiful this year, with a run estimated at 17.5 million fish.

Traditionally low-value and far less lucrative than sockeye, pinks may attract more attention from commercial fishermen this fall since the Marine Stewardship Council certified all B.C. pink salmon as sustainably fished. The green seal of approval may help boost prices.

Just Posted

GW Graham whallops Ballenas Whalers in junior football playoff

Logan Buchwitz scored four touchdowns for the Grizzlies in a one-sided 40-0 win.

GW Graham grad Ethan Mastin wins Atlantic University Sport football title

Mastin helped his St. Francis Xavier X-Men top St. Mary’s U in last weekend’s AUS championship game.

Sardis Falcon Nick Butler named to Nissan Titan All-Canadian Team

The receiver is one of 70 high schoolers who will travel to Edmonton during the CFL’s Grey Cup week.

Country talent Petunia returns to Bozzini’s in Chilliwack Saturday

Petunia, performing Nov. 17, is referred to as ‘The Savior of Country Music’

Superstore steps into vacancy left by Sears to help every family celebrate Christmas this year

Ann Davis Transition Society has paired with the grocery giant to host a Christmas drive on Nov. 17

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Tubing, skating, light display part of new winter festival in Vancouver

Set to open Nov. 23, the six-week festival will take over Vancouver’s Concord Pacific Centre

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Regulatory confusion over ‘toxic’ stink near Abbotsford school

Officials sniffing out which regulators responsible for enforcing compliance at neighbouring property

Most Read