Tag Archives: fish

Salmon Fishery: Another Ecosystem on its Last Gasp

In the 80s the Atlantic cod fishery faced a moratorium because the cod stocks had all but disappeared. Some fishermen say that they were telling the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that the fish were getting smaller and fewer. They say the department didn’t listen. Others say that the fishermen were as complicit as the fisheries department because they continued to fish the stocks to near extinction. It’s obvious, if nothing else, that there were several guilty parties and that the fish disappeared.

BC is yet again facing the same thing with the salmon stocks. A predicted high number of returning salmon failed to appear this year. The Fisheries estimated that there would be 11,000,000 but less than 2,000,000 have appeared. They are being accused of having bad science yet again and really, that’s part of it. The other part is setting perhaps too high of quotas and not factoring in possible problems.

Where have the salmon gone? No one is sure but we’re looking at ocean temperatures being alarmingly high from a degree to five degrees warmer and as the scientists have said, this isn’t a percentage of a degree and it is significant. A two-degree difference in ocean temperatures can devastate not only sealife but affect everything from rainfall, snow-melt, tornadoes, hurricanes and lightning storms. Anyone notice the increase in ferocity of these things this year?

Only the most adamant head-in-the-sand attitude would try to say this is cyclical. Yes weather changes are normal to a degree but not to this level of extreme weather and not with the ocean warming this much. And no matter what someone argues, the fact is that the ocean has warmed and it’s devastating sealife. Perhaps there’s been overfishing in the US but I haven’t heard of that fight yet this year though it’s going to come up. And then there are the salmon farms and the danger of sea lice. We don’t know if the lice decimated the populations because they’re not here to see.

And the Native fisheries still have a right to fish when sport and other fishermen don’t. The fish for some sustenance though in this world almost all bands have members with jobs, near shopping centers where other food supplies are available. They fish for ritualistic means. They fish as part of their jobs, like other fishermen.

What’s at stake? The livelihoods of fishermen. The rituals of First Nations people. The salmon. If the salmon go, there will be no more fishermen. There will be no more rituals or traditions involving salmon. That is the bottom line and when less than two million salmon have returned and the future of their viability is uncertain, no one, and I mean no one should be fishing them.

We will run into again, the “appease me today, and we’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow” sentiment. Yes, people will be angry, people will lose their jobs but is it better to keep a job for a few months and never have one again nor taste a salmon ever again? And of course if salmon disappear, it could affect other aspects of the ecosystem and the feeding cycle of other animals in the ocean and on land, such as bears.

There is a shortsightedness that is not only affecting our fisheries but still prevalent in other issues of the environment. It is as if a slumbering behemoth was prodded for thirty years and finally awoke and roared. The rampage or movement is about to begin but it will be at such a slow pace. The more I hear about our environment going crazy, the more I realize our time is running out faster than we can implement change, because that change is so small and incremental.

I fill with despair that in no other time in history, nor in such a short time, have humans destroyed so many things. We lost touch with our place on the land and have upset a balance that took millennia to set in place. It is ever changing and ever balancing and if anyone wonders at the fact that there are more scary flu epidemics (SARS, H1N1, etc.) and other diseases (HIV, Ebola) that are hitting larger populations, it’s not just because we travel more and the virii and bacteria travel farther. It’s also Mother Nature trying to reassert a measure of balance and she  will take drastic measures to do so.

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Penticton and Wayward Travels

I drove up with friends yesterday (this was July 1 but there have been internet issues) to Penticton. This is an extended Canada Day that will go until the weekend. The drive started out fine and one car took the Hope-Princeton route and they other, my car, the Coquihalla route. It’s been about four years since I was last out this way, I think, so how much could it change?

I have never wanted to drive through the Interior during the winter, especially on the Coquihalla Highway, which is a top of the world sort of place and has high snow. In fact, they insist you have chains and/or snow tires. The road seemed a little rougher than it had been in the past, but then it’s probably graded or plowed in the winter, which can scrape and damage pavement. As well, the temperatures go from freezing to hot, which will give it wear. But it makes me wonder where all those tolls went over the years–perhaps not to highway maintenance.

We passed a semi, upside down in the ditch, obviously there for a day or so but waiting to be removed. We also passed a guy with his car in the center ditch, facing sideways to the road, with the tow truck there to remove it. The Coquihalla may look deceptively smooth, with gentle curves but this says it can be treacherous still when absolutely bone dry (and when speeding too much).

