Drought Conditions Could Have Impact on Salmon Population

Coho salmon

Low stream flows and drought conditions could affect the salmon run at Goldstream Provincial Park this fall.

West Vancouver Island is at Drought Level 5, the highest level. While Eastern Vancouver Island, which includes Victoria and the Goldstream area, is at the next highest - Drought Level 4. The Goldsream hatchery tells CFAX 1070 without significant rainfall in the next couple of weeks there could be cause for concern. 

“If this persists, this will be serious for the fish in the local area. I’m concerned but I am not about to press the panic button just yet. But certainly there are concerns this will be hard on the fish.” said Peter McCully a technical advisor for the Goldstream hatchery.

Chinook salmon are entering the stream now, Coho and Chum are expected the third week of October.

“We may have to step in and approach the capital regional district and say could you release a pulse of water that will encourage some of these fish to come further up the river where they can be safe in some of the deep pools?” said Peter McCully, a technical advisor for the Goldstream hatchery. “And also we can trap some of them and bring them further upstream and bring them to the hatchery.”

McCully says low river flows aren’t the only challenge once salmon enter the stream. They'll also be met with warmer water which contains less oxygen, something that could leave fish competing for air if large amounts of fish arrive at the same time.

Further Up Island Officials Already Taking Action

On Tuesday the department of Fishers and Oceans (DFO) told CFAX 1070 that with no significant rainfall in the forecast, they have started the process to increase river flows in the Maggie River in the Barkley Sound near Uclulet. That’s in one of the areas under Drought Level 5 conditions.

DFO along with Toquaht First Nation, Thornton Creek Hatchery and Redd Fish Restoration Society are attempting to consolidate flow to enable better water conditions for fish passage in a ladder around the falls.

“The idea is to consolidate the flow, send the majority of the water down the fish ladder, which should also improve some of the oxygen and the ability for fish to move upwards. Right now there’s just not enough water for fish to move and they are being trapped below the falls and then they are more susceptible to predation as well,” said Erica Blake, Community Involvement Coordinator for the Pacific Region of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Blake says this is an interim solution and additional assessments will be looked at for a long term strategy.

The consequences of continued drought could include pre-spawn mortality, and poor reproduction, which could affect the population for generations of salmon.

Not Just an Island Issue

Last week tens of thousands of dead salmon were found lying at the bottom of a dry creek in Bella Bella, B.C.

William Housty, conservation manager with the Heiltsuk Nation, told CTV News Vancouver the sight's "unheard of."

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