Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fraser River Sockeye Statement

Living Oceans Society is deeply troubled by the collapse of the 2009 Fraser River sockeye run, and the implications of this collapse for affected First Nations, commercial and recreational fishermen, and marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems. The famed Fraser River sockeye are an icon of the cultural, environmental, and social health of B.C.

The collapse of the Fraser River sockeye sends a sad but important message: the marine ecosystem is complex, and it is difficult to know how dramatically all of our human impacts will affect the species that depend upon healthy oceans. However, this collapse makes it dramatically clear that the result of what we do is directly linked to the health of our communities. It is equally difficult to isolate which specific source of disturbance has most negatively impacted the Fraser River sockeye. Throughout their lives, salmon depend upon a variety of habitats–freshwater, estuaries and nearshore waters, and open oceans. In each of these environments they are faced with many natural and human-sourced obstacles to their survival. At Living Oceans Society, we are working to maintain, ensure and even restore the health of our oceans in several ways.

Sea Lice and Wild Salmon
Living Oceans Society is concerned with the impacts that dozens of salmon farms in the Wild Salmon Narrows of northern Georgia Strait have on wild salmon. When Fraser River sockeye smolts travel from fresh water to the ocean, they swim through the Wild Salmon Narrows past dozens of open net pen salmon farms that frequently contain high levels of sea lice. Lice infestations have been shown to be fatal to wild salmon smolts and lice are now known to be a disease vector, capable of carrying disease from farmed to wild fish. We have been advocating for a move to closed containment salmon farms that prevent the spread of parasites and disease to wild salmon. Until we transition to closed containment, LOS and other members of the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform are calling for an emergency closure of five active salmon farms in the Wild Salmon Narrows.

Climate Change and Wild Salmon
Living Oceans Society has been researching the impacts of climate change on the oceans. Some salmon researchers suspect that the Fraser River sockeye collapse may be attributable in some degree to changes in the ocean food web due to both temperature increases and alterations in the chemical composition of our oceans due to climate change. This is another reminder that we need to continue to tackle the causes of climate change, understand its impacts and how to mitigate them, and be precautionary in our management of living resources.

Food Webs and Wild Salmon
Some people are suggesting that changes to the sockeye’s marine food web may have played a role in their collapse. This shows why it is important for us to understand our impacts on marine food webs: how our actions alter them and how they affect us. Understanding our impacts on marine food webs is an essential part of an ecosystem approach to fisheries.

Ocean Management
When individual aspects of human impact are managed in isolation, management measures do not account for the complex reality of how all the various effects combine to degrade an ecosystem. Living Oceans Society advocates for the integrated management of our oceans through marine planning that accounts for all our impacts, and sets aside marine protected areas that act as sanctuaries for marine species and the habitats they depend upon.

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