Friday, September 3, 2010


An unprecedented return of Sockeye Salmon to the Fraser River, estimated at 34 million fish, has led to the best fishery in decades. Newscasts show fish leaping from the water like those crazy Asian carp in the Illinois River. The gill-netters, many of which have been dock-bound for years, have been out on the river round the clock, hauling in the catch.

Many sell fish fresh off the boats at the wharf in Steveston. The fisheries have been strictly defined, one or two days at a time with breaks in between, but still, thousands, tens, hundreds of thousands of fish have been caught.

As fresh as it gets. About $20 a fish.

There are lineups at the boats, and people stroll through town with big fish in plastic bags. Estimating fish stocks, present and future, seems a difficult task. It will be four years, the length of the sockeye lifecycle, before we know if too many were taken, or if more could have been.

But look here, something different. Moving spines poking through plastic, pop pop pop.

These bags contain live, softball-sized sea urchins. I wonder how much bag will be left by the time they get to where they're going.


Kyna said...

Oh fresh salmon, how I miss you...

Garden Lily said...

I wouldn't want to carry a sea urchin in a plastic bags while wearing shorts.

Hugh said...

Kyna, This is presently a very happy, salmon-fed town.

Garden Lily, On the other hand, you find you can move along a crowded wharf relatively quickly.

Seabrooke said...

The rush on the salmon this year bothers me, because I think in the enthusiasm over the unexpected large numbers people haven't paused to consider it in context. As you point out, it's just one year and we won't know for a while how many fish it would have been safe to take this year.

It makes me think of stories from the 1800s, of hunters extirpating populations of a species, then someone suddenly finds a spot they missed where the animals are wildly abundant. There's an excited shout of "dinner for everyone!" and the hunters rush in and quickly clean them out, too, instead of using the discovery to re-establish the species. It's like we just can't help ourselves, when we see bounty we must plunder it.

Hugh said...

Seabrooke, My neighbour is a BC born and raised sport fisherperson. He has gone upriver 2 or 3 times and each time caught his limit (2 fish per day). He worries that this year has been overfished. What you said: "It's like we just can't help ourselves, when we see bounty we must plunder it."