Low returns of chinook salmon, pictured, have prompted the Nisga’a Fish and Wildlife Department to announce that all fishing for Chinook is closed for the season. (Black Press Media file photo)

Low returns of chinook salmon, pictured, have prompted the Nisga’a Fish and Wildlife Department to announce that all fishing for Chinook is closed for the season. (Black Press Media file photo)

‘Real danger’: Low returns prompt closure of Nisga’a salmon fisheries

Chinook salmon fishery closed for the season, Sockeye fishery closed until July 27 for trial period

Salmon returns to the Nass River watershed are well below historical averages, and the Nisga’a Fish and Wildlife Department (NFWD) announced July 12 that all fishing for Chinook salmon is closed for the season, and fishing for Sockeye salmon is closed until July 27.

“There is a very real danger of not reaching the escapement goal for either of these species without more fish passing to the upper river,” a July 12 NFWD media release states.

Escapement, which refers to salmon reaching their spawning grounds, is monitored by the NFWD using fish wheels. The annual escapement target to the upper river is 13,000 for Chinook and 200,000 for Sockeye.

But as of July 12, around 2,300 Chinook salmon have passed the fish wheels, 15,000 fewer than average, with 60 to 95 per cent of the run into the Nass River depending on run timing projections.

There have been an estimated 24,000 Sockeye, which is over 100,000 fewer than average at this time of year, with 21 to 56 per cent in the river.

“These projections indicate that without management intervention, too few fish will reach the spawning grounds,” the release states.

While the Chinook food fishery is closed for the season, the NFWD plans to re-open fishing for Sockeye July 27 at 6 a.m. for a trial period.