Pink salmon swim along the surface of a churning river.

Photo Credit: Bill Heubner | Flickr

Wild Pink Salmon Are Back!

Our blue waters are turning pink!

Here’s why it’s such good news

If you grew up in BC, you might remember school trips to see the salmon run when you were a kid.

The number of salmon was astounding. So was the smell. Phew!

In recent years, though, our salmon have dwindled. With them goes that famous smell and all the nourishment they bring. Nutrients from spawning salmon feed our forests and creatures big and small.

But, this year, we have the best news!

Pink salmon have made a huge comeback!

Alexandra Morton is an independent marine biologist who tracks salmon around VanIsle. She called this year’s return of Pink salmon “epic.”

“These fish are feeding eagles, bears, the trees that are sucking carbon out of our atmosphere, people…. There are millions flowing in a living river down east Vancouver Island,” she said on Facebook.

And she’s not the only one who’s noticed.

Vancouver Islanders have chimed in on social media. Some talked about crying tears of joy. They’re glad there’s so many salmon jumping this year. There have been so many Pinks some folks even thought they were dolphins!

“When out on Sunday I have never seen so many pinks jumping, mayne passage, Cordero channel, philips arm and nodallas channel …in Phillips arm there were so many jumping I thought they were dolphins from a far,” said Facebook user Andrew Rice.

It’s a summer of abundance after years of decline. But this underdog story didn’t just come out of thin air. It came from years of hard work.

And the work needs to continue. Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray has renewed licenses for factory fish farms outside the Discovery Islands for another two years. Wild salmon are not out of the woods yet. But this year’s Pinks are good news indeed.

Pink salmon have the shortest spawning cycle of all west coast salmon. They only live for two years, which means the Pinks swimming home now were the same ones who left their river last year.

“I examined these pinks when they were babies on their way out to sea in 2021,” Morton said on Facebook. “That was the first year the salmon farms were removed from the Discovery Islands by the brave Minister Bernadette Jordan.”

Minister Jordan had ordered all factory fish farms removed from the Discovery Islands. It was a controversial decision. But removing the factories meant there were fewer sea lice on the juveniles leaving the river. They had a better shot at living long enough to get strong and come home to spawn.

“They were beautiful, fat and sassy little smolts. And now unbelievably they are not only abundant, they are big,” Morton said.

“Next year the other species will begin to return – these pinks are heroes, I love their generosity and resilience!”

We’ll continue to follow these salmons as they swim upriver to spawn in the fall.

Hopefully, next year we’ll be able to bring you more comeback stories!