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Concern for B.C. sockeye salmon as Fraser River return estimates drop by millions



VANCOUVER — Optimism over an expected bumper season for wild British Columbia sockeye salmon has turned to distress, after a regulatory body’s estimate of returns to the Fraser River dropped by nearly half this week.

The Pacific Salmon Commission’s pre-season estimate of 9.8 million returning fish went down to 5.5 million Monday, prompting environmentalists and fishers alike to express concern.

“It’s disturbingly bad,” said Greg Taylor, senior fisheries adviser with Watershed Watch Salmon Society.

Hopes were high for the sockeye run this year in part because the fish return to spawn in the Fraser River on a four-year cycle, with 2022 being one of the expected peak years, he said.

The low figure raises conservation concerns and suggests the sockeye fishery in B.C. waters is unlikely to open this year, creating what a commercial fishers’ union says are dire circumstances for its members.

It came days after a less-conservative estimate sparked tension between U.S. and Canadian officials.

The commission, which was created jointly by the United States and Canada to manage Pacific salmon stocks, estimated last Thursday that the run would be 7.2 million before dropping that figure further.

While the U.S. accepted the commission’s assessment last week and allowed its sockeye fisheries to open over the weekend, Canada’s Fisheries Department urged a more conservative count and Canadian fisheries remained closed.

“The United States agreed with our recommendations last week and Canada wanted to see a number even lower than what was recommended,” said Fiona Martens, the commission’s chief of fisheries management programs.

Martens said the commission makes its best guesses based on test fisheries and models. The number of fish returning was still trending upward on Thursday, but had not yet peaked, she said.

“In order for us to come up with the best run size, we need to see a peak in that data. We weren’t seeing that last week, so there was definitely some uncertainty,” Martens said.

The U.S. fisheries have since been closed, she said.

Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray was not available for an interview and the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife did not return a request for comment.

Kevin Lemkay, a spokesman for Murray, said the government is following the panel’s decision “with great concern” for both wild salmon and Canadian harvesters.

“DFO was clear during negotiations that it believed (the commission’s) run size estimates were far too high and were extremely disappointed to see fisheries proposals allowed based on overly optimistic estimates of run sizes,” Lemkay said in a statement.

While Canada is happy the commission has since adopted a more “precautionary approach,” he said the government is equally disappointed that sockeye runs are proving weaker than expected.

Fishers expressed dismay at both the missed opportunity to fish and the lack of support they felt from government. For Kyle Louis, who fishes out of Steveston, B.C., learning that his U.S. counterparts were hitting the water while he was forced to dock was heartbreaking.

“Fortunately for myself, I’m engaged in other fisheries. I do crab, prawn, herring. But for the mom-and-pop operations that only have gillnet licences and solely rely on that, they’re going to be forced to sell their boats, they’re going to be forced to sell their gear,” he said from Cowichan Bay.

James Lawson, president of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union-UNIFOR, said some commercial fishers went out to sea thinking they would be fishing and can’t afford to make it home with no catch.

The federal government isn’t offering enough transition support to fishers as the industry crumbles around them, he said. Employment insurance is inaccessible when tied to income that doesn’t exist and licence fees should be reduced for financial relief, he said.

“They should be seeking a labour force adjustment for us, maybe some disaster relief,” he said, noting fishing has been limited for years.

The union believes in acting upon the best available science and it agrees with the commission’s estimates, including Thursday’s, which provided for temporary harvesting, he said. Now that he peak has passed, the brief chance to fish is gone.

“What little opportunity there was, the Americans took effectively, leaving us out of the water. They beat us to the punch while our government kept us tied to the dock,” he said.

Lemkay said the impact to harvesters is not lost on the minister. The government is developing a licence buyback program with input from licence holders through the $647-million Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative. Supports will also be offered to dispose of vessels and non-selective fishing gear, he said.

The small Fraser runs are a concerning anomaly that may point to the impact of human activity, according to Taylor.

