Salmon runs produce highs and lows on Vancouver Island this year

Salmon runs produce highs and lows on Vancouver Island this year

Chinook salmon did particularly well on the Island this year

With fall salmon runs coming to an 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 roughly 20,000 chinook salmon returned to Cowichan River during the fall run. This is much higher than the four-year average of just 12,000.

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.”

Pellett 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 and the Island’s coho salmon are also doing well.

Pellett said historically, 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 during 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, and 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, pointing out one thing to consider with chum 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.

Pellett 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

BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)
All unhoused Victoria residents will be offered shelter by March 31, says BC Housing

BC Housing working to secure shelter locations in coming weeks

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

Cathy Armstrong, executive director of the Land Conservancy, Paul Nursey CEO of Destination Greater Victoria and Saanich Coun. Susan Brice helped to kick off the annual Greater Victoria Flower Count at Abkhazi Garden Monday. This year, the flower count is less about rubbing the region’s weather in the rest of Canada’ faces, and more about extending a bouquet of compassion and love. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
2021 Greater Victoria Flower Count sows seeds of compassion

Friendly flower count competition runs from March 3 to 10

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

Most Read