SOURCE: CBC News (Canada)
DATE: November 29, 2019
SNIP: In the aftermath of a massive landslide on B.C.’s Fraser River, just a single female chinook salmon managed to complete the journey to her spawning grounds in Valemount’s Swift Creek, according to a local conservationist.
“She swam back and forth and eventually died all by herself,” said Dustin Snyder, vice president of the Spruce City Wildlife Association in Prince George.
“There’s multiple streams up here that didn’t see any fish return and the ones that did see fish have seen very few.”
As CBC reported on Friday, federal scientists fear the possible extinction of some salmon populations following last year’s landslide at Big Bar.
That didn’t come as a surprise to Snyder.
“We’ve seen these stocks continuously decline, and what the Big Bar situation has done is really bring them to their knees,” he told CBC.
The Big Bar slide created a five-metre waterfall on the Fraser north of Lillooet in October or November 2018, making it impossible for migrating salmon to push through to their natal streams.
In an attempt to save this year’s runs, more than 60,000 fish were captured, stored in tanks, and then lifted past the obstruction by helicopter over the summer. Others managed to swim past after water levels fell.
But despite those efforts, this year’s returns are looking grim.
On Oct. 16, federal government scientists told the Pacific Salmon Commission that three salmon runs now face a “meaningful chance of extinction” as a result of the landslide, according to a PowerPoint presentation obtained by CBC News.
The presentation suggests the landslide has created “massive negative implications” to salmon in the Fraser, and at least three other runs are at “considerable risk” depending on water levels in the river next year.
Valentine said that during his time on the Pacific Salmon Commission, the focus was too often on making sure that Canadian fishermen had an equal share of the catch compared to their American counterparts, rather than conserving the future of the salmon.
Earlier this week, the federal government put out a request for information for ideas to clear out the landslide to allow fish to pass through naturally.
But the presentation provided to CBC points out that as of October, zero tonnes of rock had been removed from the slide area, and there’s a “good chance” that natural passage won’t be restored in time for the 2020 salmon run.