It’s shaping up to be another poor year for salmon returns at the Chapman Creek Fish Hatchery, according to hatchery manager Dave Burnett.
“So far it’s the worst pink salmon return we’ve seen in recent memory,” said Burnett. And Fisheries Canada bulletins paint a picture of low salmon productivity right across the south coast of BC.
In 2015, when the Sunshine Coast experienced a severe summer drought, the Chapman Creek run dropped by 90 per cent. Last year’s run was down about 60 per cent from expected returns, so the hatchery raised fewer salmon than usual because they were unable to get enough eggs.
The one piece of good news, says Burnett, is that water temperatures this year have not been as severe as in 2015. Salmon can’t survive in the creek if the water gets too warm; 24C is lethal. This year water temperatures topped out at 18 or 19 degrees.
Low water levels in Chapman Creek are a challenge, and Burnett is also frustrated by poaching, which he describes as “rampant.”
“The water is too low, so people are snagging the fish,” he said. He urges anyone seeing illegal fishing to report it to the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network.
A Sept. 28 report in the Globe and Mail said that Fraser River sockeye returns are down, with only 1.5 million salmon of the predicted 4.4 million fish returned so far.
And the Watershed Watch Salmon Society reports that 2017 is proving to be a “difficult” year for wild salmon. They cite warm ocean temperatures and competition for food with a record number of salmon released from hatcheries in Alaska, Russia, and Japan.
The local run continues until the end of October.