Many of the juvenile salmon now migrating through the Discovery Islands are the offspring of the Fraser River sockeye that collapsed in 2009. This subgroup of fish with a troubled past are faced with myriad hazards as they struggle for survival, but adding to their peril (and of course the peril of all wild juvenile salmon) are the rising lice levels on salmon farms. (more…)
Farmed and Dangerous Blog
Posts Tagged ‘fraser river sockeye’
What is DFO doing to protect juvenile Fraser River sockeye salmon from sea lice infestations during this migration season?Tuesday, June 28th, 2011
Last month I had the privilege of witnessing the miraculous abundance of Fraser River sockeye returning this year. The Adams River was a whir of activity as people jostled for the best position to see as the salmon fought the currents and each other for the best mate and place for a spawning redd. Tears welled up frequently as I marveled at the beauty and the miracle of their unlikely return. (more…)
Record returns of some Fraser River sockeye stocks have been making headlines over the past few weeks. With an estimated 34 million expected to return, this is in stark contrast to last year’s dismal return of only 1.5 million. While we celebrate, it’s important to remember that one good return year against a background of steady decline in Fraser sockeye over more than a decade does not signal recovery. (more…)
Here’s an interesting quote from the backgrounder to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’s (DFO) June 11th Aquaculture Innovation and Market Access Program (AIMAP) announcement:
“Marine Harvest Canada received $200,000 in AIMAP funding to test alternative offshore salmon cage nets (pen nets) against traditional nylon nets. A side-by-side comparison of the net types will test for biofouling, net durability and fish growth. This project, which has leveraged nearly $1.6 million in additional funds, will be carried out in Marsh Bay (northern Vancouver Island).”
For a little perspective on where these tests will take place, Marsh Bay salmon farm – actually on Canada’s mainland north across Queen Charlotte Strait from Port Hardy – is situated inside a DFO-designated Rockfish Conservation Area where fishing is limited to only those types of gear that have no impact on demersal rockfish stocks. Elevated levels of mercury have been found in rockfish caught near salmon farms. Marsh Bay is also right on the path of out-migrating Sakinaw and Cultus Lake sockeye – two stocks of concern recommended for emergency listing as endangered populations by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Cultus Lake sockeye, by the way, are a part of the Fraser River sockeye stocks that collapsed in 2009. A judicial inquiry into what caused the collapse is now underway.
Some changes were proposed for the salmon farm just over a year ago and included using a different type of cage structure more suited to the harsher, open-ocean type of marine environment that can affect Marsh Bay. A tenure expansion was needed to place the new anchors for the structures and Living Oceans Society received a referral from the Provincial Integrated Lands Management Bureau (ILMB). And, because the application may require DFO to issue a permit under Section 35(2) of the Fisheries Act for harmfully altering, disrupting or destroying fish habitat, it triggered a requirement under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act for DFO to conduct a review. DFO has still not completed its Environmental Assessment (EA) for Marsh Bay making the approval for funding these tests questionable. I prepared comments for Living Oceans Society and brought our conservation concerns, including those mentioned above to both the ILMB’s and DFO’s attention and since the application is still under review, there is still time for public comment. The other important decision from the ILMB on the tenure expansion is also still pending.
Since there is no shortage of open net-pen salmon farms in Canada that are not undergoing EAs where this alternative technology could be tested, I was surprised to read that DFO awarded AIMAP funds to this particular project when their EA is still in the works and Justice Cohen’s Commission of Inquiry into the collapse of Fraser River sockeye is just beginning. By awarding the funding, DFO is either presuming that the Marsh Bay EA will result in a positive outcome and that the Cohen Inquiry will totally exonerate salmon farming as a contributor to the Fraser River sockeyes’ collapse or else the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.
But what surprised me the most was, considering the mountain of scientific evidence showing the negative effects associated with farming salmon in open net-pens on wild salmon migration routes, I would think that the feds should be more inclined at this time to spend taxpayers’ money supporting real innovation like the closed containment pilot project trial being proposed by Marine Harvest Canada than to continue testing alternative types of open net-pens.
In addition to the sea lice research that CAAR is actively undertaking in the Broughton Archipelago Monitoring Program (BAMP), CAAR members have also been studying patterns of sea lice infections on juvenile Fraser River sockeye. (more…)
Early last month, a think tank of scientists gathered at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver to discuss possible causes of the Fraser River sockeye collapse and urgent next steps needed to protect this iconic species. The group released a statement – Adapting to Change: Managing Fraser sockeye in the face of declining productivity and increasing uncertainty – noting that the 2009 return was the lowest in 50 years and that the productivity of Fraser River sockeye has been declining since the mid-1990s to levels so low that they are almost unable to replace themselves. (more…)