This is an extremely important question. Many people depend on wild salmon for food as well as their lively-hood. Many animals depend on wild salmon to survive. Very little is known about what happens to salmon during their lives out in the ocean. Salmon have existed for roughly 70 million years, along with predation. Predators hit salmon during many parts of their life cycle. Humans are the largest population of salmon predators.
Eggs are eaten by birds, other fish, including their own kind and can also be washed out to the ocean by weather, floods and humans changing their environment. It is estimated that 10% of those eggs will make it to the smolting stage. As salmon leave the river to head out to sea until maturity their predators increase. Seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins even things as small as sea lice and plankton can now harm them. When they return to the river to spawn (critical to their survival) humans jump in with both feet and take what they think they are entitled to. We need food as much as any other animal and happen to be the top of the food chain. Personally, I think salmon are safest in the deep ocean blue, who knows though, perhaps whales have a location where they cross paths with schools of salmon.
Nature has a way of balancing things. If predators are plentiful, salmon returns could very well be affected. The following cycle will have even less salmon returning, which in turn starves out some of its predators. Next thing you know there is a large salmon return. Putting us humans into the equation messes up the balance Mother Nature provides. Now that there is a large return, we up the amount we harvest and wonder why a few years down the road, the salmon returns are so low. This leads us to blame.
In the last 40-50 years we have seen salmon numbers declining. I have thought about this issue for many years. My views have changed almost as much as wild salmon runs. As humans we put blame on everyone else but ourselves. That is just human nature. We learn to say “not me” at a very early age. The way I see it, every one of us that have eaten a wild salmon, polluted the ocean or a river or built a dam are to blame. I’m not saying stop eating wild salmon. We just need to find a balance. Blaming each other will not solve the problem. Knowing that there is a problem though is half the battle. It all comes back to environment. Sometimes we can’t control the environmental changes, they just happen. We can however, control the damage we do to the environment. Some things have changed for the better but we still have a lot to learn and change for the future of salmon survival.
Salmon are typically anadromous: born in fresh water, migrate to salt water and return to fresh water to reproduce. This gives salmon more than one environment. Oxygen levels, Temperature and salinity as well as food sources are directly related to salmon growth. If the salmon live long enough to make it back to their spawning grounds, what do you think happens if there is a plankton bloom blocking passage to their home river? Here in British Columbia plankton blooms occur anywhere between early spring and late fall. Directly in line with the return of salmon stocks, just something to ponder.
Some people believe sea-lice are a major concern to salmon stocks. Fish farmers have fingers pointing at them for this issue. Farming salmon isn’t what it was 30 years ago. The industry has evolved, making changes that improve upon the past. Most if not all salmon farms now sample their stock monthly for lice counts. As long as the motile counts are below thresholds, the stock is fine. If motile counts increase above thresholds then the fish must be treated. There are no vaccines available against sea-lice yet but there are studies being done and who knows perhaps in the future one can be found that helps salmon while being environmentally friendly. For now, the most effective method is an in-feed treatment, which has little to no environmental concerns. There are a lot of other things possible to help with sea-lice for instance feeder fish that eat lice.
Commercial fishing has had its share of blame as well. By-catch seems to be the main issue with commercial fishing. Can be very difficult to target only one species using purse seines. Other issues include loss of fishing gear in the ocean causing entanglement for other ocean dwellers, or bottom trawlers destroying the ocean floor. As humans we need to hunt and grow our food.
Even the logging industry has been blamed for damaging rivers and streams. The industry as a whole has seen the error in their ways and have taken preventative measures to ensure their impact to the environment is minimized.
These three industries have all been blamed for endangering wild salmon by environmentalists. These same environmentalists use cardboard and wood for their picketing signs. Also tell us to protect wild stocks by not eating farmed fish. This doesn’t make sense to me. Eating wild fish to protect them seems very unreasonable. I do see a need for environmentalists but I wish they could work with industries to find solutions rather than just putting out blame.
I think we all want to protect our environment but end up damaging it regardless of what we do. Industries in general do harm to the environment. Back in the day, nobody really thought about it and we really did heavy damage. Nowadays we tend to think about the environment a lot more. Things are being done in all industries to protect or minimize damage to the environment. We still have a long way to go but there is definitely improvement with every year that goes by. As a fish farmer I feel I am a guardian of the ocean. There to help clean up the beaches and pick up garbage found drifting in the ocean. We do beach clean ups every month and find a lot of stuff that would accumulate had our farm not been in that location. The ocean waters are essential to our fish stocks. It is important to me to keep that environment clean and healthy for future generations as well. Blame can and does get passed from industry to industry. My thought on this, as you may already know, is we are all to blame. So lets just do our best to minimize our impact to our planet and stop blaming each other. We know the problem so lets find some solutions.