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Alaska and B.C.’s salmon runs expected to be worst ever recorded

In Alaska, the Cordova City Council passed a resolution last week, asking the state to declare disasters for both the 2018 Copper River sockeye and chinook salmon runs and the 2020 sockeye, chum and chinook runs at the Copper River and Prince William Sound, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Cordova is also asking both the state and federal governments to declare a “condition of economic disaster in Cordova as a result,”{ reports, adding, “The town of 2,500 is now the first of what will likely be at least one or two others to ask for a fisheries and economic disaster declaration in 2020.”

File photo: Processing salmon

File photo: Processing salmon
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The sockeye fishery at Chignik on the Alaska Peninsula will remain closed again this year. The returns have been bad now for three straight years. “It’s looking like one of the worst years in Chignik history,” Ross Renick, area manager for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game said.

About the only place in Alaska that is doing well is the Bristol Bay salmon fishery. Of the 44 million sockeye salmon catches this year, over than 39 million of the reds came from Bristol Bay, reports the National Fisherman.

A stern full of Bristol Bay Sockeye. The F/V Mecca. Captain: Turk. Deckhand: Marco Casagrande. 2006.

A stern full of Bristol Bay Sockeye. The F/V Mecca. Captain: Turk. Deckhand: Marco Casagrande. 2006.

However, the bay’s base price of 70 cents a pound is down 48 percent from last year’s $1.35 a pound and “has understandably created anger and confusion among fishermen,” said the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association in a statement on market conditions.

Fraser River sockeye run
The Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) says this year may turn out to be the worst for sockeye salmon in the Fraser River since tracking began in 1893, according to CBC Canada.

Forecasters are saying this year’s run has been downgraded to less than a third of pre-season forecasts because of a number of challenges, one being the unusually high water levels on the river. This makes it a particularly difficult challenge for migrating fish.

Sockeye salmon get their famously bright red color and hooked nose after they return to freshwater t...

Sockeye salmon get their famously bright red color and hooked nose after they return to freshwater to spawn.
USEPA Environmental-Protection-Agency

Another challenge is the huge landslide that blocked the river to salmon last year – the Big Bar landslide north of Lillooet. The outcome was the installation of a $50 million system designed to carry fish past the obstruction. The Fraser River salmon runs, the Early Stuart and Early Summer, will struggle to make the migration, according to the PSC.

“The majority of those runs will not reach their spawning grounds,” said Catherine Michielsens, the commission’s chief of fisheries management science. “The situation for Fraser sockeye is quite dire. We’ve now had two years in a row where we were having record low numbers return,” she added.

Michielsens also believes ocean and river water temperatures brought on by climate change are tied to the low returns. She may be right as rain, because the long wooden docks at Fisherman’s Wharf in Vancouver’s False Creek are unusually quiet this year.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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