September 10, 2009

B.C. bears starve to death from lack of salmon

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British Columbia’s poor salmon returns are beginning to hit more than the fishing industry. Grizzlies and black bears along the coast are starving to deathfrom lack of food, reports Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail. Officials attribute the strikingly low number of bears observed to low chum salmon runs the past few years, and suspect some bears may have died in their dens over the winter because they lacked the body fat necessary to survive. Conservation Director of Pacific Wild Ian McAllister states it plainly:

“River systems that in the past had 50,000 to 60,000 chum have now got 10 fish. The chum runs have been fished out. We’ve seen the biological extinction of a [salmon] species, and now we’re seeing the impact on bears.”

McAllister and others made a statement to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans requesting it cancel this fall’s grizzly bear hunt and shut down all chum salmon fisheries. This comes after the Fraser River crisis, which InvestigateWest reported on further here.

“The collapse of the Fraser sockeye and now the north-coast chum salmon runs is leading to ecological collapse of our coast ecosystems,” McAllister said.

– Emily Linroth

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