The largest Fraser River freshet in 40 years could negatively impact already dismal forecasts of sockeye salmon this season.
Sockeye spawn in four-year cycles and 2012 is the lowest return year of the cycle since 1956, according to the Fraser River Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission.
The panel has forecast approximately two million sockeye returning this year, a particularly low number because the 2008 brood of female spawners was the least successful since 1968.
A commercial fishery on the Fraser is unlikely this year, although there may be an aboriginal fishery, according to fishery managers.
The panel met Tuesday to receive the latest in its regular updates on sockeye migration and found the high flows in the Fraser, while dropping, "are still at levels that will have a negative effect on the upstream migration of sockeye."
As usual, the level of uncertainty in the panel's estimates is large.
"To put the sockeye run size forecast uncertainty into context, there is a one in four chance that the actual number of returning sockeye will be at or below 1,203,000 fish and there is a three in four chance that the actual number of returning sockeye will be at or below 3,763,000 fish," the panel said in a press release.
The bottom end of that estimate would be lower than the 1.5 million fish that returned in 2009, which led to the federal government's call for an inquiry into the decline of Fraser River sockeye. The Cohen Commission is due to release its final report by Sept. 30.
The best-case scenario could allow for a small Canadian commercial fishery on the Fraser of about 500,000 fish.
The panel said this week "additional management actions" may also be taken by the federal government to help protect the threatened Cultus Lake sockeye.