Fraser River Salmon Suffer: Great Canadian Stream, Source of the Sockeye, Seriously Threatened, Daily Racing Form, 1919-11-18


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FRASER RIVER SALMON SUFFER Groat Canadian Stream, Source of the Sockeye, Seriously Threatened. Although reports from British Columbia indicate that the salmon pack last year was the largest on record, it must not be inferred therefrom that the salmon industry is still as nourishing as ever. The facts are, as reported by J. P. Babcock, assistant commissioner of fisheries for the province, that the large pack is due entirely to the increase from, and the utilization of, the "pinks" and "ohimis" varieties of the salmon, for which there was no sale until the sockeye became scarce. The run to the Fraser during 1918 was "much the smallest ever known. The river may be said to be fished out of .sockeye, and the run of pink salmon, which was not used previous to the war, is fast disappearing." The sockeye commands a higher price than any other Pacific salmon and it is the salmon that made the Fraser River fisheries famous. The destruction of this valuable fish is exactly in line with a prediction made by Mr. Babcock before the commission of conservation in 1917. ... . In the year 1913 a big rockslide, incident to railway construction work, occurred in Hellgate Canyon on the Fraser River. This slide was nothing short of a. calamity to the sockeye salmon-fishing industry in British Columbia. All familiar with the conditions there know that a phenomenon known as the "big run" takes place every four years.- Big runs occurred in 1905, 1909 and again In 1913, the fateful year of the big slide. In each of these years the run of sockeye was much larger than in the intervening years. The phenomenon of the "big year" is due to the fact that the sockeye takes four years to mature. Thus, the fish of 1913 were abundant because of the abundant spawning in the year 1909. The slide above-mentioned unfortunately occurred during a "big run" year. It so narrowed the river that the force of the water was too great for even the sockeye to overcome and they were unable to reach their spawning beds. Although the slide was removed before 1914, It was too late ,to allow many fish of the 1913 run to ascend the river and, in consequence, most of the sockeye of that year failed to spawn. It was feared, therefore, that the run in 1917 would be seriously reduced. The fear was only too well founded. The pack for that year in the Fraser River district was only about one-fifth of that of 1913. and there is little doubt that the pack for 1921 will be less. In fact, the phenomenon of the "big run" has been wiped out and now all years are lean years for sockeye, so far as that district is concerned. Another factor enters into the situation. The fishery might be perpetuated and in some degree restored if conservative fishing wore practiced and if sufficient fish were permitted to pass up to the spawning grounds. Unfortunately Canada cannot of herself limit the fishing, as the sockeye in its course from the ocean passes through waters under the Jurisdiction of the State of Washington. Canada lies repeatedly manifested her willingness to enforce remedial measures. Following an investigation in 1905 by a joint commission representing Canada and the State of Washington, the Dominion offered to suspend all sockeye fishing in the Fraser River district during 1900 and 1808 conditional upon identic action by that state. The state legislature refused to take the desired protective action. In 1908 Great Britain and the United States concluded a convention providing for the protection, preservation and propagation .of the sockeye, but the United States Senate, after years of delay; refused to approve the treaty. This year a new trenty is awaiting action by the United States Senate. It provides for an international commission of two Canadians and two Americans to make investigations and to make such recommendations governing the fishing as may appear desirable. It Is earnestly to be hoped that this proposed treaty will go into effect and that the recommendations will be acted upon. Otherwise the Fraser River sockeye is simply threatened with extermination. Canada has done and will do all she can to preserve this valuable food fish. The fate of the sockeye lies in the hands of the State of Washington.

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