One of the very few salmon bearing streams on Quadra Island, Hyacinthe Creek, has experienced a few salmon coming up its waters in recent weeks. Their arrival has not been an easy journey!
Life for all adult salmon, for millenia, has been a series of survival challenges. Depending upon the species (6) life cycles range from two years (pinks) to seven years (Chinook). For new born salmon referred to as fry, making it from their Coastal and or Interior B.C. birth streams to salt water can be many weeks to months of learning what to eat, while being swept over waterfalls to then crash along rapids for many kilometers downstream.
In the past 25 plus years, making it past the Discovery Islands to Port Hardy has been running the gauntlet of 35 plus Atlantic Fish Farms. With each farms’ stock of over 700,000 fish come clouds of sea lice. Before the arrival of the farms, fry rarely encountered such volumes of adult salmon with their parasites and diseases during their migration to sea. The sea lice being parasites, suck the life out of many of the 10 cm. long wild fry in the weeks it takes to pass the farms.
Reports suggest that the numbers of fry reaching the open Pacific waters, in their first months of life might reach 1 per 1,000.
In the north Pacific, hungry orca whales, dolphins, sea lions and various birds feed on their share of growing salmon. In the past 120 years, an unnatural cause of salmon deaths has been fleets of commercial boats, harvesting millions of tonnes of salmon by licenced fishers. Add in the unregulated by-catch and the tonnages by pirate fishers: all to feed billions of humans and their pets.
Showing up in north Pacific waters around 2010, has been the “Blob” – a huge, multi-hundred square kilometers zone of warm waters with growing volumes of algae. Naturally dying algae has reduced the disolved oxygen in the water leading to the countless deaths of salmon, bottom fish and all other life within its margins. (COVID-19 followers will understand the importance of needing a good oxygen flow.)
2021: coastal creeks have just come through seven months of unprecidented declining water flow down to zero liters per minute. Spring through summer, coho and Chinook fry, need grow-up time in the creeks and lakes. Many coho fry, swimming in what were streams and pools in May, died from warm water and/or no water by early August.
Throughout B.C., coastal and interior regions, approximately 12 communities are rallying to address bettering wild fish survival and the water crisis.
What ALL communities have experienced is 40 years of inadequate monitoring by government of logging practices, cut volumes and Old Growth harvesting, as those checks and decisions left to professionals hired by the companies, trusting in the new mantra of professional reliance.
The Forest Practices Board, independent of any environmental groups, has more than a few files outlining the impacts of clear cut logging on watersheds: not meeting standards required in road building, ditching, stream setbacks the insufficient installation of the required number of culvets. When the faulty practices are combined, the resulting effects include landslides and slope failures. High levels of stream siltation have killed salmon and other aquatic life, through suffocation. Human towns and villages have experienced extensive flooding of homes, businesses plus farm lands.
2021: Government operations and forest harvesting industries have lost their public trust and credibility. Fifteen years of professional reliance on Industry, by the public and government has shown itself to be too easily manipulated by human greed expressed through corporate profit maximization.
Individuals, families, businesses in recent years have realized that only through coming together as a united community, can we have sufficient power to take control and stewardship of our remaining natural resources, the forests, animals, fish and watersheds.
Rod Burns, CPHI