Dunbar historian and conservationist Terry Slack says there are two great viewing areas from which to catch glimpses of the ongoing pink salmon run in the Fraser River.
“Deering Island Park and the south foot of Balaclava Street Riverfront Trail are great places this weekend and the next two weeks to watch the jumping pink salmon action that usually happens close
to sundown on a incoming tide,” said Slack. “Bring your binoculars and a chair, along with the kids, and watch all the splashing and jumping salmon on the river.”
In an email to the Courier, Slack noted observers must bring their own chairs because the benches that line the river are full most nights with “pink salmon watchers.” He also advised to keep an eye out for a large, black-headed harbour seal nicknamed Ogo, as it puts on a show for everyone watching in its attempts to catch salmon in mid-channel. Slack noted the “Celtic Slough beavers” can also be seen occasionally in the area just at sundown — if you’re lucky.
According to Slack, the 2012 “odd-year” pink salmon run is made up of two-year-old adults returning from the Pacific Ocean via the Northern Johnstone Strait or the southern Juan de Fuca Strait. They are on their way to spawn in the lower and upper Fraser River in September and October.
“Eagles and white sturgeon are also historic harvesters and dependent on Fraser River pink salmon as an every odd-year food source,” said Slack.
While pink salmon have long been on the menu for other members of the animal food chain, Vancouver chef Robert Clark is continuing his quest to ensure the fish becomes just as popular with humans.
A year ago Clark left his position as executive chef of C Restaurant, Raincity Grill and Nu Souvlaki to open a seafood store, the Fish Counter, on Main Street where he’ll sell pink salmon when the shop opens in October. Clark is famous in Canada for his decade-long efforts to promote the use of sustainable fish such as pink salmon. Clark has also been involved with the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program since it launched in 2005, to encourage restaurants and chefs to include more sustainable seafood on their menus while eliminating less environmentally friendly offerings.
“I spent my first 10 years at C [restaurant] working and pushing for sustainability, but now there are so many great chefs in Vancouver who have their own ideas on how to move it forward,” said Clark. “I didn’t think I could do any more in the hospitality industry so decided I’d have more impact on the retail side.”
With a historically low sockeye salmon run this year, Clark said it’s more important than ever to turn to pink salmon.
“Four years ago everyone knew it was going to be a disaster so that’s no surprise,” said Clark. “So this is the year people should start eating pink. It’s a high-quality product.”
Clark said the Pink Salmon Festival held every two years by the non-profit Pacific Salmon Foundation is helping promote the “underdog” of a fish. Clark added pink salmon have a mild flavour, the same amount of omega-3 fatty acids as sockeye and are less expensive to buy.
“Some people say it’s too mild,” said Clark. “But that’s not its weakness, that’s its strength. It’s not as rich as sockeye, but it tastes good.”
Besides helping the environment, Clark has another reason to promote pink salmon.
“I love it,” said Clark. “I just love it.”
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