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

Just Posted

VicPd are asking for the public’s help in finding Camper, a lost pit bull who ran away after their owner’s van was reportedly attacked by a man with a hammer on June 12. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Edmonton man reportedly smashes van’s windows with hammer while woman and her dog inside

VicPD are asking for help to find Camper, the woman’s dog who ran away during the Friday incident

Red arrow shows the existing warehouse that is home to a variety of specialized equipment used by the Capital Region Emergency Services Telecommunications (CREST). The service provider is looking for a new home that will protect the equipment in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster. (Google Maps)
CREST telecoms look to find a post-seismic facility in Greater Victoria

The move will better protect equipment vital to its 50 emergency service clients across the CRD

(Black Press Media file photo)
FRESH AND LOCAL: Greater Victoria farm markets ready to greet shoppers

A list of markets on the go this spring and summer, right into fall

A client and a staff member embark on an art project at Oak Bay United Church. (Christine van Reewyk/News Staff)
VIDEO: Oak Bay group of adults with developmental disabilities promotes community inclusivity

Victoria Community Connections moved to Oak Bay late last year

Graeme Wright is the owner of Hullabaloo, a new ice cream and coffee food truck serving patrons at the Red Barn on West Saanich. (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff).
VIDEO: Cool treats, warm bevvies a specialty for new Saanich food truck

Hullabaloo owner Graeme Wright passionate about blending green space with sustainability

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Condolences pour in for Kathy Richardson, Naramata’s 3rd homicide victim in recent weeks

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Most Read