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Pacific Salmon Abundance Trends in the Fraser River Watershed Compared with Other British Columbia Systems

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Abstract

Overall abundance—catch plus escapement—of adult Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) in the Fraser River basin (about one quarter of the area of British Columbia [BC]) has decreased sharply for sockeye (O. nerka), pink (O. gorbuscha), chum (O. keta), chinook (O. tshawytscha), and coho (O. kisutch) salmon between estimated levels near the turn of the century and those of recent decades. The extent of decline ranges from a low of about twofold for chum salmon to a high of nearly eightfold for coho salmon. Nevertheless, the Fraser River still remains the world’s greatest single river producer of Pacific salmon. Trend analyses for escapements over recent decades show statistically significant increases for all Pacific salmon escapements combined and for pink, chum, chinook, and sockeye individually. Sub-basins of the Fraser watershed support distinctive mixes of the five eastern Pacific salmon species; extent, causes, and management implications of these regional differences in species abundance are explored.

Parts of the remaining three quarters of BC also support sizable stocks of Pacific salmon. The largest other producer is the Skeena River system. Small to moderate stocks occur in the Okanagan River (Columbia drainage), a number of Vancouver Island and Queen Charlotte Island rivers, various coastal drainages of the south-central mainland, the Nass and Stikine river systems, as well as in other transboundary coastal rivers (Alaska panhandle), and in tributaries of the Yukon and Mackenzie rivers. Since the early 1900s, two upper Columbia River chinook stocks have become extinct in BC and another virtually so in the Okanagan River. The latter river continues to support the largest sockeye population for the Columbia River system, but escapements there have not exceeded 40,000 in the last two decades and have dropped to as low as 1,000 in 1978. Long-term decreases have occurred in coho and chinook salmon escapements to Vancouver Island, south-central coast and Skeena-Nass rivers, and in all five eastern Pacific salmon species to the Queen Charlotte Islands. In contrast long-term sockeye escapement to the Skeena-Nass system probably has increased.

In all major BC drainage areas, except the transboundary, recent coho escapements have declined significantly. Sockeye escapements show a significant increase in Vancouver Island, south-central coast, and Skeena-Nass drainage areas. In British Columbia overall, total salmon escapements have significantly increased over the last 4 decades, especially for even-and odd-year pink as well as sockeye salmon. Chum and chinook salmon escapements have shown no significant trend, but coho salmon have declined significantly. Causes for these recent changes in salmon escapement to BC systems are considered briefly.

Keywords

  • British Columbia
  • Chum Salmon
  • Chinook Salmon
  • Coho Salmon
  • Sockeye Salmon

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© 1997 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

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Northcote, T.G., Atagi, D.Y. (1997). Pacific Salmon Abundance Trends in the Fraser River Watershed Compared with Other British Columbia Systems. In: Stouder, D.J., Bisson, P.A., Naiman, R.J. (eds) Pacific Salmon & their Ecosystems. Springer, Boston, MA. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-6375-4_14

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-6375-4_14

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