West Coast salmon stressed but West Van chum returns up

West Coast salmon stressed but West Van chum returns up

It’s difficult to look for salmon populations there, but there are some good signs on site.

Salmon yields in two of West Vancouver’s major streams were up in 2022, but the species spawning locally continue to face stressful times.

That was the message from the West Vancouver Streamkeepers Society to the District of West Vancouver Council after collecting and analyzing data from the Brothers and Hadden Creek systems.

Every fall for the past 15 years, streamkeepers have teamed up with students from West Vancouver High School to survey tributaries of the Capilano River for returning chum, pink, coho and chinook salmon.

The volunteers presented their 2022 findings to the District of West Vancouver Council on January 23.

Over a period of seven weeks, the group spotted 527 salmon, about three quarters (395) of which were chums. The group also counted 103 Coho and 29 Chinooks (Rosa only return in odd years). The year before they logged 193 chums, 147 coho, 27 chinook and two pinks for a total of 369.

Four years ago, the buddy return hit its lowest level since counts began, at just 107. This year, low water flows were a problem for salmon and there was high levels of predation by river otters.

Weather continued to be a major factor in salmon return last year, with autumn drought making it impossible for returned fish to reach their home waters for several weeks in their usual spawning window. As a result, the streamkeepers and high school students delayed their poll by two weeks.

“Elsewhere on the coast … thousands of salmon are estimated to have died before spawning. Luckily we haven’t seen such a big impact in West Vancouver, but climate change is leading to higher pre-spawning mortality and we’ll have to see how that will affect salmon numbers in the years to come,” says student volunteer Saina Zhiani Council said.

In contrast, there was so much rain in the fall of 2021 that the group was concerned that eggs hidden under the gravel had been washed away, although surveys of juvenile salmon in the streams in the spring of 2022 showed an increase in their numbers, the group reported.

Joseph McDaniel, director of West Vancouver Streamkeepers, said coho salmon yields at the Capilano River Hatchery have declined significantly this year, another likely result of poor water conditions and climate change.

But optimistically, the continued enthusiasm among students to take the surveys each year bodes well, McDaniel added.

“Education is vital to the health of every community and our world. For me, this program is a sign of hope that together we will be able to face the important challenges of our time,” he told the Council. “I think we’re at the point now where we’re all in this together and we need to be in this together because the future of our society and our planet and salmon are very closely linked.”

The Streamkeepers are the main management group working on West Vancouver’s streams and conducting citizen science and habitat restoration projects aimed at giving local salmon every chance of success.

[email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *