By Tamsyn Burgmann (CP)
VANCOUVER, B.C. — 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. …
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. …
John Reynolds, a researcher at Simon Fraser University who was also part of the group, noted that sockeye stocks are showing a long-term decline, and any research on the species must keep that in mind.
"This is now the way that things may well be for the future, especially under the predictions we have for climate change," said Reynolds, who holds the Tom Buell chair in salmon conservation. …