Vancouver — From Thursday's Globe and Mail Last updated on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009 10:18PM EDT
The Fraser River is experiencing one of the biggest salmon disasters in recent history with more than nine million sockeye vanishing.
Aboriginal fish racks are empty, commercial boats worth millions of dollars are tied to the docks and sport anglers are being told to release any sockeye they catch while fishing for still healthy runs of Chinook.
Between 10.6 million and 13 million sockeye were expected to return to the Fraser this summer. But the official count is now just 1.7 million, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Where the nine to 11 million missing fish went remains a mystery.
“It's beyond a crisis with these latest numbers,” said Ernie Crey, fisheries adviser to the Sto:lo tribes on the Fraser. “What it means is that a lot of impoverished natives are going to be without salmon. … We have families with little or no income that were depending on these fish. … It's a catastrophe,” he said.