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Author Topic: Interior Fraser River coho salmon returns  (Read 630 times)

Rodney

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Interior Fraser River coho salmon returns
« on: November 15, 2019, 01:12:11 PM »

Last night I attended Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Upper Fraser Valley Sport Fishing Advisory Committee fall meeting. This meeting usually includes an overview of the season from stock assessments to enforcement updates.

These two slides caught my attention last night during the Fraser River salmon stock assessment summary.





Since the mid 90's, we've had a period of salmon fishing closure from the second week of September to early October in the Lower Fraser River. These management measures are put in place to protect Interior Fraser River coho salmon stocks. With the exception of the last couple of years, my colleagues and I at the SFAC have been pressing for the opening of hatchery-marked coho salmon fishing during this period as exploitation rate of protect Interior Fraser River coho salmon could be kept very low. This has always been declined while gill net and beach seine fisheries of sockeye and pink salmon (depending on the returns of these stocks) continued with the opportunities to retain by-caught hatchery-marked coho salmon.

From the slides, notice that spawning escapement (the number of fish which reach the spawning ground), which fluctuates slightly from year to year, has remained relatively constant in the past forty years. Short term recovery objective has been met in most years while long term recovery objective has only been met in some years.

I had lots of unanswered questions.

The first one would be why there has been a sudden drop in pre-fishery abundance (the number of fish that enter the mouth of the Fraser River prior to encountering any fishing pressure) and remained consistently low after these recreational fishing closures have been implemented. I am skeptical that pre-fishery abundance and spawning escapement are almost identically low in the past twenty years while other salmon stocks have had both good and bad years.

I also made the point that having the hatchery-marked coho salmon fishery with mandatory release of wild/unmarked coho salmon would not have made a difference to the spawning escapement based on the picture being painted by this graph.

Lastly, if spawning escapement indeed has not improved in the past twenty years with these closures in place, is the department looking into other factors which might be at play instead of status quo? Are we looking into unreported incidental by-catches/mortality by nets in the Fraser Canyon? Is the population in fact at its carry capacity, meaning the habitat can simply not handle more fish?

Once a fishery closes, it is almost impossible to reopen it, we've seen this recurring over the years. It is especially frustrating when you are confident that the sector you represent has almost no impacts on what we are trying to conserve.

With that being said, these closures will continue in the years to come now that Interior Fraser River steelhead management measures are in place. As much as I enjoyed it, I am actually no longer advocating the reopening of the Lower Fraser hatchery-marked coho salmon fishery. The preservation of these genetically distinct fish populations should be prioritized. It is also important to remind ourselves that the baseline should not be shifted and repeat the same mistakes which past generations made. I just want to see the same closures being implemented across the board, and other mitigative measures are being attempted.

In my interview with Dr Eric Taylor a few months ago, he mentioned that stakeholders such as anglers would be a lot more receptive to closures if a recovery plan for the next 5 to 10 years is presented to us. In this case, the "wait and see" approach while conservation measures remain inconsistent between different user groups only creates further scepticism and division. We have had twenty years, or at least five generations of salmon, to figure this out. Whatever is being done right now obviously isn't working. In the meantime, this is just one of many major economic blows to the Fraser Valley recreational fishing industry.

wildmanyeah

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Re: Interior Fraser River coho salmon returns
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2019, 01:38:20 PM »

Coho apparently have an inside and outside distribution. Back in the 80's when the numbers were huge  they were all hanging out and feeding on the inside and outside.

Now they primarily only feed on the outside.  I think dick beamish did a lot of work trying to figure this out. Apparently the salish sea project also looked into this and they are suppose to be releasing some conclusions soon.

Like you i also asked why commercial and rec have a 42 closure window and first nations have a 27 day window for protecting IFS Steelhead.  The response was basically it was 100% political and that's what the Fisheries Minister has decided along with the recommendation not to list.

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typhoon

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Re: Interior Fraser River coho salmon returns
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2019, 03:02:39 PM »

Interior coho disappeared when the interior herring disappeared. All roe fishery should be banned.
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RalphH

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Re: Interior Fraser River coho salmon returns
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2019, 06:12:41 PM »

Yes coho had an inside waters (Salish Sea) and outside waters (Pacific Ocean) distribution.

Historically coho had abandoned the inside for short periods of time the longest being a period of years in early part of 20th Century.

Inside waters resident herring had also previously collapsed but often coho switched to other abundant bait fish such as needle fish and the inside population stayed inside.

Dick Beamish did publish a paper on the changes in Salish Sea some years which didn't reach any strong conclusions. Perhaps he has done more work?

A couple of times Brian Riddell, President of the PSF has remarked in public talks that excessive release of hatchery stocks, mostly from US Puget Sound what is likely responsible.

While various other salmon species have seen remarkable abundance since the late 80s this certainly is not true of Southern BC inside coho stocks. I grew up here and in the 60s and 70s lived a stone thrown away from some of the many small coho spawning and rearing creeks. Most of those are all but void of coho. Likewise with many of the smaller FV systems I once fished as a youth and young adult. What coho abundance there was after 1972 , was experienced in the late 70s and 80s and was produced by hatchery enhancement. Even that has declined dramatically.

BTW DFO commissioned C&R a mortality study for the Lower Fraser Bar Fishery in 2000 -it wasn't encouraging. I think that study found mortality was 14% and higher.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2019, 10:27:37 PM by RalphH »
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wildmanyeah

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Re: Interior Fraser River coho salmon returns
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2019, 07:17:47 PM »

wowa!





« Last Edit: November 15, 2019, 07:26:50 PM by wildmanyeah »
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wildmanyeah

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Re: Interior Fraser River coho salmon returns
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2019, 07:46:17 PM »


Once a fishery closes, it is almost impossible to reopen it, we've seen this recurring over the years. It is especially frustrating when you are confident that the sector you represent has almost no impacts on what we are trying to conserve.


Cowichan chinook are a good example of a stock that has recovered yet fishery closures still remain.  If we cant even get them to open a fishery once the stock recovers what hope is there for coho.
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