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Salmon Numbers, Recovering in the Cowichan River

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is reporting that mature adult Chinook salmon numbers are strong.

There are many perils facing salmon populations but, the most recent salmon numbers are encouraging, as 23, 062 Chinook (16,457 adults, 6,605 jacks) returned to the Cowichan River in 2018.

Strait of Georgia Salmon Stock Assessment Biologist Kevin Pellett said a major project back in 2006 has made a significant impact to salmon stocks.

“There was some pretty major restoration work mid-river in about 2006 at Stoltz Bluff, so it’s certainly possible that the river is now more productive than it used to be,” said Pellett. “Stoltz Bluff is about mid-river, 25 kilometres upstream from the ocean, so essentially half the river’s benefitting from that.”

The restoration project is working to limit the sediments in the river during the winter months.

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In 2009, the number of salmon in the river was a paltry 540, but since then numbers have rebounded to more than 23,000 adult Chinook salmon.

Pellett said fishing is one of many threats to salmon populations.

“There are so many factors at play when it comes to salmon survival, most of those are natural,” said Pellett. “Predation is a big one, ocean climate is another big one, not to mention in-river conditions, drought and that kind of stuff. If you look at any natural population over time, there are always swings, in terms of trends going up and trends going down, there are always high points and low points.”

In the South Coast Salmon Bulletin, fence counts of fish passing through indicate that 9,949 Chinook, 3,085 Coho, and 2,690 Chum were in the river in 2018.

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