Next time your fishing rod bends abruptly, with its taught, water-cast line, the string which ties a vigorous fight between man and salmon, remember, if you win that fight, it’s not just a fish you will yank from the waters.
It’s a political hot potato.
Tied to that salmon are a multitude of competing interests and values, and not enough to satisfy all with stakes in its species’ livelihood.
So as regional stream-counts of some salmon species have dwindled at alarming rates for more than a decade, a contentious debate has heated between wild salmon activists, the federal department of fisheries and oceans, First Nations interest, fish-farm interests, commercial and sport fishermen, and wildlife conservationists.
But there is no simple answer as to why fish are dwindling. No single cause to blame.
The answer, in fact, may be so complex, that the Cohen Commission, a judicial inquiry into the disappearance of sockeye in the Fraser River, was granted a deadline extension of more than one year. While the purpose of the inquiry is to inform policy reforms to maintain sustainable fisheries in that river, much of the evidence presented has broader implications.
Commercial fishing, illegal-practices, pollution, weakened genetics, ocean-survival, fish farms and ocean biology among others apply to our streams too.
Each may influence a salmon species’ decline.
But sometimes, despite whatever is working against those fishy-little hot potatoes, things work in their favour too.
Volcanic ash, biologists say, likely acted as a fishy-food fertilizer and could be one ingredient responsible for some recent larger returns.
When it comes to fish, the concoction of return-factors is anything but simple.
So while taking in all sides of the dwindling-salmon debate, remember, there is another silent player amidst the storm.
It’s story lies at the bottom of a deep, vast, and undiscovered ocean.