According to data on the Pacific Salmon Explorer website, Northeastern Vancouver Island’s Chum runs have tended to be about 42% lower in the last decade. 2016 was an exception. Pete Calverley, from the Quadra Island Salmon Enhancement Society, recently told the National Observer, “This year’s chum spawners are the result of a strong parent run four years ago.” The final numbers are not in yet, but there are high expectations for this year’s Chum returns.
Squirrel Cove’s eagles have been announcing this to anyone listening, for weeks.
Three juveniles rose to flight, in response to the human presence at the mouth of Basil creek. They left their meal on the bank. The head of a salmon had been pecked off. Its body lay further up the bank.
By the time you hear this, the Ministry of Transportation crew will have left Basil creek. As Cortes Streamkeeper Cecil Robinson observed, prior to this “if the fish came early and the rains were late, they just simply couldn’t get through the old culvert. They died right there.” Now more of them will swim upstream to their spawning grounds. Then he proceeded to describe how the “Basil Creek culvert projectwas over the top from the very beginning. Everything that needed to be done, is done: and then some more, always some more.”
Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure closed a small segment of Whaletown Road on Cortes Island. The impact on the local community is minimal. However British Columbia’s threatened fish stocks greatly benefit from projects like replacing the culvert at Basil Creek.
Aside from the incredible run of 2010, reports of the Fraser River’s sockeye salmon tend to be glum. I believe there is only one Cortes Island based fisherman still working the Johnston strait and recently learned this is the second year he did not receive an opening to fish sockeye. Though the culprits were last year’s drought and a culvert (close to my home), most of the chum returning to Basil Creek in 2015 were killed before they could spawn. These were just a few of the stories that prompted me to seek out evidences of the impending demise of what was previously one of our province’s leading industries. Instead, I found good news about BC’s fishing runs.