One of Gordon Campbell’s election ploys was to remove the tolls suddenly (without even telling the workers–that went over well) so no tolls anymore. I was still expecting the toll booths. And because there weren’t any and I was talking with my friend, we missed the connector turnoff and ended up in Kamloops going, what? When did this build up so much? And then, “I thought we went through Merritt.”

So, we ended up taking the long route through Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna. One thing I noticed all through the Coquihalla and Kamloops was the number of dead pine trees. The Coquihalla is so high up that the trees are sparsely spaced. But in spots 50% were brown. I think this must be the mountain pine beetle, unless it had been some sort of selective fire, but the trees did not look like they had been burned. Shocking to see so many dead trees.

Penticton really hasn’t changed in some ways and yet has changed in others. I dropped my friend at the campground within the city limits, South Beach. How many cities can boast of a campground in the city limits? And as I drive into the campground, almost knowing where it is, I recognize it. My mother used to drag me and my younger brother to the Okanagan to pick fruit and collect rocks.

Okay, so it wasn’t quite all that but we were teenagers and wanted to hang out on the beach. So I recognized the campground, and the canal in the campground (but not the lovely lily pads, nor the trailer park, very nice trailer park, on the opposite bank), and the registration office, and the bathrooms. Yes, we used to stay at that campground, and I remember it quite well. I’m not sure how many years I went there, as a kid, but there are weeping willows, running water and electricity, which makes it a pretty good campground.

Today, we also went boating on Skaha Lake, the beach right outside South Beach campgrounds. My friends zipped about with an inner tube off the back of the boat so you can bounce along in the wake. Good fun and unfortunately I’m glowing a bit. When we returned the boat I noticed a swallow flying about,  a barn swallow I think. It came in under the roof of the boat rental place and duck into a nest made of mud and feathers and spit. And there were five little swallow babies with their wide mouths gaping. They only squawked when the parent appeared (there was a mom and dad) but were awfully cute and tiny.

And on the canal in the campground, there were ducks and ducklings, every age from the wee ones to the teenagers, making me wonder about the gestation and breeding periods of ducks (Mallards).  I also saw minnows, something larger (trout?, catfish?), red winged blackbirds, but I missed the beavers that my friends saw in the canal. It’s been relaxing so far and I’m feeling it’s too short. But at least I know where I’m going. Tomorrow, Peachland.

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Kinbane Castle

Ireland 2007–Kinbane Castle

First published on my Blogspot blog in Nov. 2007. All pictures are copyrighted.

On Monday October 1, we left Ballycastle. At our B&B were a family from Seattle. They’d been driving about for two weeks and were on their third week. They said, stop at Kinbane on the way. It’s not very far. And it wasn’t, traveling west near the coast.

 The weather was perfect. A few clouds, sunshine and the turquoise depths of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean made the northern coast of Ireland beautiful. Along the shorelines, wherever the ocean licks the stones, the rocks become stained and black. Farther back from the shore they may white or brown. Craggy and rugged, the northern coast is wild, and whitecaps and booming waves are common.

Kinbane, which means White Headland, was down a long hill. They really didn’t want people to go to the castle anymore. There were bars across the path but easy to straddle. As I moved around the hill, there was a second barricade just before the beach. I squeezed past that one, and it was obvious many had. Along the northern coast are the remains of stone huts used in the fishing industry, which was closed in the 80’s. This is a sad statement on what the world is doing to the fish populations.

I loved the look of this castle, built in 1544 by Colla MacDonnell (of Balymargy Friary fame). It was shot at and partially destroyed at one point, but one of the MacDonnells lived there till the end of his days. Mostly what is left is one of the towers. It couldn’t have been a very big castle but I can see how this would have been a great fortification. Rugged stony cliffs to the sea and steep steps up to the castle by land.

This castle gave me a great appreciation for the hardiness of those people of centuries past. To hike up and down that hill would definitely make one fit. Even though it was a bit breezy, I was quite warm by the time I pantingly reached the top.

The castle and rock itself are now made unapproachable, the way securely barricaded. The structure was originally besieged and with time it has become highly unstable. I loved many of the castles for different reasons but Kinbane had the true sense of a fortification of the most austere type. This was only the first of our stops on Monday, and the first of a few hikes.

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