June heat dome responsible for deaths of more than 100 Nanaimo River Chinook salmon

June heat dome responsible for deaths of more than 100 Nanaimo River Chinook salmon
WatchNerves are running high on the Nanaimo River this fall as people watch to see how many salmon return to spawn. It comes after June's heat dome killed off many of the early Sockeye salmon run. Skye Ryan has more.

A lone Snuneymuxw fisherman checked his net Tuesday, hoping to catch salmon returning to spawn on the Nanaimo River.

But fewer salmon may return this fall since the record-breaking June heatwave, which has proved deadly to Chinook salmon in the Nanaimo River.

“It’s the biggest die-off I’ve seen and the river got up to 25 degrees so salmon can’t handle that time of year especially with the low flows,” he told CHEK News.

The June heatwave baked southern British Columbia in 40-degree heat for days on end and had emergency workers racing to keep up with calls for people in trouble.

At the same time, the early run of the Nanaimo’s endangered Sockeye salmon run had just returned to the river to spawn and many never made it.

According to Nanaimo River Hatchery manager Brian Banks, more than 100 of the 800 endangered Chinook expected to return were found dead.

“The sockeye is endangered so we’re doing our best to keep up with that heatwave, but we saw upwards of 100 die off with that heatwave,” said Banks.

Hatchery staff will try to help nature recover this fall, by collecting the eggs of salmon that do return and workers on Tuesday caught their first fall-run Chinook male to improve the chances of spawning salmon in the river.

Banks said promising numbers of pinks, chinook and coho have started running.

Though it’s expected to be years before the true impact of June’s heatwave on B.C. salmon is fully known.

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Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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