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Skeena sockeye return estimate improves

Skeena First Nations consider re-opening FSC harvest of sockeye
Ocean sockeye (top) and spawning sockeye (bottom) Photo imgarcade

Skeena First Nations are currently considering a re-opening of the Skeena watershed to the food, social and ceremonial (FSC) harvest of sockeye.

As of last week, the total Skeena sockeye return estimate was sitting at approximately 575,000 - higher than last month’s estimate of 419,000 but still slightly below the pre-season estimate of 590,000 sockeye.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), based on average run timing, just over 50 per cent of the sockeye run have past the Tyee test fishery.

Skeena First Nations will be submitting a proposal to the DFO, but have indicated that they would like to see the run above 600,000 before re-opening the river to FSC sockeye harvest.

Earlier this year the DFO anticipated one of the lowest sockeye returns on record for the Skeena watershed. Colin Masson, DFO’s north coast area director, explained that 2017 is the last year of the sockeye’s four-year cycle.

“2013 was the brood year for this year’s return, and that was the lowest on record at that point,” he said. “And so these are the progenies for that low return year, and those progenies have experienced really poor ocean conditions as well, so we’re concerned for the conservation of this particular brood year.”

Recreational fishing for Skeena River chinook, coho and pink salmon reopened on July 15 after the DFO initiated a closure on June 15. Recreational fishing for sockeye and chum salmon remains closed in the entire Skeena watershed.