The ruby shimmer of thousands of sockeye salmon rushing up the Adams River provides the perfect setting for a classic British Columbia autumn. These fish have travelled more than 500 kilometres from the mouth of the Fraser River to their final destination in the B.C. Interior. This is one of the last high-return salmon runs in B.C. and is the biggest in recent memory with more than eight million fish expected to return to spawn.
It's incredible to see sockeye returning in greater numbers than last year, when they reached a record low. But what does it mean? Are fisheries now sustainable? Is the judicial inquiry investigating sockeye declines now unnecessary? Are habitat loss, disease from open–pen fish farms, and changing ocean conditions due to climate change no longer problems?
Big numbers in one river in one year don't mean salmon are in the clear. The strong sockeye return is just one group in more than 400 distinct runs of sockeye salmon, many of which are endangered. Several years of improving returns and protecting salmon diversity are the keys to determining whether Fraser sockeye are truly recovering. That's why we're working to protect salmon in a number of ways.
This fall, the Foundation is participating as an expert witness in the Cohen Commission, a federal inquiry into how sockeye salmon are being managed. For us, it's an opportunity to call on the federal government to move forward with the Wild Salmon Policy – a detailed strategy for protecting salmon that the Foundation helped create but that still hasn't been implemented.
We're also asking the federal government to address the key threats to salmon, including habitat destruction, overfishing, and fish farming. The Foundation is already working with various stakeholders to find solutions to these problems, including scientists, industry, and members of the public who have salmon habitat in their communities. But we need the government to do its part too.
It's worth getting excited about a strong return of sockeye salmon. But these numbers should not be seen as a sudden recovery. We need to make 2010 the beginning of a strong resurgence of all Fraser sockeye by addressing the impacts that continue to threaten Pacific salmon.