Friday, August 19, 2005

Red flag for reds again

The poor showing of sockeyes in Canadian rivers has the Canadians scratching their heads. They are blaming the huge losses on ocean warming as I wrote about in an early July post. It looks like the phenomenon might have affected the king salmon on the Columbia River in Oregon to the red run on the Stikine river in Southeast Alaska, and everything in between. That's a lot of rivers.

The Lake Washington sockeye run, was a disaster, the Stikine River sockeye run was real poor, maybe a disaster, I haven't heard anything from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. I suppose my brother knows. My son was gillnetting for those fish with Arnold and he came back early when Arnold went halibut fishing. At one point 150 gillnetters opted not to go out.

The Canadians have noticed major losses in ocean survival to the runs on the Frazer, the Nass and the Skeena. These are big rivers. The Frazer might have had runs of up to one hundred million sockeye before they started hammering them and before they blew part of the sidehill into the river making a railroad. They are expecting a run of only a couple of million this year. They had forcast a run of 11 million.

The folks with the last functioning plant in Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia aren't waiting around for any good news. It looks like the same old lip service on restoring the runs up the Columbia, and now the closure of all sport and commercial fishing for chinook this summer. They are turning the plant into condos and cutsy shops.

Why sweat it anyway, people are all a little overweight anyway, or, there are just too many other needs for the water and surrounding stream ecosystems. The runs are too far gone anyway and any number of other reasons fisheries managers and politicians might have for not being too concerned about this situation. But, these are the species that brought fishermen from all over the world to the West Coast to settle down and build the cities we have here now.

There should be a lot more jumping up and down because the word might get out that wild fish is the only safe protien source left for human consumption. What other North Pacific species might be affected next? So far, the humpies and the sockeye north of Icy Straits in Alaska don't seem to be affected. That's a generalization for bankers and politicians. There may be some other isolated problem areas.

I'm sure that when the Canadians say it's the ocean environment, they have looked at all the other variables such as winter stream conditions, river water temperature and flow rates, etc. They usually tell it like it is. Not that there is anything they are going to be able to do about this one. But watch what measures they take: they are usually a bunch of years ahead of the Americans in fisheries research. Not that it helps them much, they have some fisheries that are just shadows of their former glory just because of overfishing.


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