Decline of Wild Salmon in Asia
by Jonathan Brinckman
Wild salmon are sharply declining on the Asian side of the Pacific Ocean -- from northeast Russia to Japan -- in a pattern mirroring the West Coast of North America.
The decline of wild salmon is most severe in southern latitudes, reported fishery scientists from Russia, Japan, Canada and the United States. The scientists met Monday and Tuesday in Portland for the first-ever assessment of the status of wild salmon around the Pacific Rim.
The state of North Pacific wild salmon is important because about 85 percent of the ocean's approximately 500 million salmon are born in the wild, with the rest born in hatcheries, said Kim Hyatt of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Only about 5 percent of those 500 million fish come from rivers running through the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon and California. About half the North Pacific's salmon spawn in Alaska, 35 percent spawn in Asia, and 10 percent spawn in British Columbia.
Southern stocks are the most threatened because human population densities are highest in the Lower 48 states and in southern Asian countries such as Japan, scientists said. Urbanization makes rivers less hospitable to salmon because it generally results in lowered water quality and in the destruction of wetlands and other areas used by young salmon.
"The status of salmon is much better in areas that are not populated," said Mikhail B. Skopets of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Dan Bottom of the National Marine Fisheries Service said that southern stocks of salmon are also more susceptible to human impacts because they spawn where temperatures in rivers and streams are already warm and inhospitable.
"On the edges of their range, stocks are most vulnerable," Bottom said. "When you impose other threats, these stocks begin to drop off."
Skopets said overfishing -- both legal harvest and poaching -- is now the major threat to wild salmon in the Russian Far East. And he said mining and oil and gas exploration are the most serious growing threats.
"Five to seven years ago we could have created several protected territories," he said. "Now we are opposed by regional interests."
The conference was organized by The Wild Salmon Center, a Portland-based nonprofit organization.
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