Sockeye salmon on Fraser
The final tally is 853,000 sockeye salmon, only about one-third of what was expected. The last time a run was this low was 1893. That’s 120 years ago, back when an unheralded Sir John Thompson was Canada’s 4th prime minister.
There was, officials say, just a one in 10 chance the run would be this low. It’s being called a disaster, a troubling run that shut down the commercial fishery industry and negatively impacted First Nations food fishing.
But Mike Lapointe, the chief biologist for the Pacific Salmon Foundation, wasn’t surprised; Lapointe said low numbers were a possibility from the outset, noting the statistical one in 10 chance, based on prior years, that it could go this low.
“I’m not sure I agree with people characterizing it as a disaster,” he said. “When you start from a spot that’s already pretty low and you get poorer than average conditions, unfortunately you can get this type of return that’s very low but not completely out of the realm of possibility.”
Sockeye run of 2010
At the end of May, Lapointe told Jeff Nagel, chief reporter for Black Press, that the run was expected to be about 2.3 million sockeye salmon. Even a run that high would have prevented the opening of a commercial fishing season.
The run can be much higher, in 2010 it was 34.5 million, the largest run in 100 years. There are 30 different strains of salmon stocks in the run.