Rain cools salmon concerns

New regulations recommended: New storage policies, recent rainfall ease chances of repeat crisis

Recent rains doused a local drought, and helped avert another fall salmon kill, a local conservationist says.

“This rain is really welcome,” Joe Saysell of Friends of the Cowichan said Friday after a downpour that yielded about an inch in late August.

“The temperature in the river was so high, but this cooled it down — it was 21.5 degrees C and now it’s 18 C so that’s a real welcome thing to happen.”

Coupled with provincial permission to store more water behind Cowichan Lake’s weir this summer, to help provide water for fall salmon spawning, Saysell signalled the fish have more of a fighting chance.

“The lake was starting to go down from the top of the weir, to keep the river at seven cubic metres (per minute),” he said of flows stipulated by Crofton pulp mill’s two provincial river-water permits.

“Now a lot of that lake water will be replenished.

“If this drought had kept up, with that high temperature that early, it’s really tough on small fish because there’s only so many places in the river those fish can live in.

“They’re all trying to look for cold water. If they can’t find it, they’ll perish.”

Friends of the Cowichan has sent these proposed regulations to forests, lands and natural resources minister Steve Thompson to help rescue the river’s salmon, steelhead and trout stocks struggling with annual droughts.

1. Close the river for fishing from July 1 to Oct. 1 because of high water temperatures, and because fish concentrate in the few pools that are cool.

2. Close the river, from the weir at Cowichan Lake to the 70 Mile Trestle on the upper river, from Nov. 1 to April 1. “That’s the bread basket of the river for spawning,” he said. “It would protect spawning fish, and allow 7/8 of the river to be open during the winter.”

3. Order a daily catch-and-release quota of two steelhead during steelhead season (Dec. 1 to April 1) to protect steelhead stocks. “Two steelhead is plenty.”

4. Enact zero retention of crayfish as they’re food for otters, other fish, herons and other critters.

“They’re the food for everything,” Saysell said of crayfish. “Now, you can kill 25 a day as long as you have a fishing licence.”

 

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