This week, I'm continuing my cycle on the function and role of a hatchery, but this round will be focused on threats to the hatchery in coming years.
Just as a reminder, my inquiry question for this cycle is: How can I promote stewardship of the Hoy Creek Hatchery in my community?
I am taking a slightly different route for this round of research, but one that is altogether relevant. I have research numerous factors that may effect the health of the hatchery.
First and foremost, I'm going to address the most prevalent factor that threatens hatcheries and the ecosystems surrounding them: climate change.
Arguably the greatest threat to salmon of all species, climate change increases the temperature of freshwater streams, making salmon more susceptible to predators, parasites and disease. This is true in the hatchery, because as we incubate eggs, we use stream water that constantly filters through the incubator. In the early stages of growth, salmon are extremely susceptible to infections, so warming waters is going to have immensely negative impacts on young salmon that we raise in the hatchery, which will harbour consequences for future generations of salmon.
As well as this, as the global temperature warms, the riparian zones surrounding the rivers and streams will dry up and erode, which will cause the stream banks to become increasingly fragile and likely to release sediments into the stream. Salmon thrive in water with low turbidity (which is the measure of how clear water is), and with larger sediment loads, it will be more difficult to feed when in rivers.
Salmon also spend the majority of their life in the ocean and migrate in the Pacific, where there is now a manifestation called "The Blob," a large mass of warm water of the northwest coast of North America that is attributed with causing some of the unusual weather conditions recently experienced along the Pacific Coast. The Blob has negatively affected marine life because of its unusual warmth and lack of nutrients, and may confuse salmon trying to find their way inland. Also, the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and in the ocean is causing ocean acidification, which significantly impacts the salmon’s food chain.
Overfishing is a major factor that threatens the livelihood of all salmon populations, both wild and hatchery-based. The need of supply and demand is growing exponentially, and without sustainable fishing practices, salmon in the ocean stage of life may not get the chance to return to streams to breed. At the hatchery, we breed salmon as they return in the fall, so a lack of salmon will cause a steep decline in hatchery populations, leading to it losing its main role in the community, that which is to sustain the salmon populations in tributary streams.
Fortunately, the Alaska salmon fishery, which is responsible for around 90% of wild caught salmon in North America, has been MSC (marine stewardship council) certified since 2000. However, most fisheries are extremely unsustainable and render it almost incapable for wild populations to recover.
Lastly, increased industrial activity is a great threat to the ecosystem surrounding salmon as well as their specific population.
Climate and overfishing are not the only challenges putting the salmon—and all who depend on them—at risk. New infrastructure and expanded industrial activities, such dam development and extractives, appear on the agenda of project leaders and threaten key habitats. Pebble Mine, a copper and gold mine proposed for Bristol Bay’s headwaters, which would be the largest open pit mine in North America, would destroy up to 90 miles of salmon streams and 4,800 acres of wetlands in the Bristol Bay area. Dams, including the proposed hydroelectric dam on Chikuminuk Lake in Wood Tikchik State Park, would fragment the pristine ecosystem and destroy the conditions salmon require for spawning. (1)
Offshore oil and gas development are massive industries that look to benefit the economy by utilizing the enormous untapped natural resources hidden within our oceans however they are massive dangers towards marine life. Oil spills can occur for countless reason, such as natural disasters, equipment failure, or even human error. These incidents are capable of dispersing or killing all living sea organisms 400 square km from there natural habitats, drastically reducing salmons chance of returning to or even destroying access to there spawning grounds. Furthermore, natural gas partially absorbs into the water and can damage salmon’s eyes, gills and skin. Although the frequency of aquatic oil spills is on the decline, in 2018 total oil spills amounted to 116,000 tonnes of oil was released into the world’s oceans.
Pipelines also have a potentially dangerous effect on salmon reproduction. For example take the Trans Mountain Pipeline spanning from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby in the lower mainland. While great precaution is taken by the government and ownership of the pipeline to maintain safety regulations, 82 accidents have occurred since 1961. Considering the pipelines geographic location throughout the heartland of our province and especially parallel to the Fraser river, it has the potential to decimate BC's salmon population. Numbers are estimated to be around 8.5 million salmon spawn in the Fraser as of 2018, and with dwindling numbers and constant habitat destruction for ever expanding development, it is imperative we do everything in our power to provide them with a chance to reproduce. (2)(3)
That's the end of this round of research; any questions or comments will be taken into consideration below! Stay tuned for next week!