Exploits Salmon Run Down in 2016


Exploit’s salmon run down in 2016

Patrick Murphy
Published on September 26, 2016

Many factors contribute to drop in numbers says scientist

The number of salmon in the Exploits River decreased by slightly more than 25 per cent in 2016.

Scientists with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) say there is nothing to be concerned with, despite falling numbers.

“We were sort of expecting it. We weren’t expecting great returns because we didn’t have very good juvenile output last year,” said Dr. Geoff Veinott, a scientist with DFO.

“Smoltes leave our rivers by the hundreds of thousands, but we only have about seven or eight per cent return in a good year, and maybe four or five percent in a bad year.”

While a decline in salmon was expected for the year, Veinott says the volume of the decrease surprised the DFO and exceeded the normal variation.

“The declines are pretty sharp relative to what we normally see in the annual variability,” said Veinott. “This is why we try not to react to quickly to a single change in one year, they go up and down all the time.”

Many factors play into the salmon returns and smoltes have 98 per cent natural mortality rate.

Factors such as predation, shortage of food, and illegal fishing all play a role in the decline.

“You can easily clean out a pool of a hundred salmon in a hour using a net, it would be no problem,” said Veinott. “That’s why we encourage people to report any suspicious activity. The other thing is don’t buy salmon you know is illegal salmon. It can easily destroy a river.”

Numbers this year are reminiscent of stock counts that forced the closure of the commercial salmon fishery. While there is no end in sight to a1995 moratorium on commercial salmon, the DFO scientist is confident the numbers will bounce back to more comfortable levels.

“Even though they’re down quite a bit, 28 to 36 per cent relative to the five-year average,” said Veinott. “They’re still not the lowest we’re had on record.”