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

Houston senior brings home gold medal

Golfer Andy Grobins wins gold at the 55+ BC Games

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Smithers couple wins $1 million

Smithers resident Brenda Graf went to Safeway to pick up some groceries… Continue reading

Houston aims to improve emergency response

The district only has two emergency support services personnel

Smithers guide attacked by grizzly bear

The incident was deemed a “defensive attack” by conservation officers

B.C. NDP retreats again on empty-home tax for urban areas

Rate reduced for all Canadians, dissident mayors to get annual meeting

Jets score 3 late goals to beat Canucks 4-1

Winnipeg ends three-game Vancouver win streak

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

Earthquake early-warning sensors installed off coast of B.C.

The first-of-its kind warning sensors are developed by Ocean Networks Canada

VPD ordered to co-operate with B.C. police watchdog probe

According to the IIO, a court is ordering Vancouver police to co-operate with an investigation into a fatal shooting

B.C. woman looks to reduce stigma surrounding weed-smoking moms

Shannon Chiarenza, a Vancouver mom of two, started weedmama.ca to act as a guide for newcomers to legal cannabis, specifically mothers

B.C. teen gives away tickets to Ellen Degeneres show, plans O Canada welcome

The Grade 9 student wanted to give away tickets in the spirit of inclusivity

Most Read