Warmed ocean to hit salmon returns for years

Hot marine, Fraser River conditions will reduce survival rate of returning sockeye: scientists

Record hot Pacific Ocean temperatures that have degraded the marine food supply since the fall of 2013 are likely to hurt B.C. salmon returns not just this summer but for the next one to three years.

That’s the prediction of Ian Perry, an ocean scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

He said the effects may be relatively minor this summer – with returning sockeye salmon that are only slightly thinner or smaller than usual – but worse over the next few years.

That’s because the sockeye now returning experienced relatively normal temperatures when they first headed out to sea as juveniles in early 2013.

Unusual weather patterns that year meant there wasn’t the normal deep mixing of ocean layers in the northeast Pacific and the surface temperatures got steadily warmer.

The water in the Gulf of Alaska was three degrees above normal by January 2014 and there were record hot temperatures last summer.

The runs that will return from 2016 to 2018 will likely have faced longer exposure to hot ocean temperatures, which result in poor, less nutritious plankton for salmon to feed on, and can also bring more predator fish north to devour salmon.

“The juvenile salmon coming out of the river this spring in 2015 are coming into an environment that is very different from what they’ve normally evolved to,” Perry said.

“We anticipate this is going to affect their growth and their survival. And we expect there will be fewer numbers of them coming back in the next one to three years.”

The sockeye that survive the ocean to make their spawning run this year will face the danger of hot river temperatures and low flows.

Federal habitat research biologist David Patterson said record high water temperatures are being measured throughout the Fraser River system.

He said the water is 4.5 degrees hotter than normal at Hope – an “exceptional deviation from the norm.”

Hot rivers make it harder for salmon to migrate upstream, reproduce and recover from fishery capture, and make them more susceptible to disease.

Patterson said the biggest problem is often that low flows and hot water force salmon to hole up in unsuitable areas, and if they wait too long, water levels may drop further in their eventual spawning grounds, reducing the available habitat.

Although nearly seven million Fraser River sockeye are projected, large numbers could die before they spawn.

El Nino conditions are expected to last at least through fall, meaning continued dry, hot weather is likely in B.C., with no short-term relief for salmon.

Chinook angling ban extended

DFO has extended a ban on sport fishing for chinook salmon for an extra two weeks due to low levels of early Stuart sockeye and adverse conditions, said Jeff Grout, regional salmon resource manager. That ban is in effect everywhere downstream of Mission until July 31.

“We’re taking a cautious management approach to how we manage our fisheries,” Grout said.

He said that may mean fishing restrictions or bans later in the season even as more abundant pink salmon arrive in order to avoid a bycatch of weaker stocks, such as Interior coho.

DFO officials say they’re stepping up enforcement patrols to deter and catch poachers. Anyone who spots illegal fishing can call DFO’s Observe Record Report line at 1-800-465-4336.

Just Posted

Surrey 37 per cent behind in housing supply projections

Of 18 cities in Metro Vancouver, only City of North Vancouver and Richmond met or exceeded projections

Winning Christmas card art shown at Surrey gallery

Arts Council of Surrey’s annual competition won by Edwin Stephen and Nancy Painter

Delta police campaign shines a light relationship violence

Campaign comes after a Delta man was charged with assault with a weapon and uttering threats

‘A labour of love’: High school turns into ‘toy shop’ for Surrey Christmas Bureau

Fraser Heights Secondary has been making toys for the non-profit for more than a decade

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Owners of hotels on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside fight $1 expropriation in court

Vancouver City Council voted to expropriate the properties for $1 each in November

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

Braille signs coming to TransLink bus stops in 2020

Transit authority says it’s the first to do so in Canada and the United States

CUPE issues 72-hour strike notice for SkyTrain

Local 7000 release states ‘parties are still bargaining’, union will have job action plan by Saturday

Abbotsford man was ‘unintended victim’ of 2018 fatal shooting, police say

Jagvir Malhi, 19, was gunned down while on his way to university

Most Read