More than 50,000 pink salmon have crowded into the Nanaimo River in recent days, allaying fears that the number of the fish returning to local waters would dwindle.
The thousands of pink salmon that swarm into Nanaimo's waterways to spawn at this time of year showed up later than usual this season. The late arrival had sparked concerns that the summer's long dry spell might have decimated this year's expected spawning run on local streams and rivers.
But Brian Banks, co-manager of the Nanaimo River Hatchery, said the 50,000 pinks salmon that are now crowding to make their way further up the Nanaimo River water system to spawn are close to the record number of 65,000 that showed up two years ago at the mouth of the river.
He said that this doesn't even take into consideration the thousands of other pink salmon that are also expected to show up at the Millstone River and in streams entering Departure Bay at the about the same time.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is also reporting some promising numbers for pink salmon returns in B.C. rivers. DFO area manager in Kamloops, Les Jantz, said an estimated 26 million pinks are flooding into local rivers and streams, which is approximately three times higher than the early estimate of about nine million fish.
"The recent rains could have played a part in raising water levels and finally making it easier for the pink salmon to return to their spawning grounds in the Nanaimo area," Banks said of the species, which typically reach their peak numbers in local waters in mid-September.
Pink salmon had been virtually extinct in Nanaimo's harbour and Departure Bay since the 1950s, largely due to over fishing, until DFO began reintroducing the species into local waters in 2001 along with its partners, including the Nanaimo and District Fish and Game Protective Association.
The program has proven very successful, and fishermen have begun gathering along Nanaimo's urban streams and rivers in recent years in the late summer to try their luck.
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