A gillnetter crew in the Fraser River off Surrey pulls sockeye from their net during the 2010 season.

A gillnetter crew in the Fraser River off Surrey pulls sockeye from their net during the 2010 season.

Fishery opens for Fraser River sockeye

Run size estimated at around 3.2 million salmon

It won’t be the extraordinary run of 30 million sockeye salmon that surged up the Fraser River last summer and helped fill freezers along the way.

But fishery managers have decided there are enough incoming salmon to justify commercial fishing.

The Pacific Salmon Commission approved a three-hour opening for gillnetters in area E of the Fraser River this Thursday after the latest estimates pointed to a run of at least 3.2 million incoming sockeye.

Gillnetters who fish off Vancouver Island from Nanaimo to Port Hardy were the first to get their nets in the water, with an opening last Sunday.

The run strength is believed to be in line with pre-season projections but it’s too early to say with confidence how many later-running sockeye will return.

Bob McKamey, vice-president of the Area E Gillnetters Association, is hopeful the counts will rise and fishery openings will continue.

“There are some pretty promising numbers popping up,” he said of test fishing catches of Fraser sockeye off northern Vancouver Island.

McKamey said there’s more scope to allow fishing in the river this year because the Fraser is running so high.

The high water level means there’s more vertical room in the river for incoming salmon to avoid nets and continue upstream, he said, so escapement rates should be higher than usual.

“The height of the water is so far above anything we’ve fished in recent history,” McKamey said. “Our ability to catch the fish will be affected.”

First Nations, which get to fish ahead of other users for food, social and ceremonial reasons, have already been catching salmon for several weeks.

Aboriginal groups are also expected to be granted an economic opportunity fishery where sockeye can be sold now that some commercial fishing is approved.

Recreational angling for sockeye may also be opened soon although there’s been no announcement yet.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society executive director Craig Orr said last year’s huge sockeye run was a “pleasant blip” but noted the overall long-term trend – which triggered the Cohen inquiry – is of declining runs.

“We’re not out of the woods yet in needing to take a very precautionary approach in how many fish we harvest in the Fraser,” he said.

Pink salmon are expected to be plentiful this year, with a run estimated at 17.5 million fish.

Traditionally low-value and far less lucrative than sockeye, pinks may attract more attention from commercial fishermen this fall since the Marine Stewardship Council certified all B.C. pink salmon as sustainably fished. The green seal of approval may help boost prices.

Just Posted

Ma Murrays 2021 virtual ceremony screenshot
North Island Gazette wins big at 2021 Ma Murray Newspaper Awards

Zoe Ducklow and Bill McQuarrie both won gold at the online ceremony

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Council votes to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of mass grave sites being found

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Port Hardy Fire Rescue responded to an early morning fire around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 13. Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street. Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 250-949-6335. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Firefighters respond to early morning fire near visitor centre in Port Hardy

Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Dr. Prean Armogam hands over a cheque for $10,000 to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society president Rosaline Glynn. The money will be going towards a new roof for the Port Hardy seniors centre. This is the second donation Dr. Armogam has made to the society, giving them $5,000 a little over a year ago. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Doctor donates $10k to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society for new roof

This was the second donation Armogam has given to the society

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

CVSAR search the Puntledge River following a report of an abandoned kayak. Photo, CVSAR Facebook page
Comox Valley Search and Rescue spends four hours searching for no one

Overturned kayak a reminder for public to contact officials if they have to abandon a watercraft

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre has embarked on a fundraising campaign, seeking to raise $1 million for establishment of an independent urban Indigenous school. Pictured here, Tsawalk Learning Centre students at an Orange Shirt Day event in September. (Submitted photo)
Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre looks to raise $1 million for urban Indigenous school

Centre says independent school would be first of its kind in B.C.

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Most Read