VANCOUVER, Aug. 23 /CNW/ - "Fraser River sockeye returns look set to top 20 million fish, and could go to 25 million, making it the second, possibly even the largest run in 60 years," said independent fisherman and long time Pacific Salmon Commission Fraser Panel member Mike Griswold. "This vindicates our long quest to obtain Marine Stewardship Council certification that Fraser sockeye is well managed. We are thrilled."
Last year, Fraser sockeye failed to return in the numbers expected, prompting Fisheries and Oceans Canada to close the fishery amid claims that it was commercially extinct. "2010 has proved that when environmental conditions are good, Fraser sockeye is enormously resilient. Management remains extremely cautious with harvest rates at less than half the levels of the recent past in order to rebuild weak populations," said Griswold.
Eminent UBC fisheries scientist Carl Walters notes that the problem in 2009 was extremely poor marine survival of the fish in 2007 when they went to sea. "Very low numbers of fish made it through the Georgia Strait, and those that did had very poor growth. And there were several species that had the same poor growth pattern. So we think it was just a one-off bottleneck in the survival during their life in the ocean." Walters goes on to add that returning sockeye could be harvested at much higher harvest rates than DFO has allowed over the last 15 years, including this year, without detriment to long term productivity.
According to Griswold, MSC certification has helped keep prices to the fishermen fairly high because of international demand for sustainable seafood products. "MSC certification has meant more than $10 million to us by letting us market our fish to high value niches domestically and internationally."
As harvests increase, Griswold, said prices will come down, making it a good buy for consumers. Chef Robert Clark of the renowned Vancouver seafood restaurant "C" said the fish currently harvested en route to the Fraser, is "outstanding, just the right amount of fat and oil content, making it the best sockeye I have ever seen."
Christina Burridge of the Canadian Pacific Sustainable Fisheries Society added that MSC certification with its action plan for improvement and rigorous annual public audits, "is the best means to ensure that management responds to environmental conditions so that we have more record runs in the future. "Fraser River sockeye is back."
SOURCE CANADIAN PACIFIC SUSTAINABILITY FISHERIES SOCIETY
For further information: For further information: Mike Griswold, independent salmon troller, 250.285.3701, Griswold.firstname.lastname@example.org; Christina Burridge, CPSFS, 604.377.9213, email@example.com