A late return of Sockeye was disappointing enough but to top it, the Alouette River Management Society (ARMS) is also seeing a low return so far this year.
Last month, on Aug. 8, the fish fence at the Allco Fish Hatchery saw the arrival of first Sockeye salmon, and while the fish made a late arrival, they brought hope of a better year for the salmon returns. However, so far this year, the fish fence has counted less than 10 Sockeye, said ARMS’ Alex Holmes.
At this point last year, the fish fence had seen 84 Sockeye return. In 2019, the society saw 12 by this time of the year and 13 in 2018, Holmes added.
“Unfortunately, it has been a really low return year for the Sockeye. We think it may be due to the extreme heat waves we have been having. There was a day when the Alouette River had a water temperature of 23 C, which is too hot for any of the five Pacific Salmon species to do well in,” said Holmes. “The extreme heat adds extra stress to the salmon as they return up the Alouette to their spawning grounds.”
She also said that the man-made pools in the river could have contributed to the alteration of the course, as well as increased water temperatures, leading to lower returns.
““The creation of pools in the river, if the water stops flowing, can heat the water up to bath temperatures, which is great for hanging in the river, but deadly for any salmonid species,” said Holmes, adding that water temperatures become stressful at 20 C and deadly for some salmonid species at 24 C.
Thus, altering riverbeds can take away their safe, cool areas that allow them to hide from the heat, especially during a heatwave like we are in now
On Tuesday, Aug. 31, the society, along with a group of volunteers participated in the Rock Pool Dismantling activity put together by ARMS in the hopes of restoring the water flow.
With the cooler temperatures moving in however, the society is starting to see a few more Sockeye come up.
“So we are thinking that as the cooler weather comes in that we see more of them return. We think this may hold true for the upcoming Pink and Chum runs that follow the Sockeye Run,”’ said Holmes.
Holmes emphasized on the importance of not altering the riverway.
“Doing so creates disturbances not only to the five pacific salmon species that return to the Alouette River, it can also impact other species that use the river including invertebrates that serve as a food for the salmon, crayfish, and other native fish species,” she said.
In addition, some of the tips she shared were to leave the river as found, clearing up trash and debris and connecting with ARMS if the public has any questions or concerns regarding the Alouette River.
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