It’s always just a numbers game whether Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents can enjoy some shiny sockeye salmon, fresh from the Fraser River, this summer.
Early returns are looking good, but the jury is still out on the main summer run of sockeye, says Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“The two components of the early runs are looking pretty reasonable,” said Jennifer Nener, director of salmon for the Pacific region with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Sockeye runs go in four-year breeding cycles. The astronomical run of 2010, when 30 million sockeye went up the Fraser River, means their descendents are due to return from the Pacific Ocean in 2014.
This year, though, moderation is the key.
“So right now, were coming off 2009 and that particular year-class was extremely low,” when only 1.5 million sockeye went up the river.
The low returns that year sparked the Cohen Commission Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River. This year, that cycle returns, but the forecast is 4.7 million for the year-class.
Nener said the forecast for the first of four runs of sockeye this year, the early Stuart run, is for 211,000 sockeye.
The actual number, though, should be closer to 180,000 – still more than double what came back in 2009.
As for the early summer run, the early forecast is for 253,000 sockeye.
“We’re probably looking more in the ball park of 400,000.”
The summer run is the largest part of the Fraser River sockeye run and that’s predicted to be 3.7 million. But, “It’s too early to tell where we’re at with them. You can never tell. We’re tracking and we’ll see what the data says over the next couple weeks.”
“I’d say its kind of a moderate year. We’ll see how it plays out.”
The main summer run will be followed by the late summer run which is predicted to be 583,000.
Whether there will be any commercial openings for sockeye, allowing non-natives a chance to fish, remains to be seen.
After the sockeye pass through, pinks, chum and coho salmon are next to move up the river in the fall searching for their spawning streams.
“The pinks we anticipate that there’s likely to be an opportunities for commercial fisheries but again it remains to be seen what actually returns,” Nener said.
Nener said aboriginal fisheries started last weekend, with particular openings announced at various times.
People can check online, to keep up to date on fisheries openings.