Notably, sockeye returns to other parts of the North Pacific, from Russia to the Columbia River, have been strong, he said. They include British Columbia’s Skeena River and Barclay Sound.

The weakest Fraser returns are in the southern and eastern parts of the watershed where humans have altered the landscape, he said. Poor runs this year include the famed Adams Rivers run and others in the Kamloops and Shuswap areas.

“That raises a few questions. You know, that’s where a lot of the population lives, that’s where we humans have really manipulated the habitat,” he said, adding that climate change is also contributing to warming waters, wildfires and other negative local impacts.

Declines of Fraser River sockeye may be canaries in the coal mine, potentially reflecting the health of the Salish Sea and land around it, he added.

“I hate to use that tired old metaphor, but they truly are,” he said.

The numbers should send warning signals to all British Columbians for a need to reform logging practices and protect and rehabilitate habitat, he said.

“The future does not look good for poor salmon unless we do that.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2022.


Amy Smart, The Canadian Press


Canada boosts capacity of key supply hub for weapons to Ukraine – CBC News



Defence Minister Anita Anand says Canada is boosting its capacity at a key transportation hub in Scotland, so weapons and other supplies can more easily be shipped to Ukraine and other countries in eastern Europe.

Canadian forces have been responsible for delivering four million pounds of cargo since March, and the Prestwick, Scotland hub will now be expanded into an air mobility detachment with a third CC-130 aircraft and 55 Canadian Armed Forces members present.

“We are expanding the ways in which we are assisting Ukraine and getting military aid to Ukraine by delivering even more aid,” Anand told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton in an interview airing Sunday.

CBC News reported earlier this week Ukraine has written to the Canadian government to request armoured vehicles, howitzers and winter clothing.

Canada has promised to deliver 39 armoured troop carriers, and Anand said she’d be meeting with industry partners in Canada to talk about the issue of supply.

Anand said NATO countries are all trying to strike a balance between arms shipments to Ukraine and maintaining supplies to their own armed forces.

“This is front and centre in my mind,” she said.

Canada must say yes to Ukraine: Rae

Canada has committed or delivered $626 million in military aid to Ukraine since February.

Asked about Ukraine’s list of weapons requests in an interview on CBC Radio’s The House that aired Saturday, UN Ambassador Bob Rae said Canada would be hard pressed to deny the asks.

“It may be a career-limiting move for me to say this, but I don’t believe we could say anything less than yes,” Rae said.

“That’s been my consistent advice to whoever, whoever, whoever is listening. Obviously, governments have to decide the pace at which they can do it.”

LISTEN | UN Ambassador Bob Rae discusses latest developments in Ukraine war:

Some NATO countries have struggled to strike the balance Anand described Sunday, due in part to a lack of robust inventory.

“Since the end of the Cold War, not only have allies considerably restructured their armed forces, they also don’t hold the stockpiles anymore that they used to have,” Christian Leuprecht, a political science professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, told CBC News earlier this week.

“And so, effectively, most of what you ended up giving away today comes out of your current stockpile. So this is equipment that you’re actually going to be actively short.”

The calls for more aid from Ukraine come as offensives in both the country’s east and south continue, but also as Russia announced a partial mobilization to bring hundreds of thousands more soldiers into its ranks. Russian President Vladimir Putin also threatened this week that Russia was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend itself.

Russia also announced and rapidly began referendums in occupied Ukrainian territories.

Anand said Putin’s decision to raise the threat of nuclear war and mobilization were “acts of desperation.”

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Atlantic Canada begins assessing, cleaning up damage from Fiona –



People across Atlantic Canada are beginning to assess the damage and clean up after post-tropical storm Fiona swept through the region Saturday.

As of 9 a.m., remnants of Fiona are over southeastern Labrador and have merged with a trough — a long region of low atmospheric pressure.

Fiona spent early Sunday morning moving inland in southeastern Quebec as a post-tropical storm, according to Environment Canada. It’s expected to dissipate over the Labrador Sea.

The agency said winds were at 80 km/h and all wind warnings associated with the storm have ended.

