Pacific sockeye salmon return in record numbers
"There was this fear hanging on us, maybe this salmon has gone forever -- but maybe they can come back, we haven't lost them,"
- ashid Sumaila, director of the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre
After years of scarcity, the rivers of the US and Canadian Pacific Northwest are running red, literally, with a vast swarm of a salmon species considered to be in crisis.
Sockeye salmon, whose stocks ran perilously low last year, are gushing in record numbers from the Pacific Ocean toward their spawning grounds far inland.
Since mid-August, in a torrent expected to last through early October, sockeye have plunged and leapt up Alaskan streams, massed through the mouth of the mighty Fraser River in Vancouver
, and filled Oregon and Washington waterways.
"We don't know why for certain," said Barry Rosenberger, a manager with Canada's federal fisheries department.
All experts agree that conditions have been near-perfect for this year's sockeye, a strikingly red species with a dramatic four-year life cycle.
Since they hatched inland in 2006, then migrated from freshwater to the ocean in 2008, the fish enjoyed such plentiful food of krill and plankton, preferred cold ocean temperatures, and a dearth of predators, that massive numbers have matured to return to their birthplaces to spawn and die.