Is climate change to blame for B.C. sockeye collapse?

Wildlife News

 

Updated: Thu Dec. 10 2009 08:37:32

The Canadian Press

Food-poor, predator-rich ocean waters caused by climate change likely played a significant role in decimating millions of sockeye salmon in British Columbia's Fraser River ahead of what was supposed to be a bumper year, says a scientific think tank.

A group of more than 20 ocean and ecology experts gathered in Vancouver this week to discuss possible explanations for this year's salmon collapse and announced their assessment on Wednesday, saying they want to keep the issue afloat with a judicial inquiry approaching.

Last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed a B.C. Supreme Court judge to probe the collapse of the stocks, but the scientists say there's much work that can be done in the meantime.

The group recommended improved forecasting, more ocean-based marine research and a more precautionary approach to fisheries management.

"It's really important that we don't just sit back and do nothing for 18 months while the inquiry is unfolding," said Mark Angelo, chair of the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council.


The group recommended improved forecasting, more ocean-based marine research and a more precautionary approach to fisheries management.

"It's really important that we don't just sit back and do nothing for 18 months while the inquiry is unfolding," said Mark Angelo, chair of the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council.

The federal Fisheries Department had estimated more than 10 million sockeye would return to the Fraser River this year, but only about one tenth of that figure showed up.

That huge shortfall forced the closure of commercial fisheries along the Fraser, as well as aboriginal food fisheries for First Nations in the area.

Using their combined expertise and as much official data they could gather, the scientists concluded the missing sockeye likely vanished when they were still young and migrating towards the sea.

They suggested that in either late spring or early summer of 2007, ocean conditions probably hurt the fish's chances of survival.

"If you're looking at warmer temperatures and a lack of food, that could well be a cause of mortality for large numbers of fish," Angelo said.

However, the group didn't rule out other factors, including fish farms or pollution.

 

 More to the story:

www.ctvbc.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20091210/bc_salmon_climate_change_091210/20091210

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