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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here is an article that was running in one of our local news sources today, looks like it is do or die for the Stuart run, among others I am sure.

Prince George, B.C. - "S.O.S." has a new meaning to the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance, it now stands for Save Our Sockeye.

The Stuart area sockeye run is a disaster, “We may be witnessing the extinction of a species, this cannot be ignored” says Marcel Shepert, Executive Director of the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance.

Shepert made the comment as the UFFCA released a report on the status of the early and late Sturart Sockeye runs.

The number of sockeye entering the Stuart system has declined substantially from the numbers recorded in the early 90’s. Comparing the same cycles of fish ( some years are dominant) last year, only 5,000 fish made it back to the Stuart area to spawn.

1993 the population of spawning sockeye in the Stuart system for early run 700,000
2005 the population of spawning sockeye in the Stuart system for early run had dropped to 100,000
For the Late Stuart Run, the numbers are even more staggering:

1993, there were 1.8 million spawning sockeye returned to Stuart system
2005, that number had already dropped to 300,000.
The prediction this year for the number of sockeye to enter the Fraser to head to the spawning grounds is 35,000 . That would be the number counted at Mission, and fish biologist David Levy doubts the number will be that high.

There are a number of reasons why the runs have dwindle to the near extinction levels. According to David Levy

Migration conditions and in river mortality are listed as the most likely reasons for the declining fish stocks.

Those migration conditions are a reference to high river flows an warm water temperatures. The early Stuart run faces high river flows and getting through Hell’s Gate is particularly difficult. As for increased water temperatures, well, there’s been a lot of talk about the need for a cold water release as a method of keeping the Nechako cool enough for salmon migration. David Levy says a cold water release won’t make any difference “I don’t believe it would help. The main reason is you’re using a smaller volume of very cold water to cool down the Nechako. By the time the water reaches the Nechako-Stuart confluence, there is very little detectable influence of that cold water release. Certainly you could never get cooler temperatures in Prince George, there just isn’t enough water.”

Levy’s report outlines five recommendations:

Maintain closure of fishing on early sockeye
Initiate a Stuart sockeye recovery program
Fertilize Takla Lake in 2010 to provide more nutrients
Form arrangements and agreements to import food fish to affected communities
List early and late Stuart sockeye as endangered population
None of the people involved in the study, (which is available at www.uffca.ca ) could say how much money would be needed to affect change and bring the Stuart sockeye back to the former numbers.

Marcel Shepert says the Stuart run is culturally linked to the Northern First Nations, “I believe that when you cease to fish, you cease to be Native in my opinion”. Shepert is calling for action “The time for talk is over , we need to actually get in there and do the science needed to understand what’s going on in that particular eco system.”

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
And DFO's reply today.

Monday, March 03, 2008 03:55 AM

Prince George, B.C. - Following the release of a study undertaken by Levy Woodey and Hardy in 2008 on the serious decline of the Sockeye salmon runs in the Upper Fraser and in particular the Stuart runs, Opinion 250 asked Dr Brian Riddell, of the Science Branch, Pacific Biological Station of the Department of fisheries to comment.

In their report, the group suggested a cold water release on the Nechako would do little to reduce temperatures in the Nechako River and they called for many stringent measures to be undertaken. They argue the cold water release would not provide sufficient water to reduce temperatures in the system to assist the fish in their migration.

In Response to the findings in the report Stuart Area Sockeye Salmon runs and their importance to the First Nations of the Upper Fraser River Watershed. Levy, Woodey and Hardy. 2008. ( see previous story) here are Dr. Riddell’s comments:

The Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance (UFFCA) released a report February 20, 2008, on declining abundance of Early and Late Stuart sockeye in the upper Fraser River.

Early and Late Stuart sockeye salmon are two of the most vulnerable salmon populations in the Fraser River due to their extended migration (lake to ocean), which covers 1,200 kilometres. These fish are highly valued by the First Nations in the upper Fraser who depend on these salmon for food, social, and ceremonial uses. Since the mid-1990s, both the Early and Late Stuart sockeye populations have declined severely in abundance and there are concerns about the future survival of these important sockeye runs.

Consequently, the UFFCA undertook a review to assess the status of these sockeye and to analyze the possible causes for this decline suggesting that adverse environmental conditions during adult up-stream migration are largely responsible for the recent declines in the numbers of mature salmon returning to the Stuart lakes system.

Programs conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada have provided the vast majority of the data and information used in the review, and the Department generally agrees with the technical issues discussed. However, marine productivity is a major issue which the report mentions but does not make recommendations on. We agree that future climate warming/change could further impact these sockeye populations. Departmental staff has been conducting substantial research into the up-stream passage, stress, and mortality of sockeye salmon. A gap in the report is consideration of a substantial number of other publications related to up-stream migration of sockeye salmon and causes of mortality in the Fraser River.

The Department is fully aware of the current state of these populations, and that the Stuart sockeye populations are an irreplaceable linage of Pacific salmon important to First Nations and others in B.C. These are the types of salmon resources to be conserved through Canada’s Policy on the Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon (2005). As the report indicates, changes to the marine conditions and the Fraser River will bring challenges to maintaining and restore returns to these Stuart sockeye populations. Returns in 2008 are likely to remain weak and the Department will again implement stringent fisheries management measures to conserve these populations.

In a broader research context of what is determining the marine survival of Pacific salmon, DFO is currently working on studies aimed at understanding the early ocean and late ocean-migration phases of salmon in the Strait of Georgia. This research is in keeping with the federal government’s announcement in late 2007 of $42.5 million over three years to fund activities to conserve and protect Canadian oceans, bringing the five-year commitment for the health of the oceans to $61.5 million. Specifically, DFO is undertaking new projects on understanding how ocean temperatures and productivity, food sources, and distribution of salmon within the Strait of Georgia have been changing. One focus of these studies is to understand how these changes have been affecting the growth and survival of salmon and other species.

DFO’s priorities are to conserve the resource, to meet food, social and ceremonial obligations to First Nations, and to support economically and environmentally sustainable fisheries.
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