Management of Fraser River Sockeye Fisheries

Photo: Sockeye salmon swimming. Photo credit: Neil McDaniel

Sockeye salmon

Photo credit: Neil McDaniel

The conservation and the sustainable use of salmon stocks are top priorities for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in our management of Fraser River sockeye fisheries.  

The conservation objectives for Fraser River sockeye are established during the annual integrated fisheries management planning (IFMP) and Fraser Panel processes, which involve all fishing sectors, First Nations and environmental organizations. Fisheries plans are established for several possible run sizes during this pre-season planning process, to create a greater degree of certainty and predictability in how the fishery will be managed in-season. Plans are designed to be consistent with conservation objectives and the Pacific salmon allocation policy.  

DFO only opens commercial and recreational harvest opportunities targeting sockeye if returns are sufficient to meet conservation objectives and provide for First Nation food, social and ceremonial (FSC) fisheries, which under DFO allocation policies, have priority over all other fisheries.  

The life-cycle of sockeye salmon, from egg to spawning, is approximately four years.  Young sockeye may remain in their freshwater nursery lakes for a year or more before making their seaward journey. Around their fourth year of life, they return to the river for spawning and make up a portion of what is referred to as the in-season run or return.  

Each year, DFO forecasts a range of potential sockeye returns for the coming season for planning purposes. As the fish begin to return, the Fraser River Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) monitors the returns and modifies the in-season run sizes using science-based procedures as well as information obtained from test fisheries, counting devices, fish wheels and other sources. The panel meets twice per week during the sockeye return to monitor and update the in-season run sizes and determine fisheries openings for Fraser River sockeye for both Canadian and US commercial fisheries. When the season is over, the Fraser River Panel conducts a post-season review.  

The Fraser River Panel determines when and where fisheries for Fraser River sockeye will be opened based on environmental conditions such as water temperatures and flows in the river, run sizes and the advice of panel members including DFO.  

Changes to fisheries plans can be and are made on a daily basis, as needed, during the Fraser River sockeye return using the latest data from test fisheries, fish wheels, fish counters and other devices, as well as if the existing and forecast environmental conditions in the river warrant an adjustment. If river temperatures and / or flows are outside of optimal ranges for sockeye migration, additional fish may be allowed to pass up-river to account for anticipated en-route loss.  

Pacific Salmon Commission  

The PSC was formed by the governments of Canada and the United States to implement the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Both Canada and the United States appoint four commissioners and four alternates to the PSC, representing the perspectives of commercial and recreational fisheries as well as federal, state and First Nations governments. Under the terms of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, the Fraser River Panel of the PSC is responsible for in-season management of commercial fisheries that target Fraser River sockeye and pink salmon within the area designated as the Fraser Panel waters.  

The Fraser River Panel of the PSC regularly reviews and evaluates the run sizes of several major components of the 2014 Fraser River sockeye population.  Migration conditions for Fraser River sockeye will be monitored closely over the summer and fall and management decisions will be adjusted as appropriate. PSC news releases and DFO Fisheries Notices are issued after each Fraser Panel meeting to communicate the status of the run and management decisions taken by the Fraser River Panel.  

For the latest information on the sockeye run management, please visit:  www.psc.org.