The headlines from around the world are awash in what people are calling “perfect storms.” Drought, fires, floods, the poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico, oceanic dead zones. But here in BC we are awash in the perfect miracle. Two years ago tiny sockeye smolts traveled down the Fraser River, past towns and villages and through the urban sprawl of Vancouver, they went out to sea where things went right and are now returning in numbers reminiscent of 100 years ago. The Fraser sockeye have erased 100 years of abuse, greed and negligence and are offering us a second chance.
There are many runs within the Fraser sockeye population and the damaged ones remain low, but the growing 2010 run offers the rare and exceptional second chance to save this resource for us and for future generations. The 2010 Fraser sockeye are carrying over 125 million pounds of nutrients to us, to the forests, to the lakes, to the whales, bears, eagles, our communities and the people around the world who will be buying Fraser sockeye fresh, canned, smoked, frozen and salted. They are doing this without our knowing they even existed. They did this for free.
There are so many 2010 sockeye it is hard to find canning jars, the Vancouver processing plants are shipping some fish north to create hundreds of jobs in Prince Rupert. Little fishing communities like Sointula are alive with optimism, smiles, energy, money! First Nation people whose bodies have come to depend on salmon after 8000 years together will be nourished after several years of no salmon. The growth rings on millions of trees will be broad, marking the legendary run of 2010, it will be a bandwidth scientists will use as a reference point for the next 100 years. As leaves and new needles stretch out next spring they will absorb record amounts of carbon and produce pure clean oxygen. We don’t pay for the trees to do this, but they do it anyway and the people on this side of the planet will breath air made by trees that absorbed the 2010 sockeye into their roots. The rainmaking machinery of ocean air sliding up tree-clad mountains will be assured to bring us water. Thousands of people will absorb valueable omega oils, unborn and nursing orca babies will be sleek and glossy. The tourism and commercial fishing folks will spend money made from these fish in their towns all winter. These fish are good for our world!
But we don’t know how this happened. The agency we pay to manage our fish, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is running blind. They were not aware of the coming crash last year, nor the biggest return in 100 years this year.
This is inexcusable. We pay their bill and we can demand better service. Fisheries Minister, Gail Shea, was quoted recently saying Mother Nature is in charge….as she hands out money to the Norwegian salmon farming industry to make a sea lice vaccine to fight the drug resistant lice that DFO told me all winter do not exist. Wrong Ms. Shea, you are in charge of caring for these fish.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada should not be investing public funds into privately operated fish feedlots when their mandate is wild fish. We have an extremely damaged run now growing a new generation in the lakes and a spectacular run coming home. What we need is answers as to why the sockeye run is swinging between such extremes one year to the next. DFO has an extremely lackadaisical attitude toward our sockeye after they leave the river. After watching DFO flounder around trying to study sea lice in Broughton I feel they are out-dated, irrelevant and likely corrupt and we should move forward without them, phase them out.
What needs to be done is follow the fish as they travel the coastal waters of BC. DFO is too ill-equipped to do this, but projects like the POST study combined with small boat hand purse seines could bring us a wealth of information about the challenges our fish face be it food, temperature, farm disease, predators, chemicals. Unless we get a new Minister of Fisheries and new Director General for DFO Pacific Region this is never going to happen and we are going to continue blundering around trying to sample sockeye after they have left the Strait of Georgia, squandering public money and telling us Mother Nature is in charge.
Until DFO is reworked top to bottom I think all who would like to see the miracle of the 2010 sockeye happen again should just do the work ourselves. Talking with DFO is useless, they cannot even accept the science that has been done for them. They are a political entity messing around with a biological resource and it is not working.
I hope the Legendary 2010 Fraser sockeye remind people that the natural world is a powerful mechanism that offers everything we need. We cannot let anyone suspected of damaging this extremely valuable resource to keep secrets. This is a chance to get it right! There is no law saying we cannot manage our own resources and that is what we should do.
This post is dedicated to the wonderful and dedicated friend, fisherman and research Steve Bergh who I am sure is watching these sockeye from wherever he is now - Thank you Steve for all your work to protect these Fraser sockeye.