The excitement amongst those anxiously waiting to fish for salmon returning to the Fraser River is very much like that of a
group of 4-year-olds waiting for Christmas. The wait is focused on an expectation of what they will be getting.
Those of you who remember the 2010 season will understand the reason for the excitement. That year the sockeye salmon returns to the Fraser River
and its tributaries were legendary – not only because of the size of the runs but also because those numbers were totally
2010 is the brood year for sockeye salmon returning to the Fraser in this summer. Those fish that spawned in 2010
produced offspring that will be returning in 2014. Because so many fish came back to spawn in 2010, a very,
very large run is expected in 2014. In the Mid and Upper Fraser regions we are quite anxious about the 2014 fishing season. The
forecasts for the numbers returning to the Chilcotin River are off the charts and they are very healthy for the Quesnel River, but it should be pointed out
that the same forecasting system that was used in 2009, 2010 and 2013 is being used this year. In 2009 there were no fish in spite of healthy forecasts. In 2010 huge numbers of sockeye returned to much of the Fraser system in spite of a very low forecast. In 2013 1.2 million sockeye were forecast
to return to the Quesnel River – less than 200,000 returned.
In fact, most of the sockeye runs in the Upper Fraser 2014 Salmon Fishery promises to be interesting system are in decline and are classed in the red zone
for conservation. If the number of sockeye returning to the Upper Fraser is once again well below forecast it will be a major problem if the runs returning to the Mid and
Lower Fraser are excessively large as forecast. Most of the fisheries targeting sockeye are mixed stock fisheries occurring in the marine approach areas and the
lower Fraser River.
This means that fisheries will be permitted to harvest large numbers of sockeye and many of the runs returning to the Upper Fraser
will be mixed in that catch. This will also have a dramatic effect on the Coho by-catch which occurs later in the fishing season.
At NSTC fisheries we have been working together with others in the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance to deal with all potential issues in
the upcoming 2014 fishing season. We are reasonably certain that the Chilcotin River sockeye returns will be quite substantial. We are
hopeful that the Quesnel River will also see a healthy return in 2014.
We are anxiously waiting for the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) produced by DFO on an annual basis. The Northern Shuswap Tribal Counicl Fisheries will be monitoring sockeye returns very carefully to ensure any in-season management adjustments are made as soon as possible – both positive and negative.
We are very certain that the 2014 fishing season will be interesting.