Chum crash worst biologists have ever seen

  • Nov. 28, 2007 7:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Chum salmon stocks crashed on the east side of Moresby Island this year, with the worst returns islands fisheries biologists have ever seen. Victor Fradette, fisheries manager with Fisheries and Oceans Canada said only 3,000 Chum returned to Pallant Creek this year, when 70,000 to 100,000 are normally expected. Other creeks faired as badly with just under 4,000 fish spotted at the mouth of the Selwyn Creek. Four years ago, 43,000 fish were recorded on that stream. “We weren’t expecting that poor of a return,” says Mr. Fradette. This was the first year in the 28 years Mr. Fradette has been on the islands that no commercial fishing opportunities were opened on the east coast chum stocks. Normally, a terminal harvest is opened at the mouth of the creeks for gillnets or seines. In the good old days, he said this would have affected a huge group of fishermen, but the fleet has diminished over the years. No one knows why the stocks have crashed, says Mr. Fradette, “but we can all speculate.” He says there probably isn’t one set of circumstances to blame, but he does note that the very poor returns were only seen on the east coast of Moresby. He says 2003 was the year of the Christmas storm, which may have affected chum mortality, as well, warm water trends have been occurring. He said species that are not normally seen around the islands are being observed, like sardines and hake. Hake is an aggressive predator and could have had an impact on chum as well. He discounts the idea that illegal drift net boats may be having an impact because the low returns are so specific to the east side of Moresby Island. Other island stocks are not outside of their normal ranges, he says. The stocks were so low at Pallant Creek that Haida Fisheries were unable to collect brood stock for the hatchery, he said. Because chum are cyclical, he says managers will be watching for poor returns in 2011 as well.

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