NEAR CHASE – The natural phenomenon that is the Adams River sockeye salmon run attracts considerable attention, particularly in years when the number of salmon is at its peak. Even in down years like this one, many still flock to see the spectacle.
However, this year the number of sockeye returning to the Adams River is down sharply from the number originally expected. Now a local environmental group is raising concerns the return may be a sign of even bigger problems.
“It was pathetic,” says Jim Cooperman, president of the Shuswap Environmental Action Society.
“That tells me that there is something majorly wrong happening in our oceans [and] in our rivers. We don’t have exact reasons for it but you have to think [of] as salmon as the canary in the coal mine. If we are seeing the salmon numbers plummet as we have seen this year…we have some major concerns and it is not just the salmon.”
Fisheries and Oceans Canada says it is too early to confirm exact numbers but says the Adams River sockeye return is disappointing.
“At this point in time we can’t give a definitive number but we can say the returns are significantly below what we had preseason forecast,” says Stu Cartwright, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s acting area director for the B.C. Interior.
Cartwright says federal authorities don’t know why fewer sockeye returned this year than originally expected.
“It is evident that the numbers just haven’t materialized and at this point in time we don’t understand [why],” he says. “Of course over time, effort will be put into trying to understand what environmental conditions and other impacts may have affected the returns.”
However, Cooperman is willing to speculate on what might be behind the low numbers.
“The major concern of course is climate change,” says Cooperman. “If we look at what the potential cause is for this crash, we can look at the warming ocean. There is a warm blob off the coast and that is affecting sea life and it could be one of the main reasons why we are seeing so few salmon this year.”
Meanwhile, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is still working on final sockeye return numbers, which aren’t expected to be released till 2016.
It’s not all doom and gloom for salmon returns though. Fisheries and Oceans Canada says the return of Chinook salmon appears to be on track in the South Thompson.