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Home > Sockeye Salmon - British Columbia Record Run

Sockeye Salmon - British Columbia Record Run

Sockeye Salmon - British Columbia's Record Run

As fishermen haul in massive loads of sockeye salmon, the official estimate of this summerís near-record bounty has been upped to 30 million, the second increase in four days, deepening one of Canadaís great scientific mysteries. It is the most sockeye that have returned to British Columbiaís Fraser River in almost a century, and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans responded to the new number Friday afternoon by increasing the total allowable catch for commercial fishermen by more than 60 per cent to 10.2 million sockeye, from 6.2 million on Tuesday.


The bounty is a radical reversal of a two-decade decline and comes after three years of no commercial fishing at all of Fraser River sockeye. Last summer was the most fearsome plunge, when only 1.5 million sockeye came back to the Fraser, a fraction of what was expected. With the spectre of the cod fishery collapse on the East Coast in the early 1990s, B.C.ís disappearing salmon sparked a federal judicial inquiry last fall.

There are many suspects in that disappearance. Warmer ocean water is believed to have reduced the amount of food for sockeye, and colder water recently might have helped this yearís massive run. The proliferation of fish farms on B.C.ís coast has been blamed for spreading sea lice, and other diseases that prey on young sockeye. Other predators, such as sea lions and seals, have been cited.

This summerís surprise abundance of sockeye, a rich red salmon, does not herald a fishery saved. The mystery hasnít been solved, itís deepened. The massive schools of sparkling silver sockeye, bounding through the Georgia Strait and up the Fraser River, indicates how little Canada really understands about the fish, part of B.C.ís economy and wilderness heritage.

The judicial inquiry, led by Mr. Justice Bruce Cohen of the B.C. Supreme Court, will take direct aim at the mystery of the long sockeye decline Ė including why scientific predictions have ended up so far off the mark. Evidentiary hearings start within weeks, with results due next May.

Whatever conclusion the Cohen commission eventually reaches, B.C.ís sockeye fishermen already have their own: Theyíre just happy to be on the water.
Sockeye Salmon
Sockeye salmon, also called red salmon or blueback salmon, is an anadromous species of salmon found in the Northern Pacific Ocean and rivers discharging into it. There are also completely landlocked populations of the same species, which are known as the kokanee. Sockeye salmon is the third most common Pacific salmon species, after pink and chum salmon. The name "sockeye" is believed to be a folk adaptation of the anglicization of sθə́qəy̓, its name in Halkomelem, the language of the indigenous people along the lower reaches of the Fraser River.


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