More Atlantic salmon showing up in Campbell River-area streams

More Atlantic salmon escapees have showed up in the Campbell River and others have been reported in the Eve and Salmon Rivers north of Campbell River.

On Aug. 19 the Cooke Aquaculture-owned operation near Cypress Island in Washington State containing about 300,000 Atlantic salmon, broke up and set over 165,000 free.

Atlantics have also been reported as far north as Tofino on the west side of Vancouver Island, according to Byron Andres, head of the federal Atlantic Salmon Watch program, in various news reports.

Two fish were reported in the Eve, by anglers and a pool in the Salmon River has an unconfirmed number of fish as well. Two there, were also taken by anglers.

At least four Atlantic salmon were reported being in the Campbell in August.

The first report of an Atlantic salmon in the Campbell River came from renowned under-water photographer Eiko Jones.

Jones said he saw an Atlantic salmon of about five to six pounds near the canyon waters of the Campbell River.

Andres said this week more Atlantics are apparently in the Canyon waters and Fisheries and Oceans plan to swim the system next week for a more conclusive estimate.

Andres said the best outcome is if the Atlantics are harvested, i.e., taken out of the stream.

He said the Atlantics seem to be following schools of Chinook salmon and as those fish spawn and die, it is a guessing game what the remaining Atlantics will do.

He said they could stay in the system and starve to death, suffer a fungus infection and die, or return to the ocean. Or be harvested by two-legged or four-legged anglers,

Atlantic salmon, unlike Pacific salmon, can and do enter fresh water and then return to ocean environs, to return later to spawn on the east coast.

He said samplings of the recovered Atlantics show no sign of developing reproductive capabilities,

Between 2011 and 2017, there were reportedly only three incidents of Atlantic salmon escapes in B.C., with some appearing as far north as Hecate Strait and the Kitimat River.

Previous attempts by both the provincial and federal government to intentionally introduce Atlantic salmon into west coast streams failed.

In the early 1900s, juvenile fish were released into the Campbell, the Coquitlam River, Lillooet River, Harrison Lake, Comox Lake, Horne Lake, Nanaimo Lake, Cowichan Lake and the Koksilah River among others.

They didn’t take.

Still DFO says they would like to get the identified Atlantics out of the rivers.

“If we find Atlantic salmon in our river systems as a result of the recent escape we will go in and remove them, not because they present a significant threat, but if we have an opportunity to remove a foreign species, why wouldn’t we?” said Andrew Thomson, regional director for Fisheries and Oceans Canada in a news report in August.

Andres says any Atlantic salmon recovered will be sent for scientific analysis to see if they did, in fact, come from the Cypress Island escape.

Signs about the Atlantics are being posted on local rivers this week,

Andres encourages anglers who catch Atlantics to report them promptly.