Joel Krahn/Yukon News file

LETTER: Old enough to know what’s been lost in B.C. salmon

Stephen Hume writes about the lack of discussion on the province’s dwindling salmon population

Re: B.C. Views: Finding hope for B.C.’s salmon (Black Press Media column by Greg Knill, Jan. 12, 2020)

I caught my first salmon more than 60 years ago. It was a spring, almost as big as I was.

My father-in-law caught his first spring, 27-lb, from a dugout canoe in Cowichan Bay just after WWI. He told me that when the late-summer run came in, you couldn’t look to any point of the compass and not see a salmon jumping. I watched my dad play and lose a monster steelhead in the Nanaimo River in 1956.

If there’s one conclusion I’ve reached, it’s that if we expect to have any salmon at all, we have to stop destroying habitat by shearing and re-shearing watersheds so that they can’t retain snowpack, which means hotter rivers in late summer.

We can’t keep industrially ocean-mining — particularly herring — at the base of the food chain. Herring supply 80 per cent of the feed for springs and coho, but almost every population on the coast has now crashed.

We can’t keep killing salmon at so-called maximum sustained yield rates that allow no margin of insurance when disasters like the Big Bar slide occur.

We can’t keep deluding ourselves that a sport fishery that’s really a driver for guides financing $200,000 boats and resort owners filling rooms is recreational rather than industrial.

Nobody wants to talk about these things because they touch upon big economic interests and mean curbing individual desires.

Nobody wants to talk about the intellectual fraud that is catch-and-release fishing, where mortalities are vastly understated and vulnerable smaller fish are routinely released to near-certain death just so that clients can catch a bigger fish. There’s no better indicator of this mentality than a cruise through the fishing lodge website photos.

So, sadly, being old enough to know what’s already been lost, I’m not at all optimistic about the future of our salmon.

I think we are entering the “who gets to kill the last buffalo” phase of their extirpation from much of their historic range.

On peak cycle, the Fraser River used to have annual returns of 160 million salmon. It teemed with oolichan, and some species of river herring spawned as far upstream as Bridge River. Now we get a return of 10 million fish and we congratulate ourselves on a good management year.

In my childhood, at least 25,000 Chinook, perhaps even 50,000, ran past Duncan in a peak year. Sockeye once ran into Cowichan Lake to spawn.

But our dance of denial goes on. We can’t even find the collective spine to raise the weir a few feet for the benefit of salmon and steelhead. Looking back on our systematic abuse and unbridled greed, I’m no longer sure we even deserve them.

Stephen Hume

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Moth outbreak prompts concerns for forest health

Shuswap entomologist argues looper moth resurgence beneficial to biodiversity

Shuswap MLA opposed to ‘opportunistic’ snap election

Greg Kyllo says fall election would essentially shut down government when it’s needed most

Little Shuswap Lake Band confirms case of COVID-19

Contact tracing underway, Interior Health says no risk to general public

Salmon Arm Council denies girls’ request for crosswalk on Lakeshore Road

City opts for vegetation removal so sight lines will be clearer

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

Interior Health reports four new cases of COVID-19

First hospitalization since mid-August announced

Rail traffic starts moving after 60-car derailment near Hope

Clean up effort ongoing after 60 cars carrying potash crashed along a rail bridge

Spoon-wielding man draws police presence in Penticton

Police say no one was harmed during the incident

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

‘Not criminally responsible’ hearing slated for man convicted of Abbotsford school stabbing

Gabriel Klein was found guilty in March of killing Letisha Reimer, 13, in 2016

Most Read