Millions of salmon disappear from Canadian river
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Millions of sockeye salmon have disappeared mysteriously from a river on Canada's Pacific Coast that was once known as the world's most fertile spawning ground for sockeye.
Up to 10.6 million bright-red sockeye salmon were expected to return to spawn this summer on the Fraser River, which empties into the Pacific ocean near Vancouver, British Columbia. The latest estimates say fewer than 1 million have returned.
The Canadian government has closed the river to commercial and recreational sockeye fishing for the third straight year, hitting the livelihood of nearby Indian reserves.
"It's quite the shocking drop," said Stan Proboszcz, fisheries biologist at the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. "No one's exactly sure what happened to these fish."
Salmon are born in fresh water before migrating to oceans to feed. They return as adults to the same rivers to spawn.
Several theories have been put forward to try to explain the sockeye's disappearance:
* Climate change may have reduced food supply for salmon in the ocean.
* The commercial fish farms that the young Fraser River salmon pass en route to the ocean may have infected them with sea lice, a marine parasite. Continued...