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article imageLoss of BC Salmon provokes calls to scrap fish farms

By Stephanie Dearing     Sep 7, 2009 in Environment
This year's sockeye salmon run was notable for its lack of salmon. Instead of the 10 million salmon that were predicted to return to spawn this year, there were roughly 1 million. The experts can't explain what happened.
British Columbia's wild salmon fishery suffered a huge blow, estimated at $1.6 billion in losses. Barely 6% of the expected fish returned to spawn this year and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is at a loss to explain why this is the case. Fishing for salmon was not allowed in both British Columbia and the northwest United States in mid-August. This was the first time in over 150 years that the US has had to shut down Pacific salmon fishing. Compensation was already being worked out by the US when they decided to stop the fishing, and authorities declared a disaster so they could get funds moving faster.
Canadian commercial fisherman, devastated by the loss to their livelihoods, are angry with Canada's head of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Gail Shea. Accusations have been made that the Department is not committed to "funding research and sustainable fisheries," prompting the Department to post its spending record on its website. Some people have accused Shea of supporting fish farms over wild fish, saying that Shea betrayed them; while others have said that Shea's ministry has not been spending enough money on research for years.
British Columbia's other major sockeye salmon run in Skeena River was also closed because there were less sockeye than normal.
One theory favoured in the attempt to understand why millions of salmon did not return is that lice from fish farms have severely affected the wild salmon. Another favoured theory is overfishing.
NDP MP, Nathan Cullen, has been calling for an investigation into the collapse of the sockeye fishery, as well as compensation for fishermen.
Last year, in an effort to save the Chinook Salmon fishery, the US government agreed to compensate Canadian fishers as part of the joint US-Canadian Pacific Salmon Treaty which came into effect in January this year. The controversial decision saw Canada agreeing to reduce its Chinook catch by 30%. Chinook spawn in the spring.
The west coast salmon fishery supports some 52,000 jobs.
So far there is no word on whether or not the Canadian government might provide the sockeye fishermen with compensation.
More about Sockeye salmon, Salmon run, Fraser river, Salmon fishery, British columbia
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