At least three Atlantic salmon showed up last weekend in Aboriginal nets along the Fraser River —including one near Chilliwack.
It’s setting off alarms because it’s exceedingly rare, said Cheam Chief Ernie Crey, a director with the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Fisheries Society (FVAFS).
The Atlantic salmon were noted by catch monitors at: Shxwhá:y Village in Chilliwack, Yale First Nation, and Katzie First Nation, near Pitt Meadows.
“We count and monitor and certify the Aboriginal catch, and turn that data over to DFO.
“Recently we found out that three Atlantic salmon had been reported,” said Crey, talking about the work of the FVAFS.
How rare is it? The last time he remembers was in the late 1990s.
These rogue fish could be from the large escapement of farmed Atlantic reported last month, from a breached fish farm owned by Cooke Aquaculture in Washington State. DFO has had dozens of reports in recent weeks from various parts of the province.
“They are obviously roaming,” Crey said.
It that doesn’t mean there are not many more, if that’s the case. Thousands escaped and it was blamed on high tides causing a structural break.
“It worries us although we don’t know if the worry is with foundation. And whether it will result in harmful effects on migrating salmon, I don’t know,” Chief Crey said. “To us they are an unknown entity.”
DFO is asking anyone who catches a farmed salmon to report it to the Atlantic Salmon Watch program at 1-800-811-6010. One distinguishing feature is black spots on the gill cover.
B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said after the spill it wasn’t immediately clear what impact the release could possibly have, but that the government was committed to looking at the possibility of land-based containment of aquaculture pens.
The Progress contacted Fisheries and Ocean Canada to get an idea of how many Atlantic salmon had been reported in the Fraser system after these certified catches connected with Aboriginal fisheries, but no answer was available in a timely fashion. Instead a media teleconference was set for Friday with DFO’s Atlantic Salmon Watch official, so stay tuned at www.theprogress.com for updates.