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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hitting close to home: Sointula, Rivers Inlet sockeye, and Infectious Salmon Anemia

Will Soltau is the Local Coordinator for Living Oceans Society's Salmon Farming campaign

Even though tonight is game six of the World Series, I’m blogging about those Rivers Inlet sockeye that tested positive for the Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISAv). I’m breaking blog protocol with back to back posts on the same subject but since both Blog Brothers (Jake and John) are away, protocol shmotocol.

This news is hitting close to home.

This community - Sointula - has been sustained by fishing for over 100 years. Much of that sustenance came from Rivers and Smith Inlet sockeye.

Our staff photo for a few years back was taken under a mural painted on the wall of the Sointula Co-op. That mural illustrates the heritage of this place, this coast. Those little dories are fishing boats getting ready to be towed up to Rivers Inlet for the salmon season by a packer. They didn’t have engines. They didn’t even have cabins. A tarp was stretched across the gunwales for shelter from the weather. None of them had drums to retrieve the gear; the fishermen pulled their nets by hand. There were certainly no electronics like radar to find one’s way in the fog which is pretty much a daily occurrence during fishing season.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deadly salmon virus found in B.C. sockeye

The highly contagious virus that wiped out seventy percent of Chile’s farmed salmon industry has now been confirmed in B.C. wild salmon.

The devastating news that Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) is definitely present in B.C. was delivered by Simon Fraser University (SFU) Professor Dr. Rick Routledge, whose research team found the infected sockeye while doing field work in Rivers Inlet on B.C.’s central coast.

This is the first time that ISA has been confirmed in the entire North Pacific.

Routledge, joined by SFU team member Nicole Gerbrandt and activist Alexandra Morton, announced the findings at a media conference in Vancouver and did not downplay the seriousness of the risk.

48 sockeye smolts that were collected by the SFU team as part of a long term study into the collapse of Rivers Inlet sockeye stocks were sent to Dr. Fred Kibenge at the Atlantic Veterinary College in P.E.I.. Kibenge confirmed ISA in two fish, confirmed it was a European strain of the virus and notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as is required in the case of contagious and lethal diseases.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Breaking up is not so hard to do

Just ask Rena. She's Liberian (not to be confused with librarian), a real looker, and a bit of a mess. She also happens to be the source of New Zealand's worst marine environmental catastrophe in history.

Last week the container ship Rena ran into Astrolabe Reef off the coast of New Zealand at full speed. She's now leaning precariously, perched on the top of a rock, being battered by an onslaught of high winds and waves determined to bring her down, as a growing crack spreads up her side. Rena is breaking up, and she's not holding it together very well. So far she's lost 70 of her cargo containers (don't worry, none of the 11 containers carrying toxic chemicals have fallen overboard yet), at least 350 tonnes of bunker fuel oil, and all crew who were evacuated due to her extremely dangerous position. 1,700 tonnes of fuel remain onboard, ready and waiting for the open ocean or the tank of a salvage vessel (whichever comes first), and her beloved captain and first mate have been charged. It's looking like Rena may have found her final resting place.

The container ship Rena is reported to be breaking up after she and her crew ended up on the rocks.

It's mildly ironic that Rena sits where she does. Astrolabe Reef is indeed named for the ancient astronomical device used for maritime navigation prior to the days of the sextant and GPS. You'd think they would have seen it coming on their chart plotter or at least radar. It's clearly visible during the day for Pete's sake, regardless of modern or old-school navigation equipment (Okay. Okay. They ran into at night). Yes, the ship was two miles off course. Yes, there really isn't an answer as to how a ship with modern technology could run aground going 17 knots. Yes, the crew may have been celebrating the captain's 44th birthday. But alas, when have well-known, visible reefs stopped collision courses before? Think Pathfinder. I think the crew there was playing video games.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Red tide, biolumenescence, and just where do you find sustainable Canadian seafood?

There are some pretty cool things living in the ocean. There are some pretty cool videos of things that live in the ocean, too. For instance, this video from Science News of sea urchin larvae developing into adults is pretty amazing. And in case you haven't seen it already, check out beautifully put-together video of bioluminescence in the waves near San Diago:

The light show that you see above is the result of millions of dinoflagellates (tiny marine algae) that washed ashore after a large algae bloom along the west coast. These blooms, which usually happens after an upwelling of nutrients form the deep waters off the continental shelf, is often called red tide as the algae are actually dense enough to change the colour of the seawater over a huge area. To get an idea of exactly how large an area, have a look at this satellite image of the waters off Vancouver Island in the fall of 2004. Just as these algae can change the colour of the water by day, they can also light them up by night by producing a chemical with one most wicked names known to science: LUCIFERIN.