Monday, January 25, 2010

Ocean Conditions Worsened in 2009

Salmon populations from California to Southern BC generally do the best when conditions off the continental shelf bring cool water and strong upwelling to the region. During 2007 and 2008 the combination of La Nina and a Negative Phase in the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) index resulted in some of the most productive conditions off the Coasts of Oregon and Washington ever recorded. Predictably, in 2009 conditions deteriorated significantly and generally by the end of the year conditions were fairly poor for salmon in our coastal oceans.

Variability in ocean conditions is part of the natural cycling of productivity in our ocean ecosystems. While these cycles are only beginning to be understood, salmon have evolved to cope with these dynamic and variable systems. It is important that managers and the public keep this in perspective when understanding salmon population dynamics and the cycles of inevitable boom and bust that come with changes in the ocean environment. This year saw record returns of Steelhead and Coho to the Columbia system, with excellent returns up and down the Oregon and Washington Coast. Rather than patting themselves on the back, or worse allow harvest, managers should have understood this burst of abundance for what it was. A temporary boom driven by a productive ocean and a chance to rebuild abundance and diversity by allowing higher than normal escapements.

See an article in the Columbia Basin Bulletin:

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