The estimate of sockeye return heading to Babine Lake this year is slightly below the pre-season forecast, according to Lake Babine Nation (LBN).
While the pre-season sockeye return forecast was 1.28 million, the estimate that has passed the mouth of the Skeena, heading to Babine Lake, is 1,222,195.
A total of 207,008 sockeye have been counted through the Babine fence.
Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam said he hopes the sockeye is simply “late” this year.
According to Donna Macintyre, fisheries director for LBN, it is unclear why the sockeye return has been lower than anticipated this year.
“Are the fish late? We shall have to wait and see,” she said. “We do know that the Skeena is at the lowest level in record and temperature is high.”
There are currently no restrictions to First Nations fisheries. Recreational fishing on the Skeena mainstem is open with a limit of two per day and recreational fishing is also open on the Babine River.
Babine Lake opened Aug. 1, with a limit of two per day. Chief Adam said commercial fishing on Babine Lake isn’t open yet as the sockeye numbers are low.
Macintyre explained that the fence (gates) are open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week, and that the daily amount of fish coming through varies.
“It depends on the fish that are migrating upstream,” she explained. “We do not hold fish back; if the fish want to move, they move up river and are counted through the traps.”
In the Fraser River, the low sockeye salmon return year is coming in even lower than forecast. The main summer run in the Fraser River was calculated at 992,000 on the latest test fishing data, down from a pre-season forecast of 1.67 million.
There’s no commercial or recreational sockeye fisheries on the Fraser and marine areas and only Aboriginal fisheries are permitted by Canadian and U.S. authorities.
Federal fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc said he is continuing to implement the Cohen Commission, established to study the collapse of the 2009 sockeye run in the Fraser River. Although the 2010 run came in with a record 30 million fish, the Cohen commission reported a general decline in sockeye runs since 1990.
This year the Pacific Salmon Commission, formed by the governments of Canada and the United States for the conservation of salmon, noted the effects of a warm North Pacific area called “the blob,” which affected marine food before it dissipated early this year.
– With files from Tom Fletcher