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‘That’s the most salmon we’ve seen’: an Island creek experiences record return

Hundreds of pink salmon are swimming upstream in a Comox creek

As last week’s rain showered the Comox Valley for days, signalling the definitive onset of fall, numerous residents of the Comox Valley witnessed the return of hundreds of salmon at Brooklyn Creek.

“There was no life in this creek over the past years, and it has been like that for quite a while,” said Comox resident Robin Dickson. “This is the first year in nearly a decade that salmon have returned in such abundance. It’s truly a remarkable year.”

“My wife came back home this morning and told me that she saw the salmon going up the stream while walking the dog,” added Comox resident Jorg Lingheimer. “We are both super excited. It’s just so fascinating, I can’t believe it.”

Thanks to the dedication of the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society (BCWS), countless volunteers have put in years of effort to restore this eight-kilometre stream, creating a suitable habitat for salmon to lay their eggs.

Flowing from its headwaters near Crown Isle Golf Resort and emptying into Comox Bay, the creek provides the perfect habitat for a wide range of birds, aquatic mammals, and various fish species, including the cutthroat trout, coho salmon, and chum salmon.

Originally recognized as a coho run, this year marks the enigmatic comeback of an unprecedented number of pink salmon.

“That’s the most adult salmon we’ve seen in the creek for some time,” said John Neilson, one of the directors at the BCWS.

Despite the lack of a definitive explanation for the presence of pink salmon, numerous theories have been proposed.

“Some have speculated that the pinks we’re seeing are the offspring of the 2021 season that coming back to the stream for the end of their two-year life cycle,” said Neilson. “Others have speculated that this might represent a kind of spillover from a larger run at Puntledge River.

“Another (theory) is that there is a lot of pink salmon are being pumped into the ocean by the U.S. in Alaska, so maybe some of those fish are straying off and started establishing populations in some of our local streams.”

Inviting everyone to observe this marvel of nature, Neilson emphasizes the importance of adopting the proper behaviours around the creek to ensure the survival rate of this year’s spawn.

“As opposed to pink salmon which immediately down to the ocean (after hatching) and spend virtually no time in freshwater, cohos spend their first year of life in freshwater,” said Neilson. “They hang out in Brooklyn Creek for that first year and have to deal with the sort of rigours of torrential winter rains, summer droughts, and urban activities. These fish are subject to a lot of challenges.

“That’s why we encourage people who are walking along the stream to make sure they stay on the walkable paths and keep their dogs on a leash, out of the stream.”

The Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society encourages anyone to report polluters and poachers at 1-800-465-4336, available 24/7.

For those who would like to volunteer with the society and help in future projects, visit brooklyncreek.ca/volunteer

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Olivier Laurin

About the Author: Olivier Laurin

I’m a bilingual multimedia journalist from Montréal who began my journalistic journey on Vancouver Island with The Comox Valley Record in 2023.
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