Column: Lower water making for a tough summer for salmon

Federal fisheries were warning about record ocean and river temperatures and lower water levels giving a double whammy to B.C. salmon.

Just about everyone knew this was coming. With the Chilliwack River recording flows at 32 per cent of the median flow, well below the recorded minimum flow of the river for this time of year, and many other rivers at or below minimum flows, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has closed fishing for salmon along the Fraser River in sub-areas 29-6, 29-7, 29-9, and 29-10 and the tidal waters of the Fraser.

Those sub-areas are also known as the banana. The tidal waters are those waters from the mouth of the Fraser to the downstream edge of the CPR Bridge at Mission.

FOC stated that current run size estimates of Fraser River summer run sockeye salmon combined with record water temperatures have resulted in no allowable harvest and a conservation concern.

“We are definitely in favour of the closure if conservation is the concern,” said Gary Wardroper, owner of Chilliwack Dart and Tackle. “They are saying it’s about the stocks of concern and we are all about that in the store.”

By and large, customers are right behind him. While some might question if there’s a hidden agenda, Wardroper said that there is no hidden agenda on this issue. “It’s truly about the fish. The fish stocks are very low. We need to see all of the sockeye get to the spawning beds so that they will come back in three or four years. It’s an investment in the future.”

A month ago, federal fisheries were warning about record ocean and river temperatures and lower water levels giving a double whammy to B.C. salmon. For young salmon that have swum out to sea, they are dealing with not only the warm waters killing off some of their food but a rise in predators. The conditions could result in weak, undersize fish that might not survive a return migration. Chances are that there could well be lower numbers of salmon returning to spawning beds in the future.

The warm river waters are also deadly hazards. The salmon’s swimming performance is affected when water temperatures reach 18 degrees C. A weakened immune system leaves them open for disease. With each increasing degree, conditions get dire. In past hot summers, as many as 40 to 70 per cent of returning salmon died before they were able to spawn.

But all is not yet lost for fishing opportunities.

“We’re going to be fishing on the Fraser at the end of the month,” said Wardroper. “That will be for pink, chum, and spring salmon. By then, the sockeye will have already passed through and there will be no impact on them.”

He said that usually late sockeye runs are a little more abundant. With the pinks in the system there will be little impact on the sockeye and the pinks tend to push the sockeye further out than where people can target them.

“The pink salmon notoriously come closer in,” he explained. “They are a lazy fish and they choose the easiest water and push all the sockeye fish out into the middle of the river. We’re expecting between 10 and 20 million pinks coming back.”

Even so, with this hot and excessively dry year, many are wondering what is ahead. Wardroper, who has been in business for 26 years, said he has never seen the Chilliwack River this low.

Will the Blob in the North Pacific Ocean, where surface temperatures are three degrees Celsius warmer than normal, work with the coming El Nino to push us through another warm, snow-free winter?

Will that lead to another spring with little meltwater to feed the streams and rivers? If so, where will the salmon go to pass on their genes?

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

Just Posted

PJHL delays start of season as teams struggle to secure facilities

The junior B hockey league was hoping to start Sept. 29 but is now targeting mid-October

Missing Chilliwack woman last seen on Wednesday

Friends and family concerned for Joy-Lynn Leon, 42, who was last seen Sept. 23 on Mary Street

VIDEO: Mounties looking to catch Chilliwack bike-riding teen groper

Man caught on video slapping the backside of girl near CSS riding a bicycle

Abbotsford has a COVID-19 rate 10 times higher than Chilliwack

Abbotsford has been much harder hit by COVID-19 than its neighbour to the east

Chilliwack illusionist Chris Funk brings live magic, music to Cultural Centre

‘You’ll see some creations that have made appearances on some of the largest television shows in the world’

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

VIDEO: COVID won’t dampen Lower Mainland woman’s Halloween spirit

Langley’s Tanya Reid posted video offering suggestions of how trick-or-treating might look for her

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Father hopes journey to aviation-safety program inspires hope

Former South Surrey resident Greg Sewell hasn’t given up on quest to mandate older-plane retrofits

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Most Read