Ex­ploits River salmon counts down by 8,000

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - News - BY ADAM RANDELL Adam.randell@gan­der­bea­con.ca

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.

FILE PHOTO

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.

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