Did Fisheries and Oceans take a head shot in the hockey game?

Ok, I recognize they’re an easy target… DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada) that is. If we continue with the hockey analogy; DFO is the player that keeps coming through the neutral zone with their head down – puck in their skates or something.

Defenceman on the opposition steps up and puts their shoulder pads right on the chin. DFO is lights-out on the ice… stretcher… pink spots in vision next day… career might be over… loss of memory…

See, that’s what I’m getting at… the memory loss.

Last night, I’m searching online for various documents related to sockeye lakes in British Columbia. I’m particularly interested in learning about sockeye lakes in the upper Skeena River area — Bear Lake, Sustut, Johanson. I’m also just looking for general sockeye research as I applied for “standing” in the Cohen Commission investigating the Fraser sockeye collapse.

(my chances of being granted standing are probably about as good as my current chances at making the NHL…)

compliments of Skeena Independent Science Review

And I find a Fisheries and Oceans report from 2001 discussing sockeye rearing lakes.

Factors Limiting Juvenile Sockeye Production and Enhancement Potential for selected BC Nursery Lakes

And in the introduction to the report it quite clearly states:

Numbers of anadromous salmon returning to spawn in lakes and streams from Alaska to California have declined dramatically since the early 1990s (Ricker 1987; Gresh et al. 2000). Causes of the reduced escapements vary, but commercial harvesting, industrial development, and habitat degradation have all had substantial impacts….(my emphasis)

In recent years, the effects of these reductions in salmon escapements on freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems have received considerable attention. The importance of marine-derived nutrients to the productivity of lake, stream and terrestrial ecosystems is now well documented… It is generally accepted that a major effect of reduced anadromous salmon spawners is the oligotrophication of many lakes and streams, with a corresponding reduction in productive capacity.

…The productive capacity of most B.C. sockeye nursery lakes has been, and continues to be, degraded because a substantial proportion of returning adults are harvested in various fisheries and thus prevented from contributing their nutrients to their natal streams and lakes…

In other words, we have systematically created a sockeye death spiral.

For thousands upon thousands of years, sockeye that spawned near B.C. lakes died, the nutrients from their bodies fed the surrounding ecosystems (water and land), and fed the lakes that baby salmon spend their first year to two feeding on small critters. Less nutrients from thousands upon thousands of tonnes of nutrients (parents carcasses) means less small critters… less small critters means less baby sockeye… less baby sockeye means less returning adults.

That’s my definition of death spiral…

And, yet, here is a response from federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to a letter sent to her with concerns about salmon farming on the B.C. coast:

I understand your concerns, and appreciate the opportunity to assure you that one of the highest priorities of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in Pacific Region is the conservation of Pacific salmon stocks.

I will provide some broader context on these issues, and outline specific actions the Department is taking to protect and conserve our wild salmon.

The coastwide scope of the decline that has occurred across all Pacific salmon species suggests that this decline is associated with much larger ecological events than localized salmon farming.  These events include climate change and changes in ocean productivity along our West Coast.

In addition to recognizing the impact of global changes, DFO also understands potential impacts of local conditions.


Original Signed By

Gail Shea, P.C., M.P.

Maybe the rookie minister just hasn’t had time to be fully updated about the issues surrounding salmon declines… like scientific reports from her own ministry pointing to the “substantial impacts” of “commercial harvesting, industrial development, and habitat degradation”.

Maybe the hockey analogy isn’t a fair one for the honourable minister from Prince Edward Island… maybe that tofu pie in the face a month or so ago left her with post-concussion syndrome.

She’s confused about “potential local impacts” and “substantial impacts due to log it, burn it, pave it”…

It would sure be nice if we could get past the awkward niceties that resemble asking that girl to dance at the first grade 8 dance.

Why can’t we just state the obvious and get on with making real changes before we repeat the cod fiasco? Instead there is collective post-concussion syndrome going on within the federal ministry responsible for looking after salmon — now and for our kids…


One thought on “Did Fisheries and Oceans take a head shot in the hockey game?

  1. LAL

    In reading bit of Aldo Leopold’s stuff I came accross a simple formula:
    Observe closely- spend time outside, all year round
    Keep notes on observations
    Think about them
    Write about them
    Save them

    Now I realize that its not all about ‘saving the salmon’ but before they go the way of the elusive snow leopard maybe science and government can go back to the basics outlined above.

    Who ultimately has the power to change this situation? Is it the people who are getting a paycheck to fulfill this part of their job description or those who are passionate about a species that supports human lives?

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