Why are BC’s salmon runs in decline while other Pacific nations see increases?

sockeyeA seven-month old press release from the North Pacific Anadramous Fish Commission, brought to my attention by David Ellis, raises an important question: why are Canada’s salmon stocks, especially sockeye, in decline while salmon returns to Japan, Russia, Alaska and even Korea are on the upswing?

Although this year’s chum salmon harvest was a pleasant surprise, sockeye returns are too low to support a harvest here — but not in other countries.

The international commission charged with overseeing the management of salmon fisheries, largely by controlling illegal high seas harvests, says 2015 catches were 20 percent above 2014 levels.

If so, why are BC’s sockeye runs so weak, especially in the wake of 2010’s bumper runs?

BC is the only jurisdiction that allows large-scale salmon farming. Coincidence? Ellis doesn’t think so.

In 2015, when the sockeye harvest overall rose about four percent in the North Pacific, Russia and the United States accounted for 99 percent of the harvest. Nonetheless, Canada accounted for most of the hatchery releases of sockeye.

At a time when pipeline construction is touted as a key to economic development and jobs, the loss of the sockeye fishery, which used to add hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs a year to the BC economy, is a particularly painful loss.

Why is BC, home to the Fraser River, the greatest salmon river in the world, now missing from the major wild salmon harvesters? We don’t know.