Salmon runs produce highs and lows on Vancouver Island this year

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada releases information bulletin

With fall salmon runs coming to and end, recent numbers show certain pockets of Vancouver Island have experienced at or above average returns of chinook, coho and chum.

According to a salmon bulletin posted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada from Nov. 30, the salmon runs have done fairly well, especially on southern parts of Vancouver Island.

The DFO estimated that about 20,000 chinook salmon returned to Cowichan River during the fall run. This is much higher than the four-year average of about 12,000 chinook.

Kevin Pellett of the DFO said this could have to do with the fact that a significant portion of the chinook population in Cowichan River is wild.

“Cowichan has been a bright light in terms of chinook numbers the last couple years,” Pellett said. “We’ve been seeing above average returns since about 2015 or so.”

He said a lot of other systems on the Island are hatchery dominated but most of them are still bringing in about average returns.

READ MORE: Half of Canada’s chinook salmon populations in decline: scientists

The wild chinook, according to Pellett, are better adapted to the changing ecosystems which could be why they are doing much better.

The coho salmon on the Island are also doing well, he said. Pellett said in the 1980s, female coho went out in the spring and stayed in the Strait of Georgia. In the 1990s they disappeared, but it seems they have come back in the past couple of years.

Many sport fishers in the area were calling in reports of female coho the winter months this year, and Pellett said “it was entirely unexpected.”

Coho returns were also at or above average this year, with places like Big Qualicum River seeing counts of about 9,980 coho.

Pellett said another hypothesis as to why coho have been doing well has to do with the transient killer whale population in the Strait of Georgia. He said there have been more transient killer whales in the strait that have been present for more days. The whales eat marine mammals such as sea lions and seals and those mammals tend to feed on juvenile coho and chinook.

“[The whales] change the behaviour of harbour seals,” Pellett said. “If [the seals] are staying closer to shore than the salmon might have a better chance of surviving.”

As for chum salmon, areas such as Goldstream, Nanaimo and Cowichan River have also seen average or above average returns.

Pellett said the most recent count showed about 50,000 chum salmon in Goldstream River.

READ MORE: Salmon attracting people and birds to Goldstream Provincial Park

However, just to the north in areas like Big Qualicum and Little Qualicum River, returns have been significantly less.

In Big Qualicum River, the estimated count as of Nov. 30 was 11,166 chum. This is in comparison to a four year average count of 90,595.

Little Qualicum River saw an estimated count of 8,679 with the four year average being 69,316.

“Everybody wants to know why,” Pellett said.

With chum, one thing to consider is that they follow four-year patterns of abundance. Four years ago, a warm water pocket in the North Pacific drew several chum out there which “likely didn’t do them any favours,” according to Pellett.

However, in 2015, a cold water pocket was around South Vancouver Island where southern chum stocks could have had better chances of survival. But Pellett notes these are just theories. He also said it is important to remember that salmon stocks always fluctuate. So while some areas are seeing significantly high returns, it may not stay this way for long.

“We see fluctuations between high and low abundance over decades,” Pellett said. “Whatever goes up, must come down.”

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP visits Wet’suwet’en camps, calls for Coastal GasLink pipeline to be ‘revisited’

Paul Manly met with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and the RCMP to talk about the ongoing situation

Lantzville taps into new water connection policy

Newly adopted policy gives staff increased authority over issuing new water connections

City of Nanaimo announces 10 new pieces of temporary outdoor public art

Sculptures will be installed at Maffeo Sutton Park and McGregor Park in May

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Memorial desecrated by heartless people

I hope whoever caused so much hurt will think twice about what they have done, says letter writer

Nanaimo hospital’s new 5,000-kilogram MRI magnet delivered

$1.97-million magnet will boost NRGH medical imaging capabilities

Anti-pipeline protests in support of Wet’suwet’en continue at B.C. government buildings

‘We are unarmed, they have guns,’ protesters chanted on Wednesday morning

Theo the 800-pound pig trimmed down and still looking for love on Vancouver Island

“He’s doing really well, lost quite a few pounds and can run now.”

Horgan unveils B.C. cabinet shuffle changes

Premier John Horgan has made three major changes to his cabinet

Advocates call hospital parking fees a ‘shakedown’ after learning most Island tickets are waived

Victoria General and Royal Jubilee hospitals among the most ticketed on the Island

Dog reunited with Tofino owner, months after being taken from beach

Shannon Boothman ‘ecstatic’ at pet’s return after a tip leads to social media search

B.C.’s first ride-hailing app to launch in Tofino, Whistler in February

The Whistle! app will be available in Tofino on Feb.1 and in Whistler Feb. 6.

Councillor resigns in Revelstoke after colleagues approved 67% raise

Council approved a 134 per cent raise for the mayor of Revelstoke

Rolled-over dairy truck in Abbotsford lost 40,000 litres of milk

Truck removed Sunday, Jan. 19, with specialized equipment to upright vehicle

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

Most Read