Fraser River sockeye is back


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
August 23, 2010

The controversial Fraser River sockeye fishery may get vindication for obtaining Marine Stewardship Council certification by possibly reaching its largest run in 60 years.

The Canadian Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Society (CPSFS) on Monday announced that Fraser River sockeye run is on pace to top 20 million fish and may even reach 25 million fish this year.

Last year, the run failed to meet expectations, prompting a closure of the fishery amid claims that is was commercially extinct. Several environmental groups filed objections against the fishery’s proposed MSC certification, but it was reevaluated and eventually deemed sustainable and well managed, earning the MSC eco-label in late July.

“MSC certification has meant more than USD 10 million to us by letting us market our fish to high value niches domestically and internationally,” said Mike Griswold, a member of the Pacific Salmon Commission’s Fraser River Panel.

This year “proved that when environmental conditions are good, Fraser sockeye is enormously resilient,” he added. “Management remains extremely cautious, with harvest rates at less than half the levels of the recent past in order to rebuild weak populations.”

The CPSFS said University of British Columbia scientists believe that the problem in 2009 was poor survival of fish in 2007 and that it was just a bottleneck of few fish making it through the Georgia Strait. Scientists also believe that for the past 15 years returning sockeye may have been harvested at much higher harvest rates without detriment to long-term productivity, reported the CPSFS.

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