Where are the 35 million sockeye? — Upper Fraser salmon rally and prayer

Stellaquo Sockeye: returning to where it came from...

Yesterday, my family and I drove to the Stellaquo River — Fraser Lake area — to attend a salmon rally and prayer organized by the Stellat’en and Nadleh Whut’en First Nations. Also attending was Alexandra Morton and her team, who are traveling the many tributaries of the upper and mid-Fraser, as part of the Salmon are Sacred campaign.

Salmon are Sacred

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Stellaquo in sockeye fall colors

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salmon people

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nice work Sharolise!

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It was great to see sockeye in the river…

Stellaquo sockeye

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And on the banks…

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But this sign says it all:

where’s the millions?

At the fish fence run by the Stellat’en First Nation, estimates suggest about 200,000 sockeye have gone by this year (and about 4 Chinook).

This is only a percentage of the 800,000 sockeye that have been seen in past years, and millions in years gone by.

This year is comparable to the 180,000 or so counted two years ago — which was a ‘down’ year for Fraser sockeye. A year when there were basically no Fraser sockeye-focussed commercial fisheries.

Historic Fraser sockeye run this year?

Maybe at the mouth, maybe up the Adams River way, maybe in some ocean-based gill nets… sure as hell not in the upper Fraser.

Downstream folks… remember… everything flows downstream.

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After the riverside ceremony a community dinner was hosted at the Stellat’en Hall. The Nadleh Whut’en youth dancers performed:

Nadleh Whut'en youth dancers

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Fantastic, really fantastic.

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These youth were such a pleasure to watch perform.

Sadly, unless some tough choices are made in coming years, these youth will see a “historic” year of sockeye, like this year (which – sadly – is far from historic in the upper Fraser) — dwindle away to historic losses.

Many of the salmon runs will only become stories told, names remembered like mythological characters of bygone years, and ghosts dancing in rivers and on riverbanks.

I say¬† — tough choices — because we can continue to pay top $$ for researchers to find the “smoking gun”, or explain why this year was a good year, or blame dwindling runs on squid, or blame it on El Nino… or we can start making tough choices on the things we can actually do something about — us.

In the Fraser River there’s this really nasty critter that impacts salmon. Generally it has two legs and two arms and apparently the most developed brain in the animal kingdom. It has a great propensity for compassion, forethought, and action. I think you know who I am referring to — you and me.

Why don’t we put some top $$ into the things we can actually do something about.

Ourselves and our impacts.

We can keep spending top $$ on environmental reviews and assessments and preeminent scientific panels and conferences and forums and commissions and public inquiries — and we can blame the dwindling salmon runs between Los Angeles, California and Inuvik, Northwest Territories on ocean currents, seals, orcas, squid, mackerel, trout, Dolly Varden, bears, eagles, and whatever else — or maybe, just maybe, …slow down… take stock… and simply focus in on ourselves and our actions?

And talk to the hundreds of thousands of people around the North Pacific coast and inland areas that have knowledge of salmon, that have knowledge of salmon habitat, and have a lot of ideas about a few things we might need to consider.

For example, I recently heard — and was told again last night — about a wooden stake that was recently extracted from the river bed at the Nadleh Whut’en community. It was part of an ancient salmon fishing weir. The stake was carbon dated to at least 1200 A.D.

This is about the same time the Vikings were charging around the coasts of Europe.

Seems the Vikings get a whole lot of attention and research… what about the salmon people of the upper Fraser?

They were around a lot longer as distinct cultures and people than the Vikings were…

Just a thought.

One thought on “Where are the 35 million sockeye? — Upper Fraser salmon rally and prayer

  1. Pingback: Some Interesting Salmon Links - theXpress

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