International fishing muddies the water

Fishing for trout was pretty good this fall on the Adams River and that was in spite of the fact that there were not a lot of salmon

Fishing for trout was pretty good this fall on the Adams River and that was in spite of the fact that there were not a lot of returning salmon. How many times over the years have I stood on the banks of the Adams and watched returning sockeye complete the inevitable and eternal part of their life cycle? Returning salmon must make their way past many a hurdle on the Fraser before ever reaching their spawning grounds along the Adams. Which is one of the reasons I no longer fish for salmon.

I have eaten salmon smoked, candied, barbecued, poached and just about every other way salmon can be prepared. I enjoy eating salmon, especially sockeye – every bit as much as I used to enjoy fishing for them. The problem is that sockeye salmon stocks are in trouble.

Scientists with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans attribute the decline of the Fraser River fish stocks to any number of factors. Most recently they’ve been saying that it is due to poor survival rate of salmon while in the ocean. According to DFO reports, “young fish are suffering high mortality rates as they move from the Fraser River into saltwater conditions, and are subsequently finding less food to eat in the Pacific Ocean in the years spent maturing to adults.”

It just seems as though each and every fall DFO comes out with the same old tired statement that they “have some serious concerns” about the Fraser River sockeye run. Hopefully, under the new federal government, DFO will actually come out with a plan – maybe even one based on the recommendations put forward in the Cohen Commission’s report. We shall see.

Meanwhile, every year returning sockeye numbers on the Fraser are in steady decline. But each year there are an estimated 10 million pink salmon that entered the Fraser River system. Should we not be looking at pinks as an alternative to the sockeye?

In the past couple of years the B. C. Salmon Marketing Council has made a major push to promote salmon species other than sockeye, most notably pinks and chum. Sockeye salmon may be more desirable in some ways to pinks or chum. A lot depends on people’s perception … which is based on what they believe to be more desirable and what advertisers tell consumers is more desirable. On a positive note, some of B.C.’s top restaurants are now listing pink salmon on their menus.

On a less than positive note though, while BC’s salmon catches are in steady decline, countries such as Russia, Japan, and Alaska have been experiencing bumper harvests.

Massive harvesting and processing vessels routinely sail the oceans completely uncontrolled. All the while, the list of seafood options for consumers continues to grow, including farmed salmon and less expensive fish species such as hake, which is now taken in large numbers off the coast of B.C. Many of the larger grocery chains also offer consumers fish such as basa, a type of catfish native to the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam, and something called tilapia. I couldn’t even tell you what a tilapia looks like never mind where it comes from.

The problem is, as consumers, half the time we don’t even know what we are eating.

My point is that international fishing and processing practices are adding to the problems of the fishery here in B.C.

We need DFO to come up with a proper plan – one that will help Fraser River sockeye numbers to increase while not putting unnecessary pressure on other fish stocks. I won’t even get into the problems with halibut stocks off the B.C. coast.

We have a new federal government in place and we need to let them know, in no uncertain terms, that something needs to be done out here before it is too late.



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