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Author Topic: It's one of the worst years in history for salmon, and we're still killing them  (Read 1110 times)

troutbreath

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It's one of the worst years in history for salmon, and we're still killing them
 
 
By Stephen Hume, Vancouver SunOctober 14, 2009
 
Call it British Columbia's Silent Fall. Some of the most prolific spawning grounds on the Fraser River are showing minuscule returns from record brood stocks four years earlier.

At some sites, almost no fish were reported in waters that should be seething with darting, crimson-sided sockeye salmon vying by the millions to lay and fertilize 10 billion eggs.

Eagles, bears, trout, aquatic insects and plants that feed on decaying salmon may face a nutrient desert on some parts of the upper Fraser and its tributaries.

When I checked on Monday, fisheries counts in the week ending Sept. 23 reported no sockeye observed on the west arm of Quesnel Lake, a vast spawning area. On Quesnel Lake's east arm, 1,468 live sockeye were counted in the seven days to Sept. 29.

On the Quesnel system's North Lake, 3,693 live spawners were counted in the week to Sept. 28. These figures represent snapshots of salmon runs, not cumulative totals. Fish counts are dynamic and change from week to week, so stock analysts can't calculate actual escapements until well after the season ends. Still, these numbers look pretty dismal as almost eight million fewer salmon than expected return, many of them representing stocks in the lower Fraser.

With runs to the huge Quesnel system now considered complete, the reported live count at Bill Miner Creek for the week ending Sept. 29 was zero. Bouldery Creek, zero. Devoe Creek, zero. Long Creek, zero. Roaring River, zero. Abbot Creek, zero. Hazeltine Creek, zero. Spusks Creek, zero. Tasse Creek, zero. Whiffle Creek, zero. Junction Creek, four. Isaiah Creek, 14. Watt Creek, 42. Lynx Creek, 61. Tellingly, the count of salmon carcasses in these particular creeks totalled only 17.

The Pacific salmon stock outlook for 2009 forecast even odds for a return of around 3.5 million sockeye for the Quesnel system spawning areas.

In the Shuswap Lake system, the Adams River, a heavily promoted provincial tourist attraction during the spawning season, only 1,360 fish were counted in the river in the week ending Sept. 28 although more arrived during this past week but had yet to be tabulated by my deadline Tuesday.

On the Nechako River system, which includes Francois Lake, Ormonde Creek, Nithi Creek and Nadina River, no live spawners were observed during weeks from early September through early October, although 71 carcasses were counted on the Nadina.

Four years ago, the brood year escapement to the Nechako system was the highest on record for this particular cycle -- 600 per cent greater than the average from 1981-2001. This fall, 374,000 fish were forecast to return.

On the Horsefly River, the source of another vast sockeye stock, the live count was 1,623 fish for the week ending Oct. 4.

And yet, while one of the poorest sockeye returns to the Fraser in fisheries history was unfolding, the killing of sockeye was still sanctioned.

Figures posted to the website of the Pacific Salmon Commission, the joint Canada-U.S. agency that oversees Fraser sockeye, confirm that even as forecasts for sockeye returns were collapsing, non-commercial fisheries killed at least 102,740 of the already diminished stock returning.

Sports anglers fishing for other species were required to release any sockeye caught, but they still hooked 18,855 and studies show that from five to 15 per cent, possibly more, die from stress and injuries after being released. Particularly vulnerable are fish accidentally snagged by anglers. Close to 3,000 were likely killed by recreational anglers.

Another 31,870 sockeye were killed in two test fisheries used to determine run size and timing. First nations killed 10,020 in Johnston Strait and then killed 54,680 more in the Fraser, exercising their right to fish for cultural, ceremonial and subsistence purposes. First nations in the U.S. killed 4,300. Charter boats killed 1,865.

These are only the reported mortalities. How many more sockeye were accidentally killed as incidental bycatch in gillnet and seine fisheries for other species? Did some as yet unknown event in the lower Fraser cause a mass mortality of out-migrating smolts or, despite loud and early denials from industry and its apologists, did fish farms play some undetermined role in a mortality event for migrating juveniles?

One thing seems clear. We need answers. We need them fast.

shume@islandnet.com

Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
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another SLICE of dirty fish perhaps?

milo

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Lots of inaccuracies, starting with the title.
The article should make it clear they are talking about sockeye, not salmon in general.

As much as the poor sockeye returns are a good reason to raise red flags, the return of other Fraser salmon species appears to be very good, with pinks and coho having a banner year.

"Sports anglers fishing for other species were required to release any sockeye caught, but they still hooked 18,855 and studies show that from five to 15 per cent, possibly more, die from stress and injuries after being released. Particularly vulnerable are fish accidentally snagged by anglers. Close to 3,000 were likely killed by recreational anglers."

Where did he come up with those numbers? Source, please!!!
The only study about recreationally caught sockeye mortality (ongoing) so far shows a less than 2% mortality. At least the study i am aware of.

Anyway...the sky is falling...we all now that.
What's really new?

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troutbreath

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Dems the facts Milo, no sense complaining about it. Although it should have stated Sockeye Salmon for some peoples benefit. :)
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troutbreath

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Follow up on a letter to the Sun on this article:


Sockeye data not based on river experience
 
 
Vancouver SunOctober 16, 2009
 
Re: It's one of the worst years in history for salmon, and we're still killing them, Stephen Hume, Oct. 14

All stakeholders, I'm confident, support the demand for answers to the missing sockeye this past summer. The reference to sockeye mortality from sport fishing release, though, is using flawed data. One carefully controlled scientific study on the Fraser the past two years has determined the actual mortality of sport released sockeye is under two per cent. Stephen Hume's claim that 3,000 sockeye died from accidental hooking would suggest anglers caught and released 150,000 fish on the Fraser -- rather difficult considering the river was closed to sport fishing for sockeye the entire summer.

Rod Clapton

President, B.C Federation of Drift Fishers

Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
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chris gadsden

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the writer fail to mention the sockeye were held in ideal conditions for 24 hours before they were released and who know what happened after they swam away and tried to reach their natal streams. At least they radio tagged some so that may give some answers if they did not swim into a net somewhere. Another waste of government money in my mind. It would be better spent on enforcement to deal with what we see on our rivers these days.

scalper66

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is there any word on the radio tagged fish?
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chris gadsden

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is there any word on the radio tagged fish?
Not that I heard of, maybe they said something at the meeting Rodney was at last night.

Rodney

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The mortality that Steve Hume's article is referring to is based on the marine troll mortality determined from studies (10 to 15%), which should not have been used to calculate freshwater catch and release mortality. In this case the journalist attempted to play a scientist and I agree with Milo, it was poorly done. Mainstream media often summarizes scientific facts for easier reading by the general public but too often omission of little yet important information can paint a completely different story.

Information on the radiotags done on released sockeye salmon will not be available until November or December.