Campbell River-area pink salmon returns hit historic high

Pink salmon returns to the Campbell and Quinsam Rivers hit a historic high of over one million fish this year.

It is the highest total on record since the Quinsam Hatchery opened over 35 years ago.

This year's total even surpassed the return of about 900,000 in 2009. Last year about 327,000 pinks returned to the river.

While the pink numbers are confirmed, hatchery staff have been busy doing pink salmon egg takes and haven't had a chance to do swim counts and get the numbers on the other Pacific salmon in the system.

The last count had about 1,100 chinook and 600 coho in the Campbell. Those numbers will change as fall progresses and more fish move in to the system.

In 2012 there were 4,077 chinooks, 5,111 coho and 88 chum recorded.

Aside from good ocean survival and excellent pre-and post-migration care from the hatchery staff, the huge return is due to the success of the Quinsam River 'cascades' project of 2005 which saw channels carved through bedrock about 13 kilometres upstream from the hatchery to open up another 14 kilometres of prime spawning habitat upriver. And the work of the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, with continued improvements to habitat, has also played a large role.

"That project on the Quinsam has certainly proved its own success," said Campbell River Salmon Foundation founding chairman Mike Gage.

"It's a great example of what can be accomplished if you give the fish a chance."

Gage said a similar project headed up by the CRSF on the Salmon River could provide the same results, especially for chinook and steelhead.

The plan is to build a diversion for salmon that would allow them to get past BC Hydro's diversion gate on the river and have access to another 40 some kilometres of spawning and rearing area. This year, the highest number of steelhead ever was allowed through the gate.

This year the pink salmon seemed to move much quicker through the Campbell, up into the Quinsam, past the hatchery fence and into those waters opened up with the cascade works.

The Quinsam Hatchery is one of the largest of 17 major hatcheries operated by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and produces up to 12 million juvenile coho, chinook and pink salmon for release into the wild every year.

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