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Good News for Fraser River Chum Salmon

Posted on October 24th 2012, by Rodney Hsu, webmaster

Fraser River chum salmon

The Fraser River chum salmon populations, like most chum salmon runs across coastal BC, have suffered low returns in recent years. In 2009 and 2010, the run did not meet the escapement requirement (800,000 fish) while last year's return was late and managed to reach just above one million fish.

Unlike previous years, 2012's run has been exceptionally good to date. Based on test fisheries in Johnstone Strait and Albion in the Fraser River, Fisheries and Oceans Canada estimates the run to be around 2.1 million fish this week. Final return number can be as high as between 3 and 3.5 million fish. The run has peaked on October 14th, so it has already tapered off with less fish entering the Fraser River mouth each day. In all Lower Fraser tributaries, you do not have to look too hard to find schools of chum salmon digging reeds and spawning.

The health of chum salmon return numbers have widespread impacts on BC coastal river's ecosystem. Eggs laid by these large salmon serve as an important food source for a variety of resident fish species such as trout and char. Prior to spawning, they are eaten by bears and other large predators which need to fatten up for the winter months. Once spawned, their carcasses become fertilizers for the river and surrounding forests. Nutrient given back to the stream ensures the health of their offsprings when they hatch in the following spring. The populations of bald eagle are closely related to the return of these salmon, as we saw in past three years when these birds simply ran out of food to eat at some systems.

Due to this year's good returns, retention opportunities have been available in the Fraser River and most of its tributaries' terminal fisheries. If you are unsure what the daily quota is at a particular system where you are fishing, then you should read the Region 2 daily quota table of the freshwater salmon fishing supplement.

There are also commercial openings and economic opportunities for First Nations. Commercial openings take place in Johnstone Strait and downstream from Port Mann Bridge in the tidal portion of the Fraser River. Economic opportunities for First Nations are fisheries which take place in the Fraser River from Steveston to the Agassiz. Along the non-tidal portion of the Fraser River, between Chilliwack and Agassiz, you will see First Nations' fishers using beach seine school of salmon. These are harvests specifically for chum salmon so all non-target species including chinook, sockeye, coho (both wild and hatchery marked), sturgeon are required to be released. To find out where and when the current commercial and First Nations openings are taking place, please check the fishery notices issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

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