Sockeye salmon numbers sink this year

Only nine counted this year in South Alouette River

Salmon awaiting in South Alouette River fish trap near Allco fish hatchery.

The long awaited rebuilding of the sockeye salmon run in the South Alouette River will have to wait a while longer because it’s not making any great leap forward this year.

“We’ve had small numbers of sockeye,” returning, said Greta Borick-Cunningham, with the Alouette River Management Society.

Some years, more than 100 sockeye can be found in the South Alouette River, either Allco hatchery or at the base of the B.C. Hydro dam trying to get into the Alouette reservoir so they can spawn.

This year, though, only nine showed up.

“It’s not a great number, so it was going to be a small year anyways,” said Borick-Cunningham.

The society is trying to rebuild the run by letting thousands of sockeye fry over the top of the dam in the spring so they can migrate down the South Alouette River to the Pacific Ocean.

But a fish ladder is needed to connect the lake to the river before the run can be fully restored to pre-dam and pre-1925 levels of about 250,000 sockeye.

In the meantime, pink salmon are back in the both the Alouette system and Kanaka Creek.

“It’s like flicking on a light switch,” said Ross Davies, with the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society.

Since the fall rains came in and raised stream levels, pink salmon have made their way up to Kanaka Creek from their staging point in the Pacific Ocean near Vancouver International Airport.

“Since the run took off in 2009, we’ve been getting up to 2,000 to 3,000 every two years.”

The pinks are on a two-year life cycle.

Davies said the fish were eliminated from the Kanaka system in 1955.

“All the restocking efforts, for some reason, that year they took off.”

This year is a good year for pink salmon, with 28 million in the Fraser River.

“So we’re expecting a piece of that action.”

After the pink salmon come in, the chum salmon follow. The numbers could be between 2,000 and 10,000, in the next few weeks.

“Chum usually peak around Halloween, the coho usually peaking mid- to late- November.”

Noons Creek Hatchery in Port Moody is asking people to keep their dogs out of spawning streams at this time of year. If a dog scares a female salmon during spawning, it can result in the loss of up to 3,500 baby fish, says the hatchery.

This year’s hot and dry summer was touch and go in the Kanaka system.

“In the summer we had some low water, but it seemed that any time things got close to critical, we’d have some rain, so it was pretty nice.”

Davies said the new water control device in Spencer Creek, where it connects to Kanaka Creek, is making it easier for fish to move back and forth in the Albion flats. That’s resulted in coho moving into the flats, almost near the sports fields.

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