What is Lost and Found on the Fraser River // Part 3 of 9 // For a moment I breathe in the quiet. Is this what it feels like to be a fish? To float freely in the shelter of the eelgrass beds, warm in the sand flats and salt marsh? I’m jarred from my reverie as the boat tips. The scientists disembark, preparing for the morning’s work of catching, counting, and measuring. Raincoast Conservation Foundation wants to know who is where, when—which different species of salmon come down from the headwaters, what parts of the estuary are they using more, how long they stay, where they go, why? Their interest is not only in the fish. Salmon move through the whole ecosystem. Birds and bear feed on them; their bodies fertilize the forests. And we’re losing them. We’re losing them. Lia is obscured by tall reeds as she records conditions. Misty starts the engine and drives the boat just far enough to drag the seining net across to the opposite bank where Dave and Charlie are primed, ready to haul. Their motions are clean and quick; muscles strain against the mud and the current. Something gets stuck and Misty moves across the stern of the boat with implausible stealth for one clad in weighted rubber. Time is of the essence—specimens will be lost if the net lags, if it is not drawn up within seconds. Mike and I, we are oddly in the middle, observers and participants both—Lia calls out numbers (net in time, net out time, etc.) that I write on a clipboard chart; Mike sloshes to capture the action on film, swings his camera aside to help haul. We look on as the scientists take stock of their inventory. Small crustaceans, minute marine life. And there it is. A tiny glistening, no more than two inches—a Chinook? A chum? “What’s the body shape?” “Look at his parr marks.” “There, on the right side?” “No adipose.” “It’s June.” “He’s really little.” “His head, it’s pretty chummy.” A chum. It is determined. We move through the channel and repeat. Once. Twice. Three times more until the tide turns out of our favor.
Images by Michael O. Snyder (follow @michaelosnyder)
Words by Courtney Sexton (follow @clsexton)
In 2016, I traveled with environmental journalist Courtney Sexton @c