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Canadian Pacific Fishermen Catch No Sardines in 2013

Alexander Reed Kelly
Associate Editor
In December 2010, Alex was arrested for civil disobedience outside the White House alongside Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, healthcare activist Margaret Flowers and…
Alexander Reed Kelly

Commercial fishermen off the coast of British Columbia came home this fall without having caught a single sardine, an outcome that suggests a $32 million fishery has collapsed.

Half of the 50 commercial sardine licenses issued in British Columbia belong to First Nation natives. The fishery normally operates from July to November, but not this year.

“They’ve given up looking, pulled the plug,” confirmed Lorne Clayton, executive director of the Canadian Pacific Sardine Association. “It certainly was disappointing. It’s cost them time, fuel, and crew to go out and look, with no compensation.”

Aside from the apparent displacement of humpback whales, a report in The Vancouver Sun said nothing about the effects of the disappearance on the ecosystem. Clayton said ocean temperatures, tides, plankton and light all could be influencing the population.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Vancouver Sun:

The commercial disappearance of the small schooling fish is having repercussions all the way up the food chain to threatened humpback whales.

Jim Darling, a Tofino-based whale biologist with the Pacific Wildlife Foundation, said in an interview Monday that humpbacks typically number in the hundreds near the west coast of Vancouver Island in summer. They were observed only sporadically this year, including by the commercial whalewatching industry.

“Humpbacks are telling us that something has changed,” he said. “Ocean systems are so complex, it’s really hard to know what it means. For one year, I don’t think there’s any reason to be alarmed, but there is certainly reason to be curious.”

Humpbacks instead were observed farther offshore, possibly feeding on alternative food sources such as herring, sandlance, anchovies, or krill, but not in the numbers observed near shore in recent years.

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