Unusually skimpy snowpack levels now may mean trouble later in the summer for sockeye salmon that depend on adequate river flows to migrate.

Unusually skimpy snowpack levels now may mean trouble later in the summer for sockeye salmon that depend on adequate river flows to migrate.

Low snowpack in southwest B.C. ‘scary’ for salmon

Lower Fraser has 28 per cent normal snow, creating risk of low river flows and warm temperatures for sockeye this summer

The snowpack in southwestern B.C.’s mountains has been pushed further into record low territory by continued warm and dry weather.

The Lower Fraser watershed is now at 28 per cent of its normal snowpack for this time of year, down from 45 per cent a month ago.

And it’s even lower just to the west at 21 per cent on Vancouver Island and just 15 per cent in the South Coast region, which includes Squamish and Whistler.

B.C.’s River Forecast Centre called the readings “extremely low” in its latest snow level bulletin posted March 9. Most test sites in the three regions are at lows never before seen.

It’s impossible to guarantee there will be no spring flooding on the Lower Fraser – there are still close to normal snowpacks in the mid and upper sections of the watershed and a fast melt of what’s left can’t be ruled out.

But River Forecast Centre officials say there’s a below normal risk of seasonal flooding because the watershed as a whole is 84 per cent of normal, one of the lowest years on record.

They predict low flow conditions on rivers will come earlier and be more severe unless there’s significant rainfall this spring and summer.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society executive director Aaron Hill said that could mean trouble for returning sockeye salmon that may encounter dangerously warm river temperatures and low water levels that impede their migration.

“It’s definitely a scary situation for salmon this year,” Hill said. “Especially those stocks – like Fraser sockeye – that have long migrations to make later on in the summer, when the water gets low and it really heats up.”

Warm water temperatures stress salmon and can also make them more susceptible to disease.

Nor is the snowpack the only adverse environmental factor for salmon.

The same El Niño weather pattern responsible for the mild winter has also warmed ocean temperatures. Hill said that’s brought certain salmon predators, such as mackerel, further north than usual.

“If we end up having a hot summer that warms up those rivers then it’s a triple whammy,” Hill said. “We need to cross our fingers and hope for cool weather this summer and some rain.”

Environment Canada is forecasting a high likelihood of above-normal temperatures from March through May.

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

Just Posted

Bill Almond’s observatory in its new home on a Saanich lakeside. (Submitted/Cameron Burton)
Colwood stargazing dome makes a move to Saanich

The backyard structure finds a new home after 30 years

Chris Grzywacz, development agent for cannabis supplier Seed and Stone’s, holds products from the new Songhees Cannabis S + S store on April 20. (Jake Romphf/ News Staff)
First cannabis store opens on Songhees Nation, creates economic opportunity says chief

The Songhees Cannabis S + S had a soft launch at its 1502 Admirals Road location on April 20

A convicted sex offender, whose crimes included offences against children, was arrested at Gonzales Beach after the man was spotted by an off-duty officer. (Black Press Media file photo)
Convicted sex offender arrested at Gonzales Beach

After committing crimes involving children, offender barred from public beaches, being in proximity to kids

VicPD asks anyone who sees Daniel Shumka, or with information on his whereabouts to call 250-995-7654 or report anonymously through Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. (Courtesy VicPD)
Victoria police seek man wanted on drug trafficking charges

Daniel Shumka, 50, is 6’1” and about 195 pounds with short brown hair and brown eyes

Victoria police arrested three men following a double stabbing April 19. The two victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Three arrested after double stabbing in Victoria

Two people sent to hospital after being stabbed, hit with bear spray

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read