On October 16, 2022, most of the Sea Around Us team travelled to Salmon Arm, in south-central British Columbia, to witness spawning sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in the Adams River.
In a time filled with news of severe drought in the western Canadian province, record-breaking temperatures, and a mass salmon die-off on BC’s central coast, the Sea Around Us team, including its principal investigator, Daniel Pauly, used the opportunity to see what many believe may be one of the last strong spawning events in the Tsútswecw Provincial Park and surrounding areas.
According to local media, sockeye salmon that return from the Fraser River to the Adams River to spawn have been steadily declining from close to 4 million fish in the early 2000s to about half a million in later years.
“Decreasing salmon stocks are a consequence of a number of factors such as habitat loss and climate change,” Pauly said. “In northwestern North America, as the winter snow declines, rivers are no longer fed with the cool, well-oxygenated water that salmon and their eggs need.”
Despite the lower numbers in the Adams River, the Sea Around Us group and other members of UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries that joined the event, were mesmerized seeing hundreds of red-coloured fish swimming against the current, males asserting their dominance over other males to court a female, then dying soon after spawning.
This trip and the related activities were framed within the Salute to the Sockeye festival, which is organized every year by the Adams River Salmon Society and is a three-week celebration of the dominant Adams sockeye run.