let the theory parade continue…

Add another theory to the search for culprits in the sockeye crash last year:

Brain lesions linked to sharp drop in sockeye stocks

After the dramatic collapse of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser River last year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans quickly identified the three “most likely” causes – including a mysterious disease that causes brain lesions in fish.

“The evidence of brain lesions is new and it will take some time to document the geographic extent and to understand a relationship (if any) between a disease agent and mortality,” states a Dec. 11, 2009, Memorandum for the Minister signed by deputy Minister Claire Dansereau.

In an Oct. 8, 2009, email to Ms. Dansereau, Mr. Sprout, who is now retired, listed 10 possible causes of the sockeye collapse. But in her subsequent memo, Ms. Dansereau narrowed the list to three, and focused on one – a disease associated with a pattern in the way some genes become active in salmon as they make their way back to freshwater.

Let’s just keep the search on for a mystical cause — rather than looking in the fricking mirror.

Disease, parasites, food shortages and so on have been with wild salmon since the beginning of salmon time. That’s the importance of biodiversity, ensuring stocks don’t go extinct, and protecting habitat.

The issue here is that we have been fishing off 60-80% of total runs for close to fifty years in mixed stock fisheries that have caused many sockeye stocks to go extinct, along with hammering habitat — especially in the Fraser. With this sort of pressure, the magnitude of diseases all of a sudden seems catastrophic when runs are under significant pressure to survive.

I’m really looking forward to the point in time when DFO accepts responsibility for ‘management’ planning over the last several decades and actually says: “gee, you know what, maybe our management role has had the biggest impact on salmon runs… these then increase the magnitude of impacts of things like disease and parasites…”

It’s a novel concept.

3 thoughts on “let the theory parade continue…

  1. tlellami

    Sounds to me like DFO is laying the ground work for some new funding to explore these “brain lesions”. I agree SG…biodiversity needs to be protected so sockeye can deal with disease, parasites, and yes, even climate change.

    DFO needs to evaluate all the stressors we are exposing salmon to through management and non – management decisions (habitat destruction, water removals, etc), get a decent grip on this, and then move on to looking at “brain lesions”.

    Deep sigh…


  2. priscilla judd

    According to the Government funded signs in the Lumby Salmon Trail
    our Coho are endangered. According to the BC Ministry of Environment Lumby’s sewage system is flagged for an upgrade.

    Other than their logo on our signs – where is DFO?

    I heard about the regular 3 metre high lumps of foam floating down the Bessette into the Shuswap – I notified the pollution Internet hot line – I had a nice e-mail from someone in some office saying that the Bessette was tested a few odd years ago – the foam is likely natural but there are some cattle grazing near the water so that might account for some high coliform counts.

    I recently learned from an elected official – that it is legal in BC to dump treated sewage into our rivers – and that is most likely the foam that people have been concerned about.

    Then I heard that a large shoreline development does not need a special waste water permit – is it true? I don’t know – but I imagine it’s true… Why would it not be true?

    DFO could be the hero in our watersheds – instead they are interested in counting salmonso that they can open the fishing season – and when disease threatened our wild salmon they kept it to themselves.

    Thanks for all your posts…

  3. Brian

    The work into finding these lesions is just one part of an investigative effort by Scott Hinch’s group at UBC (supported by DFO and the PSC). The early entry of late run sockeye back in the late 90’s “spawned” quite a bit of this research which had been going on prior to 2009, so it isn’t some new endevour. It kind of recognizes that perhaps the oceans (where salmon spend a large part of their life history) have changed also as well as other things.

    However, I hope that a greater effort can also be done on the freshwater side of things as well such as juvenile enumeration and assessment. In reality we only get a small snapshot of juvenile sockeye when the leave and this basically centers around one particular system. Pretty hard to pinpoint anything when obvious holes in knowledge exist. I believe many of these issues (habitat, disease, etc,) do not have to be mutually exclusive from one another and have to be tackled one at a time. The people (including volunteers) are there to do the work – they just need to be allowed to do it which includes politicians that want to make this a priority.

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