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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Millions of missing fish signal crisis on the Fraser River

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

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

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.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.
I did some online research concerning possible explanations for the disappearance of the salmon and found
these possible explanations:
Within the following article a
n answer to the question of the missing salmon
might exist :In "Where have all the Fraser River sockeye salmon gone",
written by Brian Lewis, which can be found at:
this writer quotes Chilliwack-based Sto:lo fisheries adviser Ernie Crey, as stating:

"The elders have been telling me for a long time that over-fishing while the sockeye are at sea and are mixed in with other species being caught is gradually extracting the genetically stronger fish among the sockeye from the returning runs, and this has been happening for the past 100 years," he says."
"As a result, Crey explains, the strength and hardiness of the average sockeye to survive its return trip up the Fraser to spawn has slowly diminished."
"That means a higher percentage of fewer sockeye now succumb to temperature, water-flow fluctuations.and other risks in the river."
"The elders ask me when will the white man learn that this is what is happening to the sockeye," Crey adds. "And now I think we're on the edge of not being able to recover this species at all."
That's why Crey and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs are calling for a total ban on all salmon fishing on the Fraser in order to avoid catching sockeye.
The sockeye fishery has been closed to commercial fishing, and the First Nations fishery has had just one two-day opening, Crey notes. The aboriginal total catch has been about 18,000 fish, compared to a normal year of 400,000 to 500,000.
"Why don't we get everyone off the Fraser River during this crisis, at least until we have a better picture of what is actually happening here?" Crey asks.
Another possible explanation for the disappearance of these salmon has been provided at the following website: At this website the following statement exists:

"Fraser River Salmon face many challenges as they make their way to the ocean. Fish farms in the northern Georgia Strait appear to be adding another threat to the list."
"We know that salmon farms breed sea lice that kill wild juvenile salmon. Peer reviewed, published research indicates infestations as low as 1 to 3 lice can be fatal to juvenile pink and chum salmon and a recent study estimates the total salmon mortality caused by sea lice originating on farms to be up to 95% of wild juvenile pink and chum salmon."
"The latest scientific paper on sea lice reports that infestations have spread to juvenile pink, chum, and sockeye salmon as well as juvenile herring near Campbell River fish farms in the northern Georgia Strait."
"We know from studies as well as local and traditional knowledge that most of the Fraser River juvenile salmon migrate close by the fish farms in this area, often stopping to rest and eat in the same bays now occupied by enormous fish farms. Recent DNA analysis of juvenile sockeye salmon sampled in this high-density farm region in the northern Georgia Strait confirms that many of them are from the Fraser River. Of the samples tested, 99% of the sockeye in 2008 and 60% in 2007 were Fraser River sockeye. "
"This raises the possibility that sea lice may be impacting Fraser River Sockeye and other Fraser River stocks as well as local salmon runs. If this is indeed the case, the devastation of fish farms has much farther reaching impacts than suspected. It appears that fish farms are not just a local, coastal problem. Fish farms may be adding serious pressure to Fraser River salmon, and this is one challenge that can be removed."
The spokesperson(s) for the Georgia Strait Alliance conclude by making this statement:
"The only way to avoid catastrophe and still maintain a vital aquaculture industry in BC is to separate commercially farmed fish from the natural environment by moving the farms into closed containment, thus limiting negative environmental impacts, especially the transmission of diseases and parasites between farmed and wild salmon."
this statement:

"it’s not entirely clear what’s causing the survival problem — everything from climate change and shifting ocean currents to ocean acidification have been considered potential culprits."

Lets hope scientists can figure out what is happening to the Fraser River ecosystem, especially for the sake of these fish and all the life forms which require the fish for their survival (especially non-human life!).

The map presented above shows the Locations of key EWatch temperature monitoring stations and major Fraser River sockeye salmon spawning grounds.

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.