The appearance of pink salmon on the Central Coast encourages First Nations

Pink salmon runs have been decimated on the West Coast, so the appearance of a few thousand in Bond Sound on BC’s central coast this summer has been a bright spot for local First Nations.


Aboriginal elders on British Columbia’s central coast are seeing pink salmon return to the rivers that flow into the Broughton Archipelago in the Inside Passage in numbers they haven’t seen in decades, says Bob Chamberlin of the Wild Salmon Alliance of the First Nations.

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The alliance was among conservation groups that campaigned for salmon farms to be removed from migratory routes through that group of islands, and Chamberlin attributes the return of the fish to early removals.

Two years ago, about 200 fish were released back into the Ahta River in Bond Sound, Chamberlin said.

Since then, the first two of seven Atlantic salmon farms in the path of pink salmon fingerlings, which flow into the ocean with the tide, have been removed under an agreement between the province, three First Nations and companies. of cultivation.

“So (after) removing those two, lo and behold, two years later, we have, I’m told, a few thousand” pink salmon returning to the Ahta River, he said.

As commercial fishermen eagerly await news of Fraser River sockeye salmon test fisheries, which they hope will offer bountiful opportunities, hereditary chiefs Chamberlin has spoken with are pleased to see fewer pink salmon leaping from the waters. near the coast in places where they have not. Haven’t seen each other for years.

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Others see it as too soon to draw a correlation between the return of salmon and their departure from farms, but it is a positive sign for pink salmon populations that have been decimated by overfishing, poor environmental conditions, including the impacts of salmon farms.

Pink salmon, the smallest of the six species of Pacific salmon, spawn on a two-year cycle, with fry hatched from a given year’s spawning migrating to spend a year in the open ocean before spawning again.

So the breeders from this year’s run would have been the first to return after farms were removed in 2019 and 2020.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not make an expert available for an interview Monday, but communications staffer Lara Sloan sent a background note on this year’s pink salmon returns to Campbell River on the island. from Vancouver.

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The observed returns of pink salmon to the Campbell River are similar to the 2020 return at this stage, but the fish are larger than their 2020 breeding year and the fish that returned in 2021.

According to the note, DFO was “anticipating a strong return of roses to the Quinsam River (a tributary of the Campbell) based on the strong 2020 breeding year emigration and better conditions in the ocean, especially during the early marine period. of their migration (in the spring of 2021)”.

Pink salmon returns have been low this year along the West Coast from southeastern Alaska to the northern coast of British Columbia, said Greg Taylor, fisheries adviser for the Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

“So it’s interesting that all of a sudden we’re seeing some fish there,” Taylor said. “It is certainly good news, but it is difficult to know what it really means”, since it is an “aberration”.

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“And good news for grizzly bears and everything else that lives in that area,” Taylor said.

In 2018, salmon farming companies hoped to maintain production by expanding production at operations further south on Discovery Islands near the Campbell River and further north off the coast of Vancouver Island.

The federal government, under former Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, had begun a process to phase out salmon farming in open net pens on the coast, continuing with Discovery Islands, by the end of 2020.

However, that process was put on hold after agricultural companies Mowi Canada West, Cermaq Canada and Greig Seafood won a judicial review that found Jordan’s order violated their right to procedural fairness.

DFO is now in the process of consulting with First Nations and agricultural license holders, which will last through early 2023, before drafting a transition plan.

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