Saturday, March 12, 2011

Climate change causes bountiful and threatened salmon

Take your pick:

1. Bountiful Alaska salmon harvest forecast for 2011    Sun, Mar 6 2011    By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The 2011 Alaska commercial salmon harvest is forecast to be one of the largest since statehood -- but that doesn't mean prices will be coming down any time soon, a state fish and game official said on Sunday.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecasts that 203 million fish will be caught this year, the fifth largest haul since statehood, thanks to a combination of good environmental conditions over the past few years as well as careful management by the state.

The harvest of pink salmon, the cheapest and most plentiful of the five varieties of Alaska salmon, will be especially large, totaling 133.7 million fish, according to the forecast.

The commercial pink salmon catch is expected to be 25 percent higher than the 2010 total.

The commercial catch of high-priced sockeye salmon, also called red salmon, is expected to total 45 million fish, an 11 percent increase over the 2010 sockeye harvest, according to the forecast.

"Probably the biggest influence of all is general conditions in the ocean for providing food, and those seem to have been favorable," Geron Bruce, deputy director of commercial fisheries for the department, told Reuters.

But an abundance of Alaska salmon does not necessarily translate to lower prices, Bruce said.

Prices depend on international market forces, including general economic conditions and production from competing salmon suppliers, he said. He noted that the 2010 Alaska salmon harvest was large and, at the same time, fetched high prices.

"Cheap prices, I don't know about that. The salmon market's pretty strong," he said. Overall, Bruce said he's expecting another good year again for Alaska fishermen.

The 2011 forecast does not include complete projections for catches of high-priced Chinook salmon, also referred to as kings.

Information needed to complete those projections depends on terms yet to be set by the international Pacific Salmon Commission.

The total Alaska commercial Chinook salmon catch statewide in 2010 was 378,000 fish, according to the department.

The record commercial salmon catch was in 2005, with 221.9 million salmon harvested commercially, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game records.

2. Dams, pollution and overharvesting aren't the only things threatening Pacific salmon populations 3/12/11.

Climate change may be taking its toll as well.

Scientists testifying in front of an international government panel investigating the decline of sockeye salmon in British Columbia's Fraser River said nearly half the returning salmon die before they get to the spawning beds.

And the scientists blame the death rate on warmer water temperatures. The Fraser River's temperature has increased by about two degrees in the past few decades, and according to researchers, that's enough to change the timing of the fish's spawning migration.

Scott Hinch, an aquatic biologist at the University of British Columbia, said the warmer water doesn't kill the fish directly, but it does increase their stress load. For instance, salmon use more energy to swim and get oxygen when in warmer water, and this extra exertion could lead to exhaustion and cardiac arrest.

Warmer water also promotes disease growth – bacteria, viruses, fungi – which can affect the salmon.

Pete Rand of the Wild Salmon Center in Portland, who was not at the inquiry, said the climate concern is not unique to sockeye in the Fraser River. He said all Pacific salmon, from California up to Alaska, are at risk.

In California and Oregon, "the very southern part of their range, they are very sensitive to increases in water temperature," he said. "Many of the rivers will likely exceed tolerated levels."

But Harry Morse, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game, said it would be difficult to point to just climate change as the chief factor in salmon decline.

"There was a national science panel that looked at the Delta situation, and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration panel and a Pacific Fish Management Committee, and they have all said there is a cornucopia of 40-plus factors that deal with the decline in salmon," he said. "None of them are putting high emphasis on climate change. There are just so many thing happening in California, with the redistribution of water and dams."

He also said that the Fraser River situation isn't as cut and dried as some scientists would make it.

"There are lots of opinions on the Fraser," he said. "Not everyone agrees with each other."


No comments:

Post a Comment