Cameron Wheatley, owner of the French Creek Store, shows red lesions on the belly of a farmed Atlantic salmon caught in the water off French Creek late last week. The fish has been frozen and will be delivered to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for examination. — J.R. Rardon photo

Atlantic salmon arrive in French Creek

Fish believed to be part of cohort escaped from U.S.-based net pen Aug. 19

Atlantic salmon, believed to be part of a cohort that escaped from a U.S.-based fish farm on Aug. 19, are being hauled in by anglers fishing out of French Creek on mid-Vancouver Island.

Cameron Wheatley, owner of the French Creek Store at the marina just north of Parksville, received the head of an apparent Atlantic salmon from a local angler late Sunday morning, Sept. 10. He is freezing the head, along with two more fish heads and one whole farm-raised salmon, to turn over to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Related: Thousands of U.S. salmon escape near B.C., company blames solar eclipse

“They’ve just recently arrived out here, I think,” said Wheatley, who added he and his wife had been informed of another Atlantic salmon catch as much as a week and a half ago, though they did not actually see that fish.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada maintains an Atlantic Salmon Watch Program in the Pacific Region to track and research the abundance, distribution and biology of the non-native fish in B.C.’s waters.

Those who catch Atlantic salmon are asked to report the catch to DFO by calling 1-800-811-6010 toll-free. The DFO also welcomes donation of the fish for research purposes, though donation is not mandatory.

The French Creek Store is already a DFO depot for collection of hatchery-reared salmon heads, said Wheatley. “I figured we might as well just carry that on with these Atlantics.”

Atlantic salmon are identified by distinctive black spots on the gill cover, a lack of spots on the tail, and erosion of both the nose and the tail fins due to repeated contact with their net pens.

In the case of the whole fish Wheatley was provided to submit to DFO, it was also marked by a considerable number of bright red lesions on its belly.

“That’s gross,” he said. “I asked the people that only brought the head in, did they have those lesions on them? And they all did. That’s an unhealthy fish, as far as I’m concerned.”

Wheatley said those who brought in the heads of the Atlantic salmon told him the stomachs of the fish were empty.

Beginning late last week and through the weekend, both Wheatley and the French Creek harbour authority office were contacted by fishers who hauled in the farmed salmon while angling in local waters.

Thousands of fish reportedly escaped Aug. 19 from a net pen at Cypress Island farm, owned by Cooke Aquaculture between Anacortes, Wash., and the San Juan Islands, when the pen suffered a “structural failure.”

Many of the fish were caught by Washington First Nations fishers in the days following the escape, in nearby waters.

On Aug. 27, the Shishalh First Nation in Sechelt reported that band members fishing for pink salmon had caught three Atlantic salmon. DFO confirmed one Atlantic salmon was caught off southwestern Vancouver Island one day earlier, and was working to verify reports that two more were taken off Sooke and Esquimault in late August.

Related: Atlantic salmon caught in B.C. waters

Wheatley said he had heard reports of the farmed salmon being taken off Ucluelet and Tofino as well.

“Apparently, they’re running up both sides of (Vancouver) Island,” he said.

Send story tips to: jr.rardon@pqbnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ma Miller’s Pub in Langford. (Michelle Cabana/Black Press Media)
Historic Langford pub serves up some spirits

Ghostly experiences at Ma Miller’s pub

The Skeena Queen, serving the Swartz Bay-Fulford Harbour route has been out of action since early Wednesday morning, forcing BC Ferries to cancel eight sailings connecting the Saanich Peninsula and Salt Spring Island. It is not clear when service will resume. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
BC Ferries cancels sailings between Greater Victoria and Salt Spring Island

With repairs to Skeena Queen underway, it is not clear when service will resume

Victoria police ticketed and impounded the vehicles of two drivers after they were caught speeding through a school zone. (Black Press Media file photo)
Two drivers caught doing nearly triple the speed limit in Victoria school zone

Almost $1,000 in fines, vehicle impounded for each motorist

Michael Arthor Leighton is wanted by the Saanich Police Department for assault. (Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers/Twitter)
Police seek man wanted for assault in Saanich, multiple charges in other jurisdictions

Michael Arthor Leighton is known to travel around the Island, Saanich police say

The Turkey Head Walkway. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay community sees untapped potential in Turkey Head

Part 3 of a closer look at Oak Bay Marina and Turkey Head

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Brody Peterson said he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Brody Peterson told The Gazette he intends to dispute tickets issued by Grand Forks RCMP at his backyard “house warming” Saturday, Oct. 10. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks RCMP recommend criminal charges after weekend party

Homeowner Brody Peterson said he’ll dispute tickets for refusing police instructions, alleged COVID violations

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

A Tim Hortons employee hands out coffee from a drive-through window to a customer in Mississauga, Ont., on March 17, 2020. Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The end of double cupping: Tim Hortons ditches two cups in favour of one with sleeve

Most recycling facilities in Canada don’t recycle single use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining

Most Read