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

Bachrach nominated by NDP for federal election

The Smithers mayor won on the first ballot with 446 of 797 votes

Giesbrecht found guilty of second-degree murder

Murder is only rational conclusion from evidence, Judge says

Fire ban back in effect for Northwest Fire Centre region

Starting May 24, both Category 2 and Category 3 prohibitions will be in place

Convicted animal abuser Catherine Adams to return to B.C. court in July

Catherine Adams is under a 20-year ban on owning animals, from a 2015 sentence in Smithers

Good job boys

Oakley (L) and Storm sold lemonade in Houston to raise money to… Continue reading

REPLAY: The best videos from across B.C. this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week in the province

Social media giants in hot seat as politicians consider regulations in Ottawa

Committee members will also grill representatives from Facebook, Twitter

Police say it’s “impressive” no arrests were made after Raptors celebrations

Toronto will play the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors next

Wildfire crews watching for dangerous wind shift in High Level, Alta.

The Chuckegg Creek fire is raging out of control about three kilometres southwest of the town

UN urges Canada to take more vulnerable Mexican migrants from Central America

The request comes as the United States takes a harder line on its Mexican border

Mistrial declared in Jamie Bacon murder plot trial

Bacon was on trial for counselling to commit the murder of Person X

B.C. VIEWS: Money-laundering melodrama made for TV

Public inquiry staged to point fingers before 2021 election

Canadian homebuyers escaping high housing costs by moving to secondary cities

In British Columbia, exurbs have grown in the Hope Valley and Kamloops

Most Read