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October 19, 2011

Anissa's Blog - Groundtruthing Salmon Dying before Spawning

Groundtruthing Salmon Dying before Spawning

October 16, 2011 by Anissa

On October 4th and again on the 12th Alexandra Morton and I headed up the Fraser River to Harrison Mills area. She had received many reports from people concerned about the dead unspawned salmon floating down the river. The night before our first trip to the river we saw some incredible video of weeks prior when thousands of dead silver sockeye were floating down the river with red bleeding fins and abnormal lesions. It was a disturbing sight to view. The next day we headed out ourselves. We did not find one salmon that day that had spawned out. Everything we collected was either dead or in the throes such as the fish that was being asphyxiated by a strange and aggressive gill growth. They were all full of eggs or milt. I took video of the horrible gills as well as photos. (we saw it in a few fish)

On page 8 of Alexandra's report she mentions an email from the Cohen enquiry submitted documents Dec 2006, "... they are possibly the worst looking (i.e. pathological) gills which i have ever seen..."  I do not know if Dr. David Spears from U of PEI was looking at similar gills but I was born and raised on this coast in a fishing family and I have never seen anything like this.

Recently I bought some "fresh" Atlantic Farmed Salmon from Superstore. Althought the fish had an expiry date 5 days from my purchase their gills were rotting so bad. When I saw these gills  I immediately thought of the fish I had seen in the river especially in the pattern. I wondered if these fish weren't harvested because they were experiencing disease.

I got 13 fish in the 2 to 4 lb range and all had rotting gills . They also had a very different brain then anything I had seen, a spongy growth had grown around them that had to be removed before the brain could be exposed.

In addition this one had a bright yellow spot on its brain as well.

I could say more about this experience but just wanted to point out some things that I found concerning. Especially since we learned from Laura Richards (Head of DFO Pacific Region) that no specific person is tasked with reading the disease records from the salmon farm feedlots.

Back to the River.

A very visible thing that was quite disturbing was the yellow or jaundice Pink salmon. See for yourself how yellow the fish have become with livers ranging in colour from bright green with lumps in the pink salmon on the 4th  to a yellow/orange in the big Chinook we collected on the 12th. I did not photoshop these colours. Took a short iphone video as well

This is the liver (below) of the jaundice Pink salmon.  Very green and mottled.

We sampled two yellow Chinooks or White Springs in on the 14th. Below is a large female that Alexandra pulled from the water.

This female had been bleeding from her dorsal fin and was fully ripe with eggs.  The cartilage in her head was the brightest of all. The provincial veterinarian Dr Gary Marty is studying Jaundice in Chinook Salmon farm feedlots out of Tofino we heard in testimony at the Cohen Commission.

We took to the river ourselves because we want to know what is wrong with our wild salmon. Why are so many dying?

Otherwise healthy looking fish are dying full of eggs.

Thanks to Brad and Sandy who took a day off work to help with their boat and thoughtfully brought an umbrella among other things. Louise and Rick for lunch, etc and Nicole from SFU.

We will let you know what we find out.

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