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A sockeye salmon is caught in a commercial fishing boat's net on the mouth of the Fraser River in Richmond, B.C., on Wednesday August 25, 2010. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has opened a 32-hour sockeye run on the Fraser River.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

A Fisheries and Oceans spokesman says the population of Fraser River sockeye salmon, which had previously dwindled to numbers so alarming they prompted a federal inquiry, is showing signs of improvement.

About 1.4 million to 1.6 million sockeye out of an estimated run of 10 million returned to the river in 2009, leading the federal government to call an inquiry led by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen.

Jeff Grout, a regional Fisheries manager, says the offspring from the 2009 run are now making their own way back up the Fraser and the department estimates those numbers could hit four million.

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That is still below the department's estimate of 4.7 million.

Les Jantz, who is the co-chair of the department's Fraser River panel, says the mortality rate of returning sockeye is expected to hit 70 per cent.

The department says the sockeye fishery will remain closed to all fishing on the river this year, but First Nations will still have the opportunity to fish for chinook on the lower Fraser.

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