Thursday, December 10, 2009

Canadian Think Tank on Fraser Collapse

A think tank of fisheries scientists organized by Simon Fraser University concluded a week of meetings yesterday with a press conference where they revealed their preliminary conclusions on potential causes for declines in Fraser Sockeye abundance. They also presented a list of knowledge gaps, areas where current scientific understanding is inadequate to fully address the problems on the Fraser. Among the potential causes for decline that the scientists identified were, low early marine survival caused by poor conditions in the ocean environment, changes in predation pressure, and salmon farming. Biologists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had been scheduled to attend but pulled out with the announcement of the judicial review over the management of the Fraser Sockeye. With judicial inquiry DFO biologists have been given a gag order and cannot discuss the situation on the Fraser publicly.

The reality is that declining productivity of Fraser Sockeye is probably being driven by a host of factors. A changing global climate does not bode well for Sockeye in the southern portion of their range such as those on the Fraser, and changes in productivity of the Georgia Strait are likely leading to higher juvenile mortality. Despite DFOs denial, salmon farms in the migratory corridor of Fraser Sockeye are almost certainly playing a role as well. Scientists in the think tank concluded that future research on Fraser Sockeye should expand monitoring and understanding of mortality and vulnerability throughout the lifecycle of the fish by:

-assembling and analyzing all existing data on Fraser River sockeye health and condition and estimate survival throughout their life cycle.

-gaining a better understanding of the potential for transmission of parasites and disease from farmed salmon to wild salmon.

-expanding programs to assess the timing and migration of juvenile salmon at various locations in the Fraser and in the coastal marine environment.

-determining why some marine populations and species are faring better than others as ocean conditions shift as a consequence of climate change.

More Coverage in the Vancouver Sun:

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