Some politicians take salmon decline more seriously than others

Talking with Conservative candidate Darrell Pasloski about this year’s salmon crash is more difficult than landing a giant chinook.

Talking with Conservative candidate Darrell Pasloski about this year’s salmon crash is more difficult than landing a giant chinook.

The Yukon News attempted a survey of the Yukon candidates from the four federal parties.

The survey posed questions about the Yukon’s salmon fishery.

Pasloski did not return calls, and earlier today at a campaign launch he refused to answer reporter’s questions. He simply walked away.

The NDP is sort of a late return on the subject — it nominates a candidate Thursday evening.

“With the dramatic fall of salmon here in the Yukon we are facing not only economic and environmental loss, but also cultural and subsistence loss,” said Green Party candidate John Streicker, noting his party’s specific fishery protection policies.

The Green Party calls for a greater role of First Nations in fisheries management.

The power of the Yukon River Salmon Commission, a transboundary regulatory body, should be increased, said Streicker.

Transboundary regulations should include gear types, fishing practices, catch limits, and a Canada-US ban on bottom trawling, according to the Green Party.

The 2008 chinook catch stands at 7,200 fish, barely more than half the average of the last 10 years, according to recent Fisheries and Oceans counts.

Only 28,000 sockeye came from the Stikine in 2008, compared to 56,000 in 2007.

Several factors might be contributing to the decline, said Streicker.

Overharvesting anywhere downriver from Yukon waters, climate change and the changing oceanic temperature, or the downturn might be cyclical.

“The problem is we don’t have the luxury of waiting to see if this is cyclical,” said Streicker.

“We should be serious about climate change because, if we’re not, we’ll only have more problems.”

He advocates a mix of conservation, negotiation and regulation.

Expand the protection of the salmon bycatch — hundreds of thousands — made by the pollock fishery, said Streicker.

Canada has to deal with salmon bycatch in the pollock fishery, said Liberal MP Larry Bagnell.

“The pollock fishery in the high seas is massive — billions of dollars, maybe — and Canada has to take a strong stand against its salmon bycatch,” he said.

One hundred pollock trawlers netted more than 120,000 Yukon River-bound chinook salmon in their nets, up from a five-year average of about 57,000, according to a Baltimore Sun article.

Salmon along the entire Pacific Coast are in trouble and scientists haven’t determined why, said Bagnell.

“The year the returning salmon went out, there was a record number of fry released,” he said.

Bagnell wants to see research resources at Fisheries and Oceans dedicated to the Pacific Ocean salmon problems.

Diseases, ocean temperatures, currents and the effect on the salmon food supply of Japan’s annual release of millions of fry need to be studied, he said.

The candidates chose their words carefully when asked if the salmon fishery should be closed to replenish stalks.

“We’ve already had that experience on the East Coast (with the cod fishery),” said Streicker.

“You might change the present ecology system, but it might not come back to the same balance.

“We’ve stopped fishing cod, but the cod haven’t come back.”

“We have to be disciplined in managing the fishery,” said Bagnell.

The Conservative government response has been lacking, said Bagnell.

“I’m not sure what they’re response was, and the minister (Loyola Hearn) visited the Yukon,” he said.

As for specific policy regarding fishery management, the Liberal Party hasn’t released its entire platform yet, said Bagnell.

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