In Newfoundland, some homes were washed away or flattened, others were flooded, roads were washed out and people were evacuated. The damage was most striking in Port aux Basques, where boulders and debris were scattered across the community.

On Sunday morning, CBC meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler said the bulk of the damage in Port aux Basques was caused by storm surge.

The Salvation Army has co-ordinated an emergency shelter for people displaced from their homes in the Port aux Basques area at the local school.

In Nova Scotia, hundreds of thousands of customers were without power on Sunday, and the Canadian Armed Forces has been called in to help restore electricity.

Nova Scotia Power president Peter Gregg said in a statement Sunday that the utility knows “there will be customers who face outages for multiple days” given the damage created by the storm.

Two municipalities in Cape Breton declared a state of emergency. The fastest winds clocked in at 171 km/h in Arisaig, just north of Antigonish.

The devastation of a day: Scenes of Fiona’s damage across Atlantic Canada

6 hours ago

Duration 3:05

Within hours, post-tropical storm Fiona caused destruction and upheaval in all four Atlantic provinces, as well as in eastern Quebec. See some of the impact as gathered by CBC News crews.

Ottawa has also approved Nova Scotia’s request for funding for disaster assistance to help municipalities repair damaged infrastructure, and to assist individuals and small businesses pay for uninsured losses

On Prince Edward Island, winds hit 150 km/h and almost 100 millimetres of rain fell, homes and businesses were damaged and flooded, and at one point about 95 per cent of Maritime Electric customers had lost electricity.

Premier Dennis King said Sunday that his province’s road to recovery “will be weeks or longer” since the damage may have been “the worst we’ve ever seen” from a tropical storm. 

Residents in Charlottetown are now being asked to stay off the roads and shelter in place after the storm rushed over the Island. 

In New Brunswick, roads were flooded, a bridge was destroyed and tens of thousands were without electricity. Residents there are also being asked to stay away from dangerous, storm-ravaged areas.

Bill Hogan, the province’s public safety minister, said it will take time to fully calculate the damage caused by post-tropical storm Fiona, but he expects help will be made available to affected residents.

Power outages are still widespread on Sunday morning, with more than 365,000 customers in the dark across the four Atlantic provinces, including more than 260,000 in Nova Scotia.


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Officials across Eastern Canada set to begin assessing full scope of storm damage



After hammering Atlantic Canada, post-tropical storm Fiona has moved inland in southeastern Quebec, with Environment Canada saying the storm will continue to weaken as it tracks across southeastern Labrador and over the Labrador Sea.

As of 6 a.m. local time, nearly 267,000 Nova Scotia Power customers were still affected by outages, 82,414 Maritime Electric customers remained in the dark and more than 20,600 homes and businesses in New Brunswick were without power, with some provincial utility companies warning it could be days before the lights are back on for everyone.

Newfoundland Power reported outages affecting more than 3,600 customers, as high-end tropical storm force winds knocked down trees and power lines, although Environment Canada said winds would diminish in the morning.

In an early Sunday morning update, Environment Canada said strong winds continued over the northern Newfoundland, southeastern Labrador and parts of southeastern Quebec.

A wind warning remained in effect for the western part of the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland, while storm warnings are in place for parts of the Northeast Gulf and Strait of Belle Isle marine areas.

As Fiona continued to weaken, government officials across Eastern Canada prepared to survey the full scope of the damage left behind.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, along with several members of his cabinet, were scheduled to tour some of the hardest hit areas of Cape Breton by helicopter Sunday morning.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who cancelled his planned visit to Japan for the state funeral of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, said he will visit as soon as possible, while noting he doesn’t want to displace any emergency teams who are focused on important work on the ground.

Defence Minister Anita Anand said Saturday members of the Canadian Armed Forces had begun preparing to respond before receiving the request for assistance from Nova Scotia, and troops will be deployed to other provinces that ask for help.

No details were provided on the number of troops being deployed, but Anand said reconnaissance was underway to ensure they go where and when they are needed most.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.


The Canadian Press

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