Pink salmon making major comeback in Nanaimo harbour

Wildlife News

September 2, 2009
After being rendered virtually extinct in the Nanaimo harbour since the 1950s, pink salmon are now returning to the area by the thousands.
Brian Banks, co-manager of the Nanaimo River Hatchery, said more than 20,000 pink salmon are expected to return to the harbour and adjacent rivers by mid-September, the best numbers since the hatchery joined up with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Nanaimo Fish and Game Protective Association and other organizations to begin a program to reintroduce the species to local waterways earlier this decade.
The partners have been hatching pink salmon eggs taken from Campbell River at the Nanaimo River Hatchery and transferring them to three holding pens in the harbour at the Newcastle Island ferry slip, Duke Point and the Pacific Biological Station in increasing numbers since the program began in 2001.
The young salmon are held in the pens for about a month for imprinting until they are about one gram in weight. Then they are released with the hope many will return to spawn in the area at the end of their two-year lifecycles.
Of the one million released early in 2008, 13,000 have already been counted at the mouth of the Nanaimo River, while other schools have been spotted at the mouth of the Millstone River and other areas of the harbour so far this year and expectations are for thousands more to arrive by the middle of September.
"We began this program as an effort to restart a pink salmon food fishery for First Nations in the area and to provide sports fishermen an opportunity to fish for pink salmon in the harbour once again," said Banks. "This year has seen the best returns yet in the program and we've been pleased to see people lining the banks along the harbour to try their luck at catching some of them. It seems the ocean survival rates for pink salmon around Vancouver Island have been very good this year."


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