The Salmon runs in British Columbia are known to fluctuate, with good years being followed by poorer ones. Since the mid-1990s, most years have however been bad and many explanations for this situation have been offered, from El Nino and too warm streams, to over-fishing and habitat destruction. It is of course tempting for the fishing industry to place the blame solely on natural phenomena like El Nino, but it is hard to turn a blind eye on the immense amounts of salmon caught from the rivers of British Columbia each year.

salmon British Columbia sockeye runs getting smaller and smaller

Take for instance Fraser River, the longest river in British Columbia with a total length of 1,375 km (870 mi) and a drainage area of roughly 220,000 km² (85,000 sq mi). This is a heavily exploited river and the lower reaches are especially affected by habitat destruction brought on by agricultural, industrial and urban developments. The last great salmon run in this river took place as far back as 1913, when an estimated 38 million sockeye salmons returned to spawn. Out of those 38 millions, no less than 32 millions were caught and utilized as food fish. Four years later, the run had been diminished to a mere 8 million sockeyes, but this didn’t stop the government from allowing 7.3 millions of them to be caught. In 2008, an estimated 1.6 million sockeye salmon returned to Fraser River, but despite the extremely low figure the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans allowed commercial, sport and native fishermen to continue their fishing activities. Since the early 1900s, about 40 to 70 per cent of any given run has normally been allowed to be taken in nets.