Once-in-a-century salmon run hits West Coast
By Nicole Mordant
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Every year Vancouver resident Stephen Ottridge takes hamburgers or steak to his street's annual summer block party.
This year, against the backdrop of what looks to be the biggest sockeye salmon run in almost a century in the nearby Fraser River, he arrived with a salmon large enough to fill the whole barbecue.
"There is a cornucopia of salmon this year, so we decided to treat the block to some," Ottridge said from the city on Canada's Pacific Coast, where marine experts are both puzzled and delighted by the unexpected glut of the bright-red, succulent fish.
After years of declining sockeye numbers and a struggling fishing industry, the Pacific Salmon Commission last week said it now expects 25 million sockeye will return to the Fraser River this year -- more than double its earlier forecast and the best run since 1913.
Last year, slightly more than a measly 1 million sockeye made their way back to their spawning grounds, prompting the Canadian government to close the river to commercial and recreational sockeye fishing for the third straight year.
The reasons for the salmon bonanza remain a mystery, but what has helped is that it has coincided with a "dominant-run" year, said Carl Walters, a fisheries expert at the University of British Columbia's zoology department.
"Every fourth year is the dominant year when the biggest run comes in. The year after that is sub-dominant. Then you get two really low runs," Walters told Reuters.
Twenty years of declining sockeye in the Fraser River led the Canadian government to launch an investigation last year into the disappearance of the fish at a time when numerous theories abound. Continued...