WATCH: While many of us have been enjoying the mild winter in southwestern B.C. — the experts have been keeping a nervous eye on our rivers. Linda Aylesworth tells us why they’re worried that extremely low snowpacks might be disastrous for returning salmon.
The warm weather on B.C.’s south coast this winter has impacted the snowpack in a way that might have negative consequences on returning salmon.
B.C.’s River Forecast Centre says southwestern B.C. and Vancouver Island are experiencing extremely low snowpacks, which could impact river levels and the success of this year’s returning salmon runs.
“When the snowpack is low, that means there’s less cold water going in so the river’s are going to be lower and possibly warmer at the same time,” says David Campbell of the River Forecast Centre.
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Lower, warmer water makes the already difficult task of swimming upstream even more challenging.
“The warmer water makes the fish weaker,” say Campbell. “It impairs their immune system, it impairs their health and it makes them far more susceptible to things like diseases.”
Warm water has also been shown to affect the size and number of eggs they lay, reducing the number of young salmon that survive.
According to Dr. Craig Orr of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, well above normal sea surface temperatures along the north Pacific and other parts of the ocean could mean salmon are likely arriving at the rivers in a weakened state, just as they are about the embark on the most grueling journey of their lives.
Their only hope for a reprieve is more rain or snow, which is becoming less likely as spring approaches.
-with files from Linda Aylesworth