Heavy rainfall brings good start to Goldstream River salmon run, volunteers say

Heavy rainfall brings good start to Goldstream River salmon run, volunteers say
Courtesy Goldstream Hatchery
An underwater camera shows salmon at the Goldstream Hatchery fish fence Oct. 29, 2022.

The recent rain provided by a pair of atmospheric rivers might not be welcome news for many Vancouver Islanders, but it is being embraced by soon-to-be-spawning salmon on the South Island.

Chum and Coho salmon are quickly starting to appear in Goldstream River after biding their time in the Saanich Inlet through the recent drought, according to the group that monitors the hatchery.

It’s a positive sign for this year’s run following the record-setting drought that saw other creek beds dry up, resulting in mass die-offs.

“Seeing how Mother Nature is changing, moving quicker, we’re seeing ups and downs, spikes in rain to high and lows of drys,” said Joscilyn Jupp, a volunteer with Goldstream Hatchery.

“But within the three years I’ve been here to see how these fish are adapting, and we are seeing fish adapting to warmer waters to coming up at different times, and I think that’s what we’re witnessing this year is the fish had to hold off due to this drought but what we are noticing is the numbers are coming in quicker and higher right now.”

Courtesy: Goldstream Hatchery

Also assisting the efforts of volunteers is the Capital Regional District, which has been lowering its Goldstream reservoir dams to pump roughly eight million gallons of water per day into the river, encouraging salmon to enter the river and lay their eggs.

Early indications are that the chum run, which Goldstream is renowned for, might be closer to its usual numbers of 20 to 25,000 salmon this year after a disappointing 2021 season saw only about 4,000 return due to extreme flooding.

“So we’re in a much better position this week than we were last,” Goldstream Hatchery technical advisory Peter McCully told CHEK News. “It’s still early in the season, and things may turn around but it’s encouraging, the numbers that we’re seeing.”

While last year’s issue was flooding, this effects of this year’s severe drought that dried up creeks and river beds leading to mass salmon die-offs in other parts of the province remain to be seen, said McCully.

“For me, being involved in this for so long, it’s heartbreaking. And anytime I see loads of die-off from conditions that that seem pretty abnormal, it’s heartbreaking,” he said.

“And you know, I lament, in the long term, the future of salmon. They’re a marvelously resilient creature and can adapt to these sort of changing climate conditions but there’s only so much that they can adapt to.”

Hatchery volunteers will return to do another count Tuesday, after the second atmospheric river has passed over the region bringing more precipitation, and perhaps another lifeline, however small, to Goldstream River’s salmon.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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