Exploits River salmon counts down by 8,000
The number of salmon making their way through the Exploits River fishway is down significantly – more than 8,000 fewer than last year.
According to the Salmonid Interpretation Centre, counts up to July 4 had totaled 613. At the same time in 2016, 8,972 salmon had passed through the counter.
However, Fred Parsons, the centre’s general manager, hasn’t given up on the species just yet.
Having studied salmon for the past 33 years, he’s seen this before. Numbers were eerily similar in 2007, he said.
“(That year, this time) there was 1,100 fish, which isn’t a lot, but the year ended with 25,000 counted,” said Parsons. “So while it’s down, it’s far from irregular.”
Furthermore, there was a full moon expected this past weekend, and Parsons was hopeful that would mean a strong run, bringing the numbers closer to even keel.
The general consensus from anglers, which Parsons seems
to be on side with, is that heavy ice conditions, coupled with different tides and currents that brought the ice, have delayed the salmon.
The other possibility for smaller salmon numbers, which Parsons hopes isn’t the case, is a higher than average mortality rate at sea.
According to DFO science, between 92 to 98 per cent of smolts don’t return to freshwater during the course of 15 months at sea – the main factor likely being predation.
With salmon feeding on species such as shrimp, capelin and other fish, there could also be a disruption in their food source, said Parsons.
“Things aren’t good out in the ocean, we are hearing about shrimp numbers being way down. Whatever is happening to that species is going to affect everything in that food chain,” he said.
But at this point, Parsons doesn’t have any reason to believe it’s attributing to low salmon numbers this year.
Salmon counts are down significantly on the Exploits River this year, but it’s not something Salmonid Interpretation Centre general manager Fred Parsons is calling irregular.