WATCH: The great wait has begun across Vancouver Island, as the salmon runs that are the backbone of this coast start. Bridges are now lined with fishermen peering down, spears in hand for food that will last them through the winter, but returns so far have raised some concern.
On the endangered Cowichan River, a salmon counting fence is up. A few fish have appeared and on the Nanaimo River, commercial fisherman Greg Charles says the number of returning salmon are far lower in this region than he's used to.
"No there should be thousands in here," said Charles. "Thousands, it's not a very good year."
It comes on the heels of back-to-back years of drought, combined with a long hot summer that is lowering water levels and increasing the water's temperature. So these are tense times as salmon return and experts studying the streams and rivers of Vancouver Island wait to see what materializes for the fish.
"A few of the really small creeks, in particular, you see that the gravel is high and dry and hat's the places where the salmon may have spawned and left their eggs right so that's a bad situation," said Vancouver Island University Fisheries and Aquaculture Technician Dan Fox. "And not to mention the habitat that's left for the small salmon fry so when there's only a few little pools for them to find refuge and find feed, the water is warming, more competition among the fry," said Fox.
Sunday, on World Rivers Day, experts working to protect Nanaimo's rivers and streams shared their efforts with the community, to encourage conservation and awareness about the real challenges facing our waterways.
"It's also really important for fish habitat and then if you think further up for agricultural purposes as well," said Regional District of Nanaimo Water Expert Julie Pisani. "For rural water for the folks getting groundwater within the Millstone River valley," she added.
With only brief periods of rain in the forecast then another stretch of sun on the way, salmon returning to spawn on our coast will likely encounter more dry conditions in the week to come.