A mystery is developing on the West Coast as the huge Chinook salmon returns expected to flood inlets and rivers this summer are failing to show up.
Fisheries and Oceans have just dropped forecasted returns to half of what was expected in the Alberni Valley and only 1/3 of all the expected salmon that was forecast for Barclay Sound.
Returning fishermen carrying coolers packed heavy with Chinook salmon are a sight for sore eyes at Port Alberni’s Clutesi Haven marina. Because its such a rare thing around the west coast this summer.
“We don’t know exactly what’s happening but everywhere up and down the coast the runs are downsized,” says Paul Dore of the Alberni Sportfishing Advisory Council.
Alberta Rancher Dale Keats’ proved one of the lucky ones Sunday.
“It was awesome. Yeah I’ve never caught a fish this big in my life so great experience,” says Keats.
120,000 salmon were forecast. The biggest return in decades and that would be big business in this fishing town.
“For us if it’s a large run and fishing’s good it impacts us everywhere. You know the commercial fishery guys come in, the first nation fishery does good, the money’s all spent in town,” says Rob Cole of the Port Alberni Salmon Festival.
But low returns led officials with Fisheries & Ocean to drop that number by half last Thursday and sports fishermen Paul Dore says no one is certain what’s behind it.
“We were hoping that the run was just slow that they were just late coming. But then of course they hit the other parts first and when they hit Nootka that they were downsizing to a third of their run size then we were going oh my this isn’t good. Then our fish weren’t showing up either we weren’t getting a lot of fish and we were thinking okay then the biologists got involved and said you know what it doesn’t look good. The numbers up the whole coast aren’t good and you’re part of it,” says Paul Dore.
Biologists are now looking at possible causes.
“They’re saying it could be problems off shore it could be something that happened two years ago or a year ago,” says Dore.
But the clock is ticking for organizers of next weekend’s Alberni Salmon Festival and Derby, the big celebration of the fishing season here. Hoping the 60,000 Chinook salmon now forecasted isn’t downgraded again, and that this change in weather brings the fish soon.
“The change in weather moves everything around,” says Rob Cole.
After a forecast that’s left fishermen wanting and waiting for the prized Chinook that are so far few and far between.