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Red flags raised over yellow salmon

This yellow chinook raised the red flag for a local angler. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
This yellow chinook raised the red flag for a local angler.
— image credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

Yellow-tinged salmon carcasses showing up in local rivers this fall are raising red flags.

Longtime Chilliwack angler Chris Gadsden said he was shocked to find a yellow coloured chinook salmon recently in the Vedder Canal.

"I'd never seen one like that before, in my 30 plus years of fishing the Vedder," he said.

He was so concerned, he sent some samples to DFO by Greyhound bus for analysis.

Gadsden, 68, has a growing number of questions about what he found, especially in light of biologist Alexandra Morton's decision to sound the alarm on yellow salmon recently, suggesting they may be suffering from a form of jaundice.

But the yellow colouring of the carcass found in the Vedder is "not particularly" unusual, according to Lara Sloan, DFO media spokesperson, in an e-mailed response to the Progress.

"Even live fall or white Chinook have variation including gold and reddish colours," she said.

DFO technicicans regularly "assess and collect various biological information" from Vedder River chinook carcasses, from the hatchery to Keith Wilson Bridge. Included in those details would be evidence of prespawn mortality.

"We will also collect carcass condition, lengths, scales, otoliths and heads for CWT purposes," Sloan reported. "The crew just started on Tuesday and have seen very few carcasses.

"There have has been no reports of anything unusual at this time.

Gadsden said he started asking questions after hearing that Morton had been in the Fraser Valley recently looking into reports of pre-spawn mortality of sockeye and coho in Fraser River tributaries feeding into the Harrison River. Dr. Morton reported on the yellow salmon she found on Oct 5.

"I am now examining the brains of these dying salmon myself, because I have lost all confidence in DFO," wrote Dr. Morton on her blog last week. "On my trip up the Fraser River two days ago I also found four yellow pink salmon.

Even the cartilage inside the fish's head was yellow.

Dr. Laura Richards, DFO's director general of science for the Pacific region, was asked some very specific questions in an open letter by Morton to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, about links between the dying salmon and a disease in farmed salmon caused by a type of salmon leukemia.

"I want your report on these jaundice farm salmon and the jaundice pink salmon that DFO must be aware of – why are they yellow, why are there so many of them, is this the Chilean virus Dr. Marty notes and how would such a virus get here?

"We know some of the fish farmers in B.C. also have operations in Chile," wrote Morton. "Funding provided by the public is currently being used to study jaundice that is killing farm Chinook salmon. Please send a progress report to us."

Morton asserted that contrary to DFO's reassurance, that "there's something very wrong here."

"I am forwarding this letter to the over 20,000 people on my mailing list and we want your report on what DFO is doing and who is doing it.

"We want the diagnosis on the yellow salmon. We want to know if we a getting a side order of brain tumour in the salmon we are eating," Morton added.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

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