WEB EXTRA: Salmon coming in on target
Published: July 11, 2008 9:00 AM
Updated: July 11, 2008 9:16 AM Returning sockeye salmon are starting to arrive in the Fraser River and there are early signs the run may not be a complete disaster.
Biologists still expect a very low return of only 2.9 million sockeye compared to good years of well over 10 million because this is the low year in the four-year cycle.
But they also feared a possible repeat of last year when just a third of the predicted number of fish actually showed up.
So far that bleak scenario isn't materializing.
"It's tracking about the way we expected," said Mike Lapointe, chief biologist for the Pacific Salmon Commission.
Salmon seem to be arriving somewhat early and in good health, he added.
Colder ocean temperatures over the past year or so off the coast have provided more food for salmon and a generally easier ride on the high seas.
"They aren't pushed as far north, they have a shorter distance to swim to get here and they seem to be a bit larger – about a six-pound average size," Lapointe said.
He said very limited commercial fishing might still be possible but decisions won't be made for a few weeks.
"Everybody's got to be cautious because of what happened last year."
United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union rep John Krgovich said boats owners and shore workers are also watching to see what happens.
"The mood is hopeful, but expectations are low," he said, noting fishery managers will need to be "ultra-conservative" to ensure enough returning salmon make it upriver to spawn.
Even if boats remain tied up through the summer sockeye run, he said, there should be a chum salmon fishery in the fall.
Some recreational fishing is also now underway for chinook salmon.