Thank-you Mr. Hume.
The headline above is from a Sept. 1 Vancouver Sun article.
The article starts:
On the weekend, media leaped aboard the “kill more sockeye” bandwagon, citing experts claiming that if too many fish reach the spawning grounds, it’s bad for the fish stocks.
According to one report in the Richmond News, reducing the harvest on salmon runs from 90 per cent to the present 30 per cent has had a negative effect on salmon populations.
Mr. Hume runs through a decent history of why we might be seeing such a huge run this year and then states:
It’s difficult to understand where the idiocy that provoked the research comes from. When only first nations harvested fish using none of today’s technology, runs were putting five, 10, 15 times as many salmon as we do on the spawning grounds. The annual abundance was astounding — returns of up to 160 million fish.
The big 1913 run with which this one is now compared saw 39 million sockeye return. In a similar frenzy of greed, 31 million were harvested. Processing capacity was overwhelmed. Whole boatloads of rotten fish were routinely dumped. Unfortunately, this moronic exercise coincided with the near-damming of the Fraser during railway construction at Hell’s Gate.
Stephen quotes from a paper done for the Pacific Fisheries Resources Conservation Council in 2004: “Does Over-Escapement Cause Salmon Stock Collapse?” The authors: C. Walters, P. LeBlond, and B. Riddell (two of which were original members of Justice Cohen’s pre-eminent scientific advisory committee) suggest at the end of the paper:
The concerns expressed that over-escapement has lead to stock collapse are not supported by available data on Pacific salmon.
And this would seem to be supported by the fact that the paper outlines how in 2002 records were set in places like Shuswap Lake and Quesnel Lake in terms of effective female spawners. Similarly this was copied in 2006, with near record effective spawners as a result of smaller harvest rates (amid cries of foul by the commercial industry)… and gee… here we are 4 years later with a record return of upwards of 35 million.
Might there be a connection?
As mentioned in the paper as well:
While this work is limited to sockeye salmon, it is building strong evidence for a carrying capacity limit to sockeye production in the Fraser lakes. This would add further indications that over-spawning is not likely to lead to collapse of a sockeye salmon stock, but rather the lake system will provide the “natural controls” on production.
Now there’s a thought… nature actually has it’s own controls on population; humans don’t need to enforce it through nets…
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The part that surprises me about this — and hopefully Dr. Carl Walters may be able to provide some comments on this, as he has on other posts on this website — is that he was one of the authors of that paper (granted that was 6 years ago), yet he’s certainly been one of the advocates this year of harvesting more Fraser sockeye so that there are less effective female spawners on the spawning grounds…
And a rather vociferous advocate of hammering more sockeye in commercial fisheries… CBC interviews on multiple programs and quoted in almost every major newspaper running articles on the issue.
Although it seems that the policy of allowing more spawners to reach the grounds in 2006 is paying huge dividends this year…?
Could we maybe just extend the experiment another 4 years? Hold off again this year and see if we get record returns again in 4 years — following 2002 and 2006?
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As the 2004 paper does state in the conclusion:
However, we must also note the advocacy for larger spawning escapements (regardless of production efficiency) for ecological values. It is also argued that larger escapements through lower harvest rates may be necessary to conserve salmon biodiversity, and that large escapements may be necessary to promote re-colonization of habitats or dispersal of salmonids.
Hmmm… sounds like some pretty darn good reasons to me. And really, I’m not so sure it’s simply “advocacy” for larger spawning escapement. There is some science to support it as well… such as Dr. Tom Reimchen’s search into the relationship between salmon and forests.
And really, if it’s simply “advocacy” for larger spawning populations… is it not the same in return as reflected in the loud voices asking for more harvest this year?
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Furthermore, as pointed out in a separate paper (PRELIMINARY REPORT ON SOCKEYE FRY IN QUESNEL AND SHUSWAP LAKES IN 2003 (by Jeremy Hume, Ken Shortreed, and Steve MacLellan) — which comprises Appendix 1 of the above paper:
Recent escapements to Shuswap and Quesnel lakes have been the highest or amongst the highest ever observed. The decomposing carcasses from these escapements have returned significant amounts of marine derived nutrients (MDN) to the South Thompson and Quesnel river watersheds. Carcasses in the Shuswap watershed will have increased nutrient loading to the lake somewhat but nutrients from carcasses in the Adams river (63% of the total in 2002) are mostly diverted downstream by prevailing currents into Little Shuswap Lake and the South Thompson River, where they mostly benefit species other than sockeye.
“Benefit species other than sockeye”… a pretty important point.
Could that be like the endangered Interior coho — the baby/fry of which rear in freshwater for up to two years?
Or, maybe the Chinook fry doing the same, or other species trying to eke out a living?
Could we not be highlighting one of the significant issues with single species fisheries management?
Or, how about that “ecosystem-based management” sung and praised and lauded in Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy?
Would it maybe not be such a bad idea to allow the marine nutrients represented by all those returning sockeye to actually return to the spawning grounds?
Because… really… if there were some localized areas that did have a bit of over-spawn what sort of real reduction in “productivity” would we see?
0.00001% or 2 % or 10% or a catastrophic 50%…?
I don’t think anyone can really say with any real accuracy. It’s all theory and conjecture… theory and conjecture… all a great experiment.
So why not allow more chances at successful spawning…? salmon have been around a few million years with nature looking after population control… then boom… in the last 50 years mathematic equations, computer models, and economic egos arrive suggesting that humans have all the answers.