One of the hot topics in BC this past week has been pacific salmon, specifically Fraser River sockeye salmon.
With the Fraser River run being so large this year - estimates range between 34 and 36 million sockeye salmon returned to their home rivers - it's easy to forget that the 2009 run was one of the worst Fraser River sockeye returns remembered; only 1.5 million salmon returned, versus the 11 million expected.
Lucky for us who worry about the future of our Pacific Salmon, Alexandra Morten will not forget.
This past Sunday, October 24 2010, Alexandra and a group of paddlers and rafters paddled from Musqeum to Vanier Park, the final leg of a long journey down the Fraser River from Hell's Gate. The Island Odyssey was there to support this final leg, even bringing some of the younger paddlers aboard during a particular tough section.
The journey represented a portion of the long journey our sockeye salmon make every year and was timed with the start of the Cohen Commision. On Monday the group marched into town and presented a Salmon Are Sacred scroll to Justice Cohen to show support for his inquiry into the collapse of the 2009 sockeye return.
Yes, it will be hard to ignore the large numbers of salmon that we had this year but some scientists are wondering if there is another explanation for the 2010 anomaly... an Alaskan volcano. Its eruption in 2008 lead to huge blooms of plankton, which in turn would have increased the food resources for Pacific Salmon.
We won't know if the 2011 Fraser River sockeye run will also benefit from this algal bloom or if there will be another collapse. Our hope is that the Cohen Commission will shed light on the reason for the low salmon return numbers in 2009, including the effects of sea lice and disease, thought to originate from open pen salmon farms that litter our coastline.
In the end we can't afford to forget the run of 2009, nor the previous 3 years that also had lower than expected return numbers.
We must be cautious when it comes to managing our pacific salmon, the link to our animals - marine and terrestrial - our forests, and our people.
Our salmon are sacred...period.