Monday, October 25, 2010

Fraser River salmon bounty may have been a volume of volcanic fish

Coming soon to a restaurant near you and for a limited time only, volcanic salmon?

The  Cohen Commission of inquiry into the Fraser River salmon crisis continued on with its deliberations today, sessions which were planned for long before this years salmon season provided the remarkable numbers from the Fraser River fishery this August.

The unexpected bounty caught many by surprise and certainly made the talking points of a fishery in crisis a little harder to push forward, even if most experts agree that the stocks are indeed at risk and that a sustainable fishery may be in peril.

For those that point to this summer's remarkable returns as an indicator that things aren't as bad as many believe, a word of caution, this August may have been a one time confluence of a number of unusual factors.

One theory being put forward by a renowned fishery expert  suggests that this years Fraser salmon run may have benefited from an explosive growth spurt, spurred on by volcanic fallout in their prime feeding areas.

The Globe and Mail's Mark Hume outlined the findings of Dr. Timothy Parsons, a Professor Emeritus at the University of B.C. and honorary research scientist at the Institute of Ocean Sciences at Sidney, BC.

The Professor outlined in the Globe today, that it's quite possible that those sockeye numbers of 2010 were assisted by a fertilized sea near the Kasatochi volcano, which erupted in 2008.

To help support that point, Professor Parsons examined research from Roberta Hamme an assistant professor at the University of Victoria, whose findings provide parallels to many of his own work in ecosystem  study of the past.

The U of Vic researcher determined that a shower of iron rich ash fell into the Gulf of Alaska after that eruption, providing for a massive increase in the amounts of phytoplankton, a key ingredient to the growth of salmon in this year's cycle which returned to the Fraser River.

It will however apparently be a one time only return of massive proportions, which while of interest to the Cohen Commission, won't particularly provide further insight into the remaining years of the salmon cycle that didn't or won't benefit from the volcanic fertilizer.

Dr. Parson's has warned that it would be wrong to take this August's returns as a sign that the fishery has indeed bounced back, something that will no doubt shape much of the Cohen commission deliberations from now until it's conclusion in December.

You can  view the summary of Assistant Professor Hamme's findings  posted to the U Vic website providing details on the theory of the volcanic bump to this years fishery numbers.

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