WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

July 23, 1997
Contact: Jeff Weathersby, (360) 902-2256

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U.S. reopens season for early Stuart Fraser sockeye

OLYMPIA -- U.S. commercial gillnet and purse seine fishers will have another opportunity to catch early Stuart Fraser River sockeye tomorrow in the San Juans and Port Roberts areas, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced today.

The non-Indian fishers are expected to catch from 10,000 to 20,000 early Stuarts tomorrow. U.S. fishers to date have caught approximately 121,000 of a total U.S. share of 159,500 early Stuart sockeye. Indian fishers have harvested 83,400 early Stuarts while non-Indians have taken approximately 36,300.

The extra fishing day was scheduled because the estimate of the size of the run today was raised by the Pacific Salmon Commission staff from 1.4 to 1.6 million salmon. State fish managers emphasized they were taking steps to ensure the conservation of the early Stuart run.

The U.S. managers have agreed to Canada's request that 687,000 early Stuarts be allowed to reach their spawning grounds. Canada first set the spawning goal at 500,000 but then added an 187,000 "buffer" due to poor fish migrating conditions in the Fraser River.

U.S. fish managers also scheduled fishing by gillnetters and purse seiners at the same time, an unprecedented move. While the two gear types can conflict in close quarters, the move also focuses U.S. fishing efforts on the large early Stuart run.

The next component of Fraser River sockeye, known as "early summers," is expected to be in poor condition. Canada has asked the United States to allow as many early summers as possible to reach their spawning grounds and U.S. fish managers want American boats out of the water when the bulk of the early summers swim through American waters.

While the U.S. early Stuart harvest has totaled 121,000 fish, the Canadian was 322,000, the Pacific Salmon Commission staff reported. The Canadians have reopened their fisheries for early Stuarts and are expected to harvest another 150,000 to 200,000 salmon.

U.S. fishing for purse seiners and gillnetters will begin at 7:05 a.m. tomorrow. Purse seiners will cease fishing by 9 p.m. and gillnetters will have their nets out of the water at midnight.