let the great reductions begin… Fraser sockeye in-season estimates to be downgraded

Headline in the Cowichan News Leader:

Record sockeye run to shrink due to overestimate

It’s still likely to stand as the biggest return of Fraser River sockeye salmon in living memory.

But scientists now expect to chop their estimate of this year’s immense run by as much as 20 per cent.

That could take the final count of fish from 34.5 million sockeye down to around 29 million, according to Pacific Salmon Commission chief biologist Mike Lapointe.

Where’s all the big media outlets now?

Why is this story only running in a smaller local paper?

Sure, it’s still a record run, but if your financial advisor was off by 20 per cent in predictions would you keep ’em?

What does this mean for groups of stocks such as the Early Summers which has lots of stocks in trouble? DFO was to target 25% of these for fisheries — if run-size estimates are off by 20% does this mean fishing rates could start approaching 40-50% on the Early Summers? This is bad news for runs like the Bowron and others…

time for serious change, wouldn’t you say?

3 thoughts on “let the great reductions begin… Fraser sockeye in-season estimates to be downgraded

  1. tlellami


    Change is often good, and is a natural component of our world, so why not our management? However the 34.5 million was only ever an estimate, and estimates are prone to errors. You know as well as anyone that final numbers for salmon abundance are only available at the end of the year.

    With respect to your comment about harvest of Early Summers, it is worth noting that this 20% underestimate of TOTAL run size might be reflected primarily in the dominant (Shuswap/Adams) run – which is a “Late” run. If this is the case, then the target of a 25% harvest rate on Early Summers might be accurate, and not worth getting all hot and bothered by. Well, at least not until FINAL numbers for everything comes in.

    As well, if you would like to see changes in how in-season estimates are made, how would you propose doing this assuming a fixed “sockeye” budget within DFO, and all the competing needs and complexities in managing FR sockeye?


  2. Brian

    The 35 million was an inseason estimate, but the fisheries at the time (specifically the Late run) were basing their catch off of these estimates. Essentially, the exploitation on certain marginal stocks within this component was actually higher than originally thought. It is a good thing commercial fisheries were not taking 80%. I believe this is what Salmonguy was eluding to and I tend to understand his point. Methods on determining inseason abundance need to be looked at – especially with the very large abundances in some net sets. Test fisheries never saw abundances like this in their net sets. It is easy to critisize these inseason test fisheries, but to actually change them or come up with a much better way when fish are in the ocean is another so I totally agree with your perspective on this. For the most part, inseason estimates by the PSC didn’t do a bad job with the the other run timing groups from what I can see. As I mentioned in a previous post here, most of these issues are likely due to the Late Run which generally hold off the mouth of the Fraser unlike other groups that don’t. Mike Lapointe is a good guy and will likely use what he learned form this season to make the necessary changes for next season.

    Not really suprised by this story as I was keenly looking at the Mission hydroacoustic results during the first 3 weeks of September. Don’t get me wrong….it is still a lot of fish, but not the bonanza predicted by inseason estimates. That is why I was critical of media reports of 35 Million. I would like to respond to some of the news article.

    Quote: “If the estimation is out by approximately 20 per cent, it points to some shortcomings,” Crey said. “Both in their ability to estimate how many fish will return in a given season and even their ability to estimate in season how many fish have returned.”

    Well Ernie, please explain a much better method of which satifies all user groups. Again, it is easy to point fingers but not so easy to come up with solutioins. I believe we need to adjust our attitudes towards science so that we do not have these unreleastic expectations on what it provides. Everyone wants a nice, neat package which is 100% accurate – that is utopia that people like Alexandra Morton think is possible. Instead we need to increase our understanding so that better and more responsible precriptive action can be taken inseason instead of following PR crowd with endless YouTube videos.

    Secondly, I don’t think the issue is so much with not being able to get better precision, but with what is biologically significant. What level might be alright for Adams River Sockeye might not be for Bowron River Sockeye. Statistics and models can’t really answer this. This is the question that needs to be answered by those using the methods with consultation with those field biologists on the ground and the stakeholders (i.e. First Nations, commerical and recreational anglers) that depend on these fisheries. This is why I have never been a very big fan of mixed-stock fisheries.

    Quote: “This year’s run was projected in advance to yield 11 million sockeye – another number that proved way off.”

    If DFO had used the same forecasting methods that severely overestimated returns the past 3 years they would have been very close to this season. The reason for using other methods this season was to due to recent declines in productivity and what happened last year, so a more precautionary approach was used. If forecasters had used 2009 methodology and we had a bust then everyone would have been looking for blood. Can really win either way…lol.

  3. salmon guy Post author

    thanks for the comment,
    … all the more reason to get rid of ocean-based mixed stock fisheries that hammer everything in their path.

    here’s a quote from a recent Globe and Mail article:

    Dr. Close, a professor of aboriginal fisheries at the University of British Columbia, reminded the commission that native communities have been harvesting salmon in the Fraser for a long time.

    “When you have 7,000 to 8,000 years of sustained use, there should be some lessons learned from that,” he said, calling for an integration of traditional aboriginal knowledge and modern science, in fisheries management.

    The Cohen commission began evidentiary hearings in Vancouver this week and will continue sitting through December.

    That’s a good place to start…

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