Hidden Falls chum salmon performance is far below the forecast and the fishery will need to be closed in order to ensure broodstock numbers. The broodstock goal is 180,000 fish for the Hidden Falls/Takatz programs (101 million eggs), Deep Inlet (24 million eggs), and Southeast Cove (55 million eggs). NSRAA secured the permit for up to 30 million eggs from DIPAC, and DIPAC has generously agreed to take up to the limit this year. So far about 35,000 chum have been harvested at Hidden Falls; the male ratio from Sunday June 28 was 68%. We could risk another opening given the sex ratio but this return might be the smallest return since the 1980s.
This is the second consecutive year that Hidden Falls has performed poorly while Deep Inlet using the same Hidden Falls stock is performing well. This lends further credence to the theory that Hidden Falls has greater predation than what exists at Deep Inlet. Humpback whales are certainly part of the predator complex but Pollock might be contributing to the high mortality as well.
The jury is still out on whether the 4.0 gram program will get the fry past the whales and Pollock. We have our first four year olds from the 4.0 program at Takatz and Kasnyku this year. Results will not be known until after the eggtakes at Hidden Falls in mid August. If we find the 4.0 program doesn’t produce results we will be in crisis mode. Alternatives such as new release sites and/or a new broodstock development site will need to be considered and analysed.
Southeast Cove will have the first 3 year olds returning in 2015. These adults were raised to 4.0 grams as fry so we are putting a lot of stock in the outcome this summer and next. Department of Commerce owns the Gunnuk Creek portion of the return, while adults with our (NSRAA) mark sold for cost recovery (Trident) will flow to NSRAA coffers.