By D’Arcy Briggs
At a late June ceremony, Sto:lň elders and community members discussed the importance of salmon to their culture, their community, and the dismal projection for the coming Sockeye run. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has predicted a summer Sockeye run of 1.2 to 3.8 million fish, a drop from the predicted 5 million from 2011. Sustainable
methods of fishing discussed among the First Nation are being held in tension against commercial and sport fishers. As stocks begin to dwindle more and more, the politics of power between stakeholders are being brought to the fore. On June 4th, BC’s Supreme Court ordered a group of commercial fishermen (one being John Cummins, leader of the BC Conservatives) to pay a fine for illegally setting nets in a 2002 protest against First Nations fishing rights. These numbers are nothing new to scientists and critics, as many believe we may be pushing the Sockeye out of viable fishing territory.
A report published on July 15th by the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences found that Sockeye stocks from as far south as Washington and as far north as Alaska are all following a downward trend of productivity at alarming rates. There is no one cause for this relatively sudden decline, but the authors of the report point to increased industry along the coast (particularly in aquaculture productions), environmental degradation, and higher rates of predation. One interesting speculation made by article is that the salmon are being “driven by climate.” As waters in the area warm, there is less
viable food options for salmon moving into the ocean as well as increased predation.
The example of the Sockeye is but one of many surrounding the issue of food security. As the 1% continue capitalism’s unsustainable and destructive ways, those who rely on wild animal stocks as well as agriculture face new challenges which can only be fixed by fighting for a better world built on equality, democracy, and address issues of social and environmental importance.