In 2009 the British Columbia fishing industry suffered one of its worst years with an unexpected dramatic decline in the number of sockeye salmon returning to the Fraser River. What was expected to be an 11 million salmon run was only 1.5 million, making it a shocking collapse and causing fishermen and the government alike to wonder where the expected 10 million other salmon disappeared.
If you look at news reports from just two weeks ago you’ll find the same tragic stories of a collapsed fishery and the government’s recently commenced public inquiry into its causes. But as of recent estimates, which I’m sure had to be triple checked, the sockeye salmon are in for the run of their lives, and so are the fishermen. This year 25 million salmon will be expected to return to the Fraser River to spawn, a sight not seen in a hundred years. No living fisherman of any age can recall the “good old days” because this year will be their best by far. Fishermen are being allowed to fish for 32 hours straight, with majority working straight through the night.
Such unexpected positive news about fisheries is usually unheard of so news of such a rebound must be met with caution. The government’s inquiry into last year’s poor salmon run is still apt and it’s positive news to hear that the government will continue to take last year seriously. A one-year bonanza is great, but if stocks return to previous levels all those involved in monitoring the salmon stock will surely regret not looking at the bigger picture. As with resource management, it’s easy to get caught up in short-term surpluses, but long-term consistencies in output are what allows an industry to survive. And with only half the capacity the industry in BC had ten years ago, fishermen and the government are definitely tasting a bittersweet moment as the pools of salmon make the run upstream without enough equipment to catch even conservative amounts.