We are in the middle of a heat wave. Temperature records are being smashed all over the province, and the forecast is for crazy hot weather for the next week and beyond. If there is one true statement I can make about residents in BC's lower mainland (Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley) its that we are never satisfied with the weather. Ever. In the winter we bitch about the rain and cold. This year we bitched about the snow and ice and the lack of rain. In the summer we bitch about the heat. This year we say that its been the best spring/summer ever but omigod its too f-ing hot! It's always either too hot, too cold, too windy, too rainy, to snowy, too humid, too dry... too something. Right now its approaching 35 C for daytime highs, feeling like almost 40 C with the humidity, and my brain feels like its been boiled into mush. But hey its sunny and beautiful, so I'll try not to bitch too much.
Now if I were a sockeye, I'd have real reason for complaint. Fraser River water temperatures are hovering around 20 C right now, and are predicted to rise to close to 22 C by Aug. 5th. Which means that the risk of mortality for the migrating sockeye is huge. Astronomical, even, given that the water is only going to continue to heat up. And not only that, but early season numbers of returning fish have fallen well below the estimates, causing the Pacific Salmon Commission to cut their pre-season estimates. For example, the Fraser's earliest run of sockeye is the Stuart Run. Pre-season projections put the run at approximately 165,000 fish. This number has decreased four times in the last month, to around 85,000 returning Stuart fish. That's a 48% drop. Early summer run sockeye numbers were projected pre-season to be 739,000 fish, and that number has dropped an astounding 64% to fall to 264,000 fish. Needless to say, due to unfavourable conditions and low returns, all commercial and recreational fishing opportunities for sockeye are non-existent. At this time, the First Nations will be allowed to fish, although even they will probably have to reduce their catch.
Maybe the fish are late, but things are certainly not working in their favour right now. This does not bode well for what is supposed to be a big-cycle year for sockeye, with around 10 million fish projected to return to the Fraser and its tributaries in the 2009 season. Last years numbers were at about 1.7 million sockeye for the season, well below the yearly average of 4.4 million.
I'm not going to start posturing about what we need to do for our declining runs, or give you un educated theories on the reasons for the decline. I'll just leave you with the numbers, and the hope that this season isn't a horrendous disaster.
Now off to continue the slow bake in this inescapable heat.
And PS: I received my tourist visa for Russia - its official! Two weeks less 7 hours before my plane departs, and holy crap do I ever need to tie flies!!!!!!! Donations will be gratefully accepted!