The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is considering a total ban on the sockeye salmon fishery in southern British Columbia after fewer salmon are returning to the area than was forecast.
Even the aboriginal ceremonial fishery will be cancelled this year, said Timber Whitehorse, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans spokesperson for the Fraser River Salmon Stock Assessment in Kamloops.
"[The] pre-season forecast was just over 1½ million, and the in-season adjustment is half a million, so just over one-third of the pre-season forecast," Whitehorse said Wednesday.
Fisheries experts suspect two-thirds of the salmon died in the ocean, but why that happened is not clear.
What is clear is that very few fish are returning to the rivers to spawn this summer, said Pat Matthews, spokesperson for the Secwepemc Fisheries Commission.
"Those stocks in the North Thompson and the Shuswap are less than five per cent of what was forecast," said Matthews.
First Nations are supporting a ban on commercial and ceremonial fishing.
"However, we are hoping the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will provide a limited access for food purposes," said Matthews.
Matthews said many native people depend on the fishery for food, so they're asking officials to allow the fishing of 5,000 salmon this year from the Adams River.
The Fraser River is alreadyclosed to all commercial fishing. Recreational and native food fishing for sockeye on the Lower Fraser is also closed.