A fish wheel is used to catch early run Chinook salmon in the Fraser River that are unable to make it past the Big Bar Slide for use in a conservation enhancement program this summer. (Gord Sterritt photo)

Record-low returns continue for Fraser sockeye despite success of Big Bar passage

Total migration this year estimated at just 279,700

Fraser River sockeye continue to swim past the Big Bar landslide in larger numbers but the overall count for the river sytem still points to the lowest migration in recorded history.

According to DFO’s latest Fraser River Sockeye Update Aug. 25, in the past two weeks extreme water levels have dropped significantly to improve natural passage for about 103,166 chinook and sockeye past the slide area 40 km upstream. Of those, 8,238 salmon used the Whooshh Passage Portal.

READ MORE: Salmon arrive in larger numbers at Big Bar landslide

While catches at test fisheries for mostly summer run stocks have modestly improved in the past few days, the total return of Fraser sockeye this year is estimated to be only 279,700.

“This continues to be a record low return for all cycles of Fraser River Sockeye,” the DFO update reads.

All First Nations fisheries for food, social and ceremonial sockeye are closed for the remainder of the season. Very little opportunity exists for chinook due to the sockeye non-retention regulations. In the few chinook openings available, DFO requires nets to be attended at all times in order to release captured sockeye.

Commercial and recreational fisheries on Fraser River Sockeye will not be authorized in 2020, the update reads.

READ MORE: Interior hatchery resurrected to incubate chinook fry caught at Big Bar Slide

In several spawning tributaries, counts of sockeye range from zero to just 14. The exception is the upper Chilliwack River where it’s estimated 24,233 fish have entered the river as of Aug. 18.

In November 2018 a massive rock landslide upstream of Lillooet blocked passage for migrating salmon. A fish passage network is part of ongoing mitigation efforts since the landslide was discovered in late June of 2019, causing 75,000 cubic metres of rock to fall into the river roughly 100 kilometres north of Lillooet, blocking spawning salmon passage into B.C.’s Interior.

The Whooshh Passage Portal is part of ongoing mitigation efforts since the landslide was discovered in late June of 2019, causing 75,000 cubic metres of rock to fall into the river roughly 100 kilometres north of Lillooet, blocking spawning salmon passage into B.C.’s Interior.



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

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