Joel Krahn/Yukon News file

LETTER: Old enough to know what’s been lost in B.C. salmon

Stephen Hume writes about the lack of discussion on the province’s dwindling salmon population

Re: B.C. Views: Finding hope for B.C.’s salmon (Black Press Media column by Greg Knill, Jan. 12, 2020)

I caught my first salmon more than 60 years ago. It was a spring, almost as big as I was.

My father-in-law caught his first spring, 27-lb, from a dugout canoe in Cowichan Bay just after WWI. He told me that when the late-summer run came in, you couldn’t look to any point of the compass and not see a salmon jumping. I watched my dad play and lose a monster steelhead in the Nanaimo River in 1956.

If there’s one conclusion I’ve reached, it’s that if we expect to have any salmon at all, we have to stop destroying habitat by shearing and re-shearing watersheds so that they can’t retain snowpack, which means hotter rivers in late summer.

We can’t keep industrially ocean-mining — particularly herring — at the base of the food chain. Herring supply 80 per cent of the feed for springs and coho, but almost every population on the coast has now crashed.

We can’t keep killing salmon at so-called maximum sustained yield rates that allow no margin of insurance when disasters like the Big Bar slide occur.

We can’t keep deluding ourselves that a sport fishery that’s really a driver for guides financing $200,000 boats and resort owners filling rooms is recreational rather than industrial.

Nobody wants to talk about these things because they touch upon big economic interests and mean curbing individual desires.

Nobody wants to talk about the intellectual fraud that is catch-and-release fishing, where mortalities are vastly understated and vulnerable smaller fish are routinely released to near-certain death just so that clients can catch a bigger fish. There’s no better indicator of this mentality than a cruise through the fishing lodge website photos.

So, sadly, being old enough to know what’s already been lost, I’m not at all optimistic about the future of our salmon.

I think we are entering the “who gets to kill the last buffalo” phase of their extirpation from much of their historic range.

On peak cycle, the Fraser River used to have annual returns of 160 million salmon. It teemed with oolichan, and some species of river herring spawned as far upstream as Bridge River. Now we get a return of 10 million fish and we congratulate ourselves on a good management year.

In my childhood, at least 25,000 Chinook, perhaps even 50,000, ran past Duncan in a peak year. Sockeye once ran into Cowichan Lake to spawn.

But our dance of denial goes on. We can’t even find the collective spine to raise the weir a few feet for the benefit of salmon and steelhead. Looking back on our systematic abuse and unbridled greed, I’m no longer sure we even deserve them.

Stephen Hume

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

WEATHER: Langley to see sunny weather before rain makes a comeback

Fog patches are expected to dissipate Tuesday morning

VIDEO: Giants win 10th straight on home ice in Langley

Family Day was about spending time with the fans and dazzling them with a 3-2 victory over Seattle

VIDEO: Planes and hockey games – Family Day around Langley

Museum of Flight held an annual gathering while the Vancouver Giants faced off against Seattle

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Woman charged after alleged fuel thefts, ramming of RCMP car in B.C. Interior

Suspect wanted for crimes allegedly committed in Kelowna, Salmon Arm and 100 Mile House

No dramatic shifts expected as B.C. government tables new budget today

Finance Minister Carole James has promised to stay the course when she tables the budget in the legislature

Surrey RCMP recover $80,000 worth of stolen bikes, weapons

Police found the property after executing two search warrants in Newton

AFN national chief calls for calm on Wet’suwet’en crisis, rail blockades

Hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the natural-gas pipeline

Federal, B.C. ministers seek meeting with Wet’suwet’en in hope of blockade solution

Coastal GasLink signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route

Flight to evacuate Canadians from cruise ship ‘expected’ to depart Japan on Thursday

Canadians seeking to return to home by commercial means will be subject to the Quarantine Act

Canucks acquire forward Tyler Toffoli from Kings in push for playoffs

Vancouver sends Schaller, Madden, pick to L.A.

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

Most Read