Terrace Standard: Skeena sockeye on ‘red list’

AN INTERNATIONAL conservation group has placed three Skeena river sockeye population groups on its’red list’ of threatened species.

The Morice-Nanika, the Upper Skeena and the Lower Skeena sockeye subpopularions are ranked, respectively, critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The union grouped the Skeena’s 33 genetically distinct sockeye runs into five sub-populations and measured changes over a 12-year period.

Greg Knox of regionally-based SkeenaWild Conservation Trust called the ‘red list’ additions a red flag.

Federal fisheries and “the B.C. Ministry of Environment are taking this crisis seriously, but the pace of change must accelerate if we are going to reverse these alarming declines,” he said.

Skeena sockeye runs, as is the case elswhere, have dropped over the years, resulting in commercial and recreational fishing restrictions and fears for continued First Nations traditional use.

Of the three subpopulation groups identified, the Morice-Nanika’s critically endangered label is most alarming because it means numbers have dropped by more than 80 per cent.

It is also important for the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s traditional food fishery.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is billed as the world’s oldest and largest global environmental group, taking in more than 1,000 government and non-government organizations.

It has more than 1,000 employees in 60 offices and has it headquaraters in Switzerland.

The Skeena River study was part of a larger one involving 80 sockeye subpopulations around the Pacific Rim.

That larger study determined more than half of the sockeye subpopulations assessed were threatened.

Key threats included the effects of climate change on river and ocean conditions, habitat deterioration, mixed-stock fishing (ocean fisheries unable to target specific stocks) and the effects of hatcheries and artificial spawning habitat.

SkeenaWild Conservation Trust is a relatively new group working to make the Skeena watershed a global model of sustainability, with a focus on the wild salmon ecosystem and economy.