Gillnetters on the Fraser River haul in sockeye salmon last summer. Fewer salmon are projected to return this year and there are growing fears that poor river conditions will hammer the survival rate of the ones that do. 

Fewer salmon to return this year

Warm ocean conditions are affecting returning salmon across the province.

Each spring, approximately 300 million juvenile salmon make their way from every lake, river and stream in the Skeena watershed to the saltwater refuge of the Skeena estuary. These young salmon will become the adult salmon that return to the Skeena watershed during summer and fall.

These returning salmon are now under threat due to unusual warm weather and ocean conditions.

“The little fish, the juvenile salmon coming out of the rivers this spring of 2015, have come into an environment that is very different than what they’ve normally evolved to,” explained ocean scientist Ian Perry. “They’ve come into an environment with poor fish food and a lot more predators.”

“We anticipate this is going to affect their survival, their growth and we are expecting there to be fewer numbers of them coming back in the next one to three years,” he said.

The warm conditions started in the fall of 2013, way out in the middle of the northeast Pacific Ocean. These conditions caused changes in the marine ecosystem. They changed the distribution and migration of fish, including salmon in the high seas and they changed the food web that these fish feed on.

“When we have warm conditions as we have seen, we get the kind of food web that normally exists off California,” said Perry. “These tend to be much smaller animals; they’re very poor in fat and they’re not very good food for fish.”

“At the same time as we have a poorer food web, we tend to have a lot more predatory fish come up from the south,” he added.

According to Jeff Grout, Regional Salmon Resource Manager, it is still early to predict the extent of the impact these conditions will have on the salmon making their way back up the Skeena watershed.

“We’re very early in the migration there,” he said. “The returns are tracking fairly low at this point, probably less than a million but it’s still early up in the Skeena.”

“We have not made any plans for commercial fisheries at this point [at the Skeena watershed] and we’re still actively monitoring the situation there,” he added.

Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam said he has concerns over the returning salmon in the area.

“We were to get a good run but the numbers from the test fisheries area do not look promising,” he said. “I can’t say the amount that is estimated definitely, but what is shown is low.”

“I hope it will pick up, if not, it will not be good for our food fish this year,” he said.

Grout said the salmon population is being monitored across the province, and that fisheries will be planned accordingly.

“We will be looking to plan fisheries for First Nations, commercial and recreational harvesters in a sustainable manner that allows us to meet our conservation objectives for the population,” he said. “Fishery officers are going to be conducting an enhanced program of compliance to be out on the water doing patrols during the day and at night to detect violations, remove any illegal fishing gear in the water and deter any poaching activity.”

Grout said it is unknown how long these warm conditions will last.

“The expectation from the U.S. National and Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is that these warm conditions are going to continue at least until October 2015,” he said. “Environment Canada has forecast a 90 per cent chance of temperatures above normal through the summer and a greater than 40 per cent chance of below normal precipitation.”



Just Posted

Broken axle caused New Hazelton train derailment: TSB

It could happen again without a different way to inspect trains

Cullen remains uncertain about political future

Says he’ll make decision in early March

Terrace resident’s bill banning single-use plastics introduced in Ottawa

MP Nathan Cullen’s presented Ben Korving’s private member’s bill Wednesday

New SD54 superintendent named

Assistant superintendent Michael McDiarmid promoted to fill vacancy of outgoing Chris van der Mark.

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

Most Read