The return migrations of Fraser River sockeye populations overlap in space and time which affects their vulnerability in mixed-stock fisheries. Catches in fisheries directed at populations with harvestable surpluses are often constrained by impacts on stocks of high conservation concern, thus reducing total allowable catches (TACs) available to both countries. Test fisheries are key to informing reasonably accurate and timely estimates of Fraser sockeye and pink salmon run strength. However, these test fisheries sample very small fractions of the daily abundance which limits their capacity to provide run size estimates of sufficient certainty prior to verification by lower Fraser acoustics approximately one week later. This creates time lags that constrain the Panel’s ability to meet international and domestic catch allocation objectives. Furthermore, the return to use of fish for funding test fishing activities in Canada has increased concerns about the number and associated costs of test fisheries. As well, there are twelve test fisheries implemented to sample Fraser sockeye and pink salmon which are used to inform fisheries management decisions, some of which provide more useful and accurate information than others. Thus, a review of the current approach is warranted.
Fraser River pink salmon have been supporting fisheries of growing importance in both countries in most recent years, and fishing impacts on intermingled Fraser River sockeye populations that are of concern (e.g. Late-run sockeye) and have limited directed harvests of those pink salmon. In-season assessments of migration overlap, run size, and associated TACs depend on data obtained from 11 test fisheries which inform the Fraser River Panel’s decisions and are the focus of this proposal.