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Heavy rainfall on central coast gives spawning salmon some reprieve

Beginning of October, fishery officials said thousands of salmon were dying
Heiltsuk Nation conservation manager William Housty. (Photo submitted)

With rain finally pummeling the central coast in the latter part of October returning salmon have had better luck spawning in the Neekas River north of Bella Bella.

At the beginning of October, fishery officials said thousands of salmon were dying because the river had dried out.

On Thursday, Nov. 3, Heiltsuk Nation conservation manager William Housty said generally things have returned to as normal as possible in terms of water availability in all of the creeks.

“The season is wrapped up now for salmon counting and we have seen in Neekas there was an obvious pre-spawn mortality so the actual number of actual salmon that returned to spawn was lower than normal,” he told Black Press Media.

They eventually did get the rain they were hoping for but there weren’t enough salmon to break the downward trend seen over the last decades.

Housty said there were some salmon that did survive the drought and managed to spawn.

Numbers have not been tallied yet because the last of the creek walks were wrapping up beginning the week of Oct. 30, but preliminary results suggest the numbers are down across the board.

“We went from having drought conditions to excessive amounts of rain in a week and we were kind of worried in the beginning that it might be too much rain and it would make the creeks run hard enough that it would wash out any of the salmon eggs that had been spawned.”

The rain has slowed down enough to give Housty and his staff some comfort level that things have gone OK.

In addition to the Heiltsuk Nation’s creek-walkers, there are also counting crews from Simon Fraser University and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“We have to wrangle all those counts in and look at them. There have been multiple crews on the ground this season.”

According to Environment Canada, 325.7 mm of rain fell in Bella Bella in October 2022, compared to 267.5 mm in October 2021 and 439.9 mm in October 2020. Comparatively rain amounts for September 2022 was 125.8 mm, September 2021 was 433.8 mm and 309.5 mm in September 2020.

In August 2022, 191 mm of rain fell, in Aug. 2021 166.5 mm and in August 2020 341.5 mm.

READ MORE: ‘Flabbergasting’ lack of rain has returning salmon dying in droves on B.C. central coast

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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