VANCOUVER – The prized Fraser River sockeye-salmon fishing season is opening along southwestern British Columbia for what could be a banner year.

Federal Fisheries spokeswoman Jennifer Nener says the food and ceremonial fishery for First Nations opened last week on the south coast and the lower Fraser and more opportunities will open up river as conservation concerns are satisfied for the early Stuart run.

Nener says the recreational fishery opened Friday on those same marine waters, will open Sunday on the Fraser’s tidal waters, and roll out next week farther up the river.

A 38-hour commercial fishery will also open Saturday in Johnstone Strait off Vancouver Island’s northeast coast.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has forecast a summer return ranging from a low of 7.3 million to a high of 72.5 million, with a midpoint estimate of about 23 million.

Fraser River Panel co-chair Les Jantz says the median forecast for the Stuart run was almost 300,000 but that has been amended to 240,000, and the fish are returning about five days later than average.