SFU Professor says report on Skeena Sockeye paints clearer picture of decline in stocks

John Crawford
08/22/2019

A professor of Aquatic Ecology at Simon Fraser University says the new study on Skeena River sockeye released this week shows the salmon are under even more pressure than we thought.

Doctor John Reynolds says the study, which was headed up by one of his students -- Michael Price -- used data going back over a century, and shows a 75-percent decline in the number of sockeye returning to the Skeena over that time.

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[PHOTO:   Dr John Reynolds  (supplied) ]

He says several factors have likely played a role -- but the most important one is likely selective gill-netting for larger fish.

"If you look at which groups of fish have declined the most, it's the largest-bodied ones and they tend to be the most susceptible to fishing gear and so it's probably due to fisheries, and the conclusion would be that we seem to be on a fairly steep slope right now and that perhaps even more precaution   with fisheries is going to be needed if we're going to help to rebuild these fish than we'd already thought," he said.

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Reynolds says rising ocean temperatures are also increasing fish mortality, and industrial activity poses challenges as well.

"One of the big problems will be survival at sea, because of warm ocean temperatures can lead to altered food webs and the fish can have less to eat and in some cases more predators on the young fish when they're at sea -- in the river, there are definitely some parts of the Skeena watershed where high temperatures are a bit of a concern; it's nothing like the Fraser further south, where the fish are really pushing it, because it's a cold-water fish," he explained.
 

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