Amidst the serene waters of the Sooke River, swimmers equipped with snorkels are embarking on a mission that goes beyond a simple workout routine.
The swimmers are part of a crucial effort by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to assess the salmon population during spawning season.
They start assessing upstream and also estimate what may have been missed due to poor visibility and flows, and report the findings to the DFO, said Kevin Pellett, a Strait of Georgia stock assessment biologist covering the south coast area for the fisheries department.
The swims are ongoing, and preliminary data so far indicates chum salmon are well below average across southern B.C.
Although DFO is still processing the totals for coho, returns look to be average to above average in southern B.C. so far.
“The distribution of coho this year was quite different,” Pellett said. “There were more in the Strait of Georgia this summer. I’m not sure if that was due to more fish or fish in different locations. That’s probably (the case) for coho because they run late, while chinook are typically earlier.”
It was generally a good year for chinook, with good returns in Little Qualicum River, and even better returns in the Cowichan River.
”The west coast overall did pretty well, and Port Alberni was really good. It was a pretty good year for for pinks as well, especially in the northern part of Vancouver Island and the Fraser River.”