Fraser River sockeye numbers up

A Fisheries and Oceans spokesman says a population of Fraser River sockeye salmon that had dwindled to such alarming numbers it prompted a federal inquiry is showing signs of improvement.

About 1.4 million to 1.6 million sockeye out of an estimated run of 10 million returned to the river in 2009, leading the federal government to call an inquiry led by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen.

Jeff Grout, a regional Fisheries manager, says the offspring from the 2009 run are now making their own way back up the Fraser and the department estimates those numbers could hit four million.

That's still below the department's pre-season estimate of 4.7 million.

Les Jantz, who is the co-chair of the department's Fraser River panel, says the mortality rate of returning sockeye is expected to hit 70 per cent.

The department says the sockeye fishery will remain closed to all fishing on the river this year, but First Nations will get the chance to participate in a chinook fishery on the lower Fraser on Friday.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version misspelled Jantz's name.

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