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Go to article index for other editions of Bob Orrick's IN RE (In the Matter of).



Salmon Stock Annihilation in British Columbia

By Hank Rempel


This letter is written to the mental midgets in office in Ottawa, St. Johns, Vancouver, or Spuzzum, B.C. It is also written to the environmentalists, tree huggers, do gooders and anyone else who cares to listen. I really hope that in some way a little of this information will filter through to the right person and some good may come of it. Here are some of the reasons why our salmon stocks are being depleted.

Years ago there was a bounty placed on seals. This of course was a cruel way to even out the playing field as we here on the Pacific coast had already annihilated the fantastic halibut grounds in the inside waters of Vancouver Island. The purse seiners were busily sniping away at the salmon stock and the seals were frustrating the gill-netter fleet. Seals would cruise along a net taking one bite out of each fish that it came to. This is very frustrating to the fisherman who reeled in his net and then had to throw away more than half the fish. Presently the Canadian Fisheries officers have been picking away at reducing the number of boats fishing our waters by buying back the licenses and reselling them to wealthier fishermen that add the purchased tonnage to a larger vessel. If this keeps up, and the equipment keeps getting more efficient all the time, instead of having several thousand boats out earning a living like there was in the forties, we will have only half a dozen monster boats which go out and catch the entire B.C. coast's production themselves. We will go the way of the prairie farmer, with a few people doing all the farming, rather than thousands of small farms.

After the Second World War, the geniuses in the Department of Fisheries opened the pacific coast to dragging for shrimp and prawns. Two things took place due to this decision. First of all, the ocean floor vegetation is severely disturbed by the doors of the drag. In addition, every living thing that is hauled up from the great depths is dumped on the deck of the dragger and dies. The fisherman picks out of the haul whatever he has a market for and the rest is dumped overboard. There is no control as to how many drags can be made in a given area. The ocean floor is scoured, on a willy nilly basis and never gets a chance to regenerate before the next guy comes along. What is hauled off the ocean floor is the food source for the ocean inhabitants.

Then along comes The Annual Herring Roe Harvest, which is a most horrible scene and is taking place as I write this letter of frustration. Please note that this is a roe harvest, not a fish harvest. Due to some folks in the Orient deeming herring eggs a delicacy, the greed of the fishermen is attacking the very base of the ocean food chain. To let the herring spawn & harvest it as a fish makes common sense. However, to go after the herring at the precise moment that they are about to reproduce, then selling their eggs & throwing the herring itself into fertilizer bins, is totally nuts!

Then, along comes the environmentalist, who thinks that they are doing a good thing by stopping the whale, sea lion, & seal harvest. For the record, I am also one that is dead against slaughter of this type as well. However, we now have a pod of seals, about every 15 miles, along the Pacific Coast. These pods vary from a handful, to 30 or more. At the major fast water tide passes, we have herds of anywhere from 500 to 2000 sea lions, lounging on the log booms. There are many tour boats in the area, taking folks out to ogle the sight. This is now the time to do a little mathematics. Each & every sea lion devours approx. 200 lbs. of fish each day to survive. At the entrance to every fish-bearing stream, we have more protected species, busily gorging on whatever becomes available. In the Kootenay Lake I had property that had a nice glacier stream entering the lake. During spawning season, each day hundreds of sea gulls were killing the Kokanee, which were attempting to spawn. The death toll was staggering.

Why on earth can people not understand that you can't select a few species for our food supply, fish the dickens out of them and then also allow the natural predator species to attack without any sort of control? The result of this is a severe imbalance.

Then along comes the guy that wants to use our oceans to raise tame salmon. Any time that you get a huge growth of one species in a small area, disaster from diseases is likely. Worst of all these diseases are then transmitted to the wild salmon. A few years ago on Quadra Island, there was a Norwegian owned fish farm, which had diseased fish. They shut down the farm and moved to a different location to continue their operation. Up the hill from their huge operation was the water reservoir for the camp down below. Instead of digging a pit to dispose of the contaminated salmon, they chose to throw tons of them into the reservoir. This reservoir overflowed later that fall and the water ran down the hill into the ocean. They got away with it. Where was the government official that shut them down in the first place? Why did he not check up on the disposal methods?

I could very easily conduct a tour that would take weeks of travel to sites that have been so unbelievably contaminated that it boggles the mind. We had a neighbour in Fort St. James that pressure washed huge logging machinery about 12 hours each day for 10 months each year, for years. The ditch that carried the mess away would be red with hydraulic fluid. No attempt was made to recycle the water or to collect the sludge. It was simply allowed to run down a hill into the beautiful stream that flowed into Stuart Lake. This stream once was a food source for the Hudson's Bay fur trading fort. At that time it was loaded with steel head and trout. Now, it is totally dead.

We have a pulp mill and a 500-man construction camp that was built near here back in the fifties. Raw sewage was piped down the hill into a distribution box on the beach. Today, raw sewage from that mill is still pumped directly into the ocean. The deep-sea docks have beautiful tiled bathrooms with no less than twelve toilets all in a row. Underneath the dock is a cast iron pipe that discharges the sewage straight into the ocean. I am speaking of a dock area that has anywhere from 40 to 150 men going to the bathroom every day.

In Maple Ridge, I worked for a metal salvage operation, which processed many truckloads of material every day for years. Oil filled transformers, engines and any type of machinery that you can think of was cut up on the spot for scrap. The liquids were absorbed by the soil, which was only a very short distance from the Fraser River. There is no possible way that these horrible contaminants didn't get into the river. The owners were renting the property and heard that inspectors were going to be nosing around so they shut down the operation, hauled in a few loads of gravel and moved to a different site.
Regards Hank Rempel Chemainus B.C.

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