15 Jan 2011, 10:38pm
Salmon counts Salmon science
by admin

Salmon Scientists Blind to Record Fraser River Salmon Runs

by Ken Schlichte

An article entitled “Study Tracks Salmon Coping with Warming River” in the January 13th Oregonian [here] begins with the following statements:

Scientists working with wild sockeye salmon struggling to cope with warming temperatures in British Columbia’s Fraser River have identified broad genetic signatures that can predict which fish will live or die before spawning a new generation.

Oregon State University salmon geneticist Michael Banks, who did not take part in the study, said Thursday it represents a breakthrough in tracking how salmon are surviving new stresses from global warming. …

This article suggests that sockeye salmon are struggling to cope with warming temperatures in British Columbia’s Fraser River because of global warming, but Pacific Northwest temperatures have been trending downward for the last 25 years [here].

The 25-year downward temperature trend in the Pacific Northwest indicates that, if there is reliable data indicating that the Fraser River is actually warming, this river warming is not due to global warming. If the Fraser River is actually warming, this warming would have to have been produced by the Fraser River reservoirs or by land-use activities in the Fraser River Basin, not by global warming.

While the Oregonian article suggests that sockeye salmon are struggling to cope with warming temperatures in the Fraser River, Columbia River sockeye salmon runs in 2009 and 2010 were very large in comparison with the 10-year average.

In 2010 256,996 returning adult and jack Spring Chinook were counted at Bonneville Dam, 1.42 times the 2009 count and 1.39 times the 10-year average.

In 2010 531,864 returning adult and jack Fall Chinook were counted at Bonneville Dam, 1.33 times the 2009 count and 1.25 times the 10-year average.

In 2010 386,525 returning adult and jack Sockeye were counted at Bonneville Dam, 2.17 times the 2009 count and 4.09 times the 10-year average.

The size of sockeye salmon runs and other Pacific Northwest salmon runs is strongly influenced by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that has been in a cool phase for the last few years. The cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation increases the size of our Pacific Northwest salmon runs by increasing salmon food resources and by decreasing salmon predators in offshore waters.

Editor’s Note: the article did not present any evidence, or even make the direct claim, that the Fraser River is warmer. Substantial evidence exists, however, that Fraser River salmon are thriving. For instance, the Seattle Times reported [here] that the Fraser River sockeye salmon run in 2010 was the largest since 1914:

Fraser River whopper sockeye salmon run even bigger

A forecast released Tuesday by the Pacific Salmon Commission predicts some 34 million fish will return to spawn in the Fraser River, a substantial jump from last week’s estimate of 25 million.

By Hal Bernton, Seattle Times, September 1, 2023

A forecast released Tuesday by the Pacific Salmon Commission predicts some 34 million fish will return to spawn in the Canadian watershed. That forecast is a substantial jump from last week’s estimate of 25 million.

This year’s run, the largest since 1914, is expected to provide a bounty for Canadian and U.S. fishermen whose harvest openings continue this week on both sides of the border. The erratic Fraser sockeye run has frequently been a bust in recent years, and last year’s meager return forced harvest closures.

Commercial fishermen joining in this year’s harvest have enjoyed some of the best Fraser sockeye landings in memory. …

Related reports:

Huge [Fraser River] salmon runs bring cash bonanza for U.S. and Canadian fishermen [here]

Huge sockeye run filling up Whatcom County fishing boats [here]

Fraser River sockeye salmon returns among highest recorded [here]

Record Sockeye Run in B.C. [here]

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