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.