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bc salmon fish stocks 9 million lost

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#1 tangledline



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Posted 13 August 2009 - 08:59 AM

Mark Hume

Vancouver — From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Last updated on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009 06:44AM EDT

.The Fraser River is experiencing one of the biggest salmon disasters in recent history with more than nine million sockeye vanishing.

Aboriginal fish racks are empty, commercial boats worth millions of dollars are tied to the docks and sport anglers are being told to release any sockeye they catch while fishing for still healthy runs of Chinook.

Between 10.6 million and 13 million sockeye were expected to return to the Fraser this summer. But the official count is now just 1.7 million, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Where the nine to 11 million missing fish went remains a mystery.

“It's beyond a crisis with these latest numbers,” said Ernie Crey, fisheries adviser to the Sto:lo tribes on the Fraser. “What it means is that a lot of impoverished natives are going to be without salmon. … We have families with little or no income that were depending on these fish. … It's a catastrophe,” he said.

Mr. Crey said a joint Canada-U.S. salmon summit should be called to find solutions.


The sockeye collapse is startling because until just a few weeks ago it seemed the Fraser was headed for a good return.

In 2005 nearly nine million sockeye spawned in the Fraser system, producing a record number of smolts, which in 2007, began to migrate out of the lakes where they'd reared for two years. Biologists for the DFO were buoyed by the numbers – the Chilko and Quesnel tributaries alone produced 130 million smolts – and because the young fish were bigger than any on record.

Those fish were expected to return to the Fraser this summer in large numbers, and those projections held until a few weeks ago when test fishing results began to signal a problem.

Barry Rosenberger, DFO area director for the Interior, said test nets at sea got consistently low catches, then samples in the river confirmed the worst – the sockeye just weren't there in any numbers.

There had been some hope the fish – which return in five distinct groups, or runs – might be delayed at sea, but Mr. Rosenberger dismissed that possibility.

“There are people hanging on to hope … but the reality is … all indications are that none of these runs are late,” he said.

Mr. Rosenberger said officials don't know where or why the salmon vanished – but they apparently died at some point during migration.

“We've been pondering this and I think a lot of people are focusing on the immediate period of entry into the Strait of Georgia and asking what on earth could have happened to them,” said Dr. Brian Riddell, President of the Pacific Salmon Foundation. “What we're seeing now is very, very unexpected.”

Some are pointing accusing fingers at salmon farms, as a possible suspect, because of research that showed young sockeye, known as smolts, got infested with sea lice as they swam north from the Fraser, through the Strait of Georgia.

“This has got to be one of the worst returns we've ever seen on the Fraser. … It's shocking really,” said Craig Orr, of Watershed Watch.

Dr. Riddell said sea lice infestations are a possible factor, but it is “extremely unlikely” that could account for the entire collapse.

“We have had the farms there for many years and we have not seen it related to the rates of survival on Fraser sockeye [before],” he said.

Dr. Riddell said a sockeye smolt with sea lice, however, might grow weak and become easy prey or succumb to environmental conditions it might otherwise survive.

Alexandra Morton, who several years ago correctly predicted a collapse of pink salmon runs in the Broughton Archipelago because of sea lice infestations, in March warned the same thing could happen to Fraser sockeye.

She said researchers used genetic analyses to show Fraser sockeye smolts were getting infested with sea lice in Georgia Strait.

“I looked at about 350 of this generation of Fraser sockeye when they went to sea in 2007 and they had up to 28 sea lice [each]. The sea lice were all young lice, which means they got them in the vicinity of where we were sampling, which was near the fish farms in the Discovery Islands. If they got sea lice from the farms, they were also exposed to whatever other pathogens were happening on the fish farms (viruses and bacteria), ” said Ms. Morton in an e-mail.

“There's a lot of different beliefs as to why the fish haven't shown up, but I think it's pretty clear where there are no fish farms salmon are doing well,” said Brian McKinley, a guide and owner of Silversides Fishing Adventure.

“It's pretty frustrating to watch what is happening,” he said from his boat, anchored on the river near Mission. “I remember sockeye would just boil through here in August and September. It was insane. . .now the river seems dead.”

Dan Gerak, who runs Pitt River Lodge, said there is an environmental crisis on the river.

“Definitely something's got to be done – or it's finished forever,” he said of the Fraser's famed salmon run.

Other big runs of salmon are expected to return this year - notably pinks where are projected to number 17 million - but it is too early to tell if the sockeye collapse will be repeated with other species.
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#2 tangledline



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Posted 13 August 2009 - 09:04 AM

Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery closed again
Last Updated: Thursday, August 13, 2009 | 4:58 AM PT Comments85Recommend25.
CBC News
Gillnetters wait for their opening to catch the prized Fraser River sockeye near Steveston, B.C., in August 2006. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)Scientists and others are scrambling to determine what happened to millions of sockeye salmon that defied their predictions and failed to return to the Fraser River this summer, leading to the closure of all the sockeye fishing on the river for the third year in a row.

After two of the leanest years on record, scientists had predicted a healthy return of sockeye in 2009. But the most recent numbers show this year's Fraser River sockeye run is only expected to be 600,000 fish, about seven per cent of the original prediction of 8.7 million, making it perhaps the worst return on record.

The original prediction was largely based the strong spawning year in 2005 and the salmon's four-year life cycle, but was considered to be accurate only 50 per cent of the time.

Fishermen devastated
Irvin Figg, the president of the United Fisherman and Allied Workers union, said news of the closure is devastating for commercial fishermen, and it has been made worse by news that the other summer big run on the Skeena River on the Central Coast also might not open to commercial fishing this year, hitting many fishermen with a double-whammy.

"It's depression, and a certain amount of anger, and the anger comes from not knowing what the heck is going on. You know, is this the end of an era? I hope not," said Figg.

Figg wants the federal government to pay for more studies to uncover why so few sockeye are returning to their spawning grounds.

In 2008 and 2007, DFO also closed the Fraser River to both commercial and recreational sockeye fishing because of the low returns. To the south, the U.S. also cancelled commercial salmon fishing off the California and Oregon coasts last year.

Ecologist questions causes
Ecologist Craig Orr, who studies sockeye as the executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society, said the cause of what is now three years of low returns is unclear.

"Whether it's as juveniles leaving the system, or as adults returning, they are not getting the food in the high seas. Canada needs to get its act together and get some real investigation going on what's happening to these fish," said Orr.

Some experts blame warmer ocean and river temperatures, and declining food supplies in the open oceans for the failing salmon runs.

But warmer water temperatures can't fully explain the demise of so many fish, said Orr, who is calling for a full investigation of the impact of fish farming and sea lice on wild stocks.

Scientists, environmentalists, politicians and fish farmers have been arguing for years about the impact salmon farms are having on young salmon fry, with many opponents of fish farms predicting sea lice from the industrial operations would decimate wild salmon stocks
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#3 ec1



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Posted 14 August 2009 - 01:58 AM

Thats really sad, and I bet before I die, they are probably going to disappear. Netting for food for the loss.
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