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

Alert Bay resident carves tribute to his community kicking COVID-19’s butt

‘Our little village crushed the curve with love and commitment’

Vancouver Island’s current COVID-19 case count officially hits zero

Of the 130 recorded Island Health cases, five people have died, 125 recovered

Port Hardy called in record number of black bear sightings last year

Conservation Officers attended 74 of the 314 calls made

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Ruined picnic tables are the main damage

Port McNeill’s outdoor swimming pool will stay closed this summer

The Town of Port McNeill typically hires 12-13 staff for the pool every year.

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

End of an Era: Tofino hair studio closes shop

“We were getting excited to start ramping up and then all of sudden we had to close our doors.”

Most Read