Submitted by John Dunn
The past month has been a little on the wet side with rain on most of the days we were out and about. The last few weeks we have been walking the creeks looking for the returning Wild Salmon. This year so far we have seen poor returns of Wild Chum Salmon on all the streams visited from Bloods through to Craig. The returns of Wild Coho have been overall better than previous years and we still have the late runs to show up. These runs of late Wild Coho return well into December. Some speculation is that these late fish are the remnants of the true Wild Coho and seem to be overall a smaller fish.
On the 6th of November we had a class of home school high school students out for some field experience for their biology class. First thing we did was to give a talk on the importance of the riparian zone while they gave a hand to plant some trees. Next we walked downstream to the Bears fishing camp, which gave the opportunity to talk about the importance of nutrient transport from the ocean to the forest by the Bear and all the other animals that benefit from the returning fish. Though the amount of fish being carried into the forest may seem small, when compared to the expanse of the forest, vital nutrient exchange takes place mainly along the stream banks. When leaves and needles fall into the stream and along the banks these nutrients are slowly released back into the streams over the winter providing nutrients for all kinds of bugs [invertebrates] both in the stream and along the streamside. By the time the young of the spring hatch out of the gravel the streams are teeming with life providing rich feeding grounds.
We were hoping that the heaver rains of November would bring more Chums but it seems that the few that did return may be it for this year. Down at the famous Gold stream the tourists have not seen the amount of Chum that usually returns. From observations locally even the two hatcheries at little and Big Qualicum Rivers have been low this year.
This year the commercial fishery in Johnstone Straits was closed early due to a lack of returning Chum. This does not bode well for 4 years down the line but we never know from year to year how many will return, if ocean conditions are good we may see more show up.
After the unexpected run of sockeye this year there is a lot of speculation as to why such a big run returned after so many lean years. Some research attributes the great abundance of food production in the North Pacific due to an increase of terrestrial nutrients from the Kasatochi volcano way off in the Aleutian Islands in 2008. The ensuing iron rich ash cloud deposited in the Ocean resulted in huge algae and plankton blooms providing rich feeding for the Sockeye.
Up on the central coast north of the Island some concern is being expressed for the health of the Grizzly Bear populations not being able to find enough Chums to fatten up on as they go into winter hibernation. This also will hold for our Black Bear locally if they cannot get enough fish to gain that extra fat required for healthy hibernation especially for the pregnant females.
We wish everyone a great holiday season coming up and we will be out walking the streams right through the holidays though I expect we may cancel our Saturday meeting on the 25th, this will be the only Saturday during the year we will miss.
Happy New Year and do not forget that the winter solstice takes place on the 21st of December. If anyone has a live tree and want to donate it for streamside planting we would be happy to plant it for you along one of the streams.