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Low sockeye salmon numbers attributed to ocean deaths

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Old August 15th, 2009, 03:57 AM posted to can.rec.fishing
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Default Low sockeye salmon numbers attributed to ocean deaths

Low sockeye salmon numbers attributed to ocean deaths

August 14, 2009

VANCOUVER Poor ocean survival is primarily responsible for low
sockeye salmon returns this summer to the Fraser River, the Pacific
Salmon Commission said Friday.

The commission now forecasts 1.7 million sockeye will return to spawn
in the Vancouver-area watershed this summer, compared to a pre-season
estimate of 10.4 million fish that now appears to have been grossly

The commission has not changed its expectations for pink salmon,
suggesting a return of 17 million later this summer.

Officials dismissed rumours that the river's once-vaunted sockeye runs
suffered an in-river mishap either as infants in 2007 migrating
downstream to the Pacific Ocean or their return this summer as adult
spawners to natal streams strewn through the Fraser drainage.

Nor did it identify overharvesting of sockeye in commercial, aboriginal
and sport fisheries, noting that catch effort has been either nominal
or non-existent amid concerns about this year's return.

In a news release, the commission noted that before the season began,
the Department of Fisheries and Oceans forecast a robust return of 10.4
million fish more than three times the population of the parent
generation that spawned them four years earlier.

That forecast came despite a persistent downward trend that has caused
sockeye returns to spiral down since the mid-1990s, with only an
occasional and short-lived upsurge.

Craig Orr, executive director of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society,
said the mathematical models officials use to predict salmon returns
are notoriously unreliable.

Orr said that acclaimed Simon Fraser University fisheries researcher
Randall Peterman, at a world summit on salmon two years ago, presented
an analysis of 13 predictive math models to calculate future salmon
returns and "he found they were all crap, and he also found they were
getting worse with environmental uncertainty (due to climate change)."

Grand Chief Doug Kelly, co-chairman of the First Nations Fisheries
Council, said the aboriginal food catch this summer is 18,000 sockeye
482,000 fewer than average and called on the provincial and federal
governments to stage a "salmon summit" to protect the fisheries
resource for future generations.

Kelly echoed Orr's skepticism about population estimates, saying
they're generated by someone sitting at a desk instead of tramping the
spawning grounds.


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