It seems a crisis is emerging on the Fraser River. For those of us in the U.S. working to restore salmon runs, this article provides a glimpse into the complexity of Fraser River management and science (and politics).
Where have all the salmon gone?
And where on Earth are our public watchdogs? Scientists tipped them to this tragedy in 2007
Approximately 130 million baby sockeye from the Chilko, Quesnel and other interior river systems — the largest producers of the most valuable commercial stocks on the Fraser system — appear to have vanished during their annual migration to the sea in 2007.
This season’s shortfall in predicted returns of sockeye salmon — fewer than two million of the predicted 10.6 million are now expected to return — actually points to something really troubling, a possible ecological catastrophe on a vast scale somewhere in the lower Fraser or the Strait of Georgia.
Have we so degraded the Fraser that we are now in the early stages of an Atlantic cod scenario for British Columbia’s iconic wild salmon? Is there something else going on in this enormous ecosystem that has implications for us humans who are perched atop the food chain, perhaps more precariously than we like to think?
Most important, why aren’t we talking about this astonishing, colossal event in these broader terms instead of listening to Indian bands, sports anglers and commercial interests squabbling endlessly over the tattered remnants of what should have been a tremendous return while stunned fisheries managers blather about the difficulty of making the predictions they routinely make and try to calculate how many dwindling sockeye it will be OK to kill as by-catch in other fisheries?