Yesterday Scott Hinch, expert salmon scientist from UBC, was on the stand. Hinch has been trying to figure out why increasing numbers of sockeye are dying in the river just before spawning.
In short, the late run Fraser sockeye began entering the river 6-8 weeks too early starting in the mid 1990s and thus are swimming into the peak annual water temps that occur in the Fraser River. What people have to ask is why is warm water attracting sockeye, when normally it repels them? Warm water is lethal to sockeye and they have developed a strategy wherein the ones that arrive at the river in August used to wait in the deeper waters off the Fraser River plume for 6-8 weeks for the river to cool. Now something is driving them into lethal waters.
Here is some of what was written down yesterday by my assistant Alexis Baker:
Greg McDade is my lawyer in the Cohen Inquiry
McDade- PSM/ early river entry is killing 40, 50, 60% of the fish so, do you know of any other factor that is killing more than 50% of the fish?
Hinch...uhh..anywhere in the word?
McDade- no, to the matter at which we are speaking
M - there was nothing in the climate change field that was abruptly beginning in 1996?
McDade- so we can’t just blame climate change, and we need to look for another factor
M- when we look at losses in the 50-70% range...if you factor our early runs...well its up to 90% for some runs, isn't it ? if the whole of the run is impacted at 50 but the early entry late runs are up to 90, we can mathematically assume that the normal timed river entry salmon are PSM at a number that is historically normal
McDade- were it not for this factor- this might be the single greatest cause and factor we are looking at.
Hinch- yes, for those groups that are affected by en route loss late runs are most affected by PSM-
M - getting the root cause is a fairly important question for this one. The effect of early entry can lead to increased mortality--- but its not the temperatures... its the fact of early entry into a a high temp environment...so finding out what causes this is pretty important to this inquiry then, correct?
M -you refer to an abrupt shift ?
Hinch- yes something new happened from 1996 onwards
McDade...but climate change has been going since before 1996 right?
Hinch- well, these things do not work in a linear fashion....
McDade- You are also the author of a recent study published in science?
Hinch - yes
lets go to the last page of the document- pg 3...
hypothesis which includes virus relating to PSM/early entry
McDade- why then, for the paper you produced for the Cohen, did you never mention the word " virus?"
Hinch - what we know for certain is that we are looking for an immune suppression response in the data the hypothesis is that it is linked to a virus a pre-ported virus in certain terms. Clearly there is the indication of immune suppression. You can’t prove a virus until you do certain follow up investigations.
M - Was Laura Richards at this meeting in 2008 ?
H - she's on the list but I cant recall. have you ever discussed this matter with her?
M- have you ever discussed your science paper with her?
H no we aren't allowed to talk to them about our science papers
M - had you had any discussion with anyone from DFO that suggested you shouldn't publish these findings?
M - if the salmon have this retro virus, their resistance to temp may be less?
H - Yes
M - their resistance to Parvicapsula etc may be less?
H - Yes
M - The core issue could be a virus that was reducing their ability to sustain the run of issues they deal with on their way up the river.
M - Your charts are up to 2008- why is there no 2009 data?
H - I wasn't given it?
M - did you request it ?
H - no.
M - So its clear that the fish are picking up this virus before they enter the river you also suggest it may be something they get in the high seas. but you also suggest it is something that can be passed down in the eggs
H - yes
M - you go on to say that this disease state alters them...leads them to the freshwater state that leads them to early migration...its possible that this disease state is responsible for the early maturation
H - maturation really kicks in in the high seas...8 months before spawning. whatever is going on has to be happening at least that early or earlier.
H- one this we picked up- reproductive hormone levels were advanced both maturation and wanting to enter the river early seemed
M - so a possible disease is the # 1 reason for this
Hinch- I felt it was a top reason, but some of my colleagues would disagree
M - in terms of looking for a cause- do you find it significant that you see a lower cause in Juan de Fuca fish than those going through Johnstone straight?
M - What do you think about the Harrison stocks ? Wouldn't you look for a new cause of something that is on the migration route of these fish?
Hinch- we weren't looking for it at the time. we were looking for environmental factors that could be changing at the time.
M- chinook farms in 1992 had an outbreak of salmon leukemia...would that have an effect to you? have you looked for this viral signal in fish farms?
H - I haven't. I do not know what DFO has done
M - well have you reason to believe they have tested farm fish?
H - no
M- that would be a fairly important question, don't you agree?
H- Yes, I agree