Salmon blocked from migrating upstream to spawning grounds could be trapped and trucked above an obstruction following a rock slide in British Columbia’s Fraser River, a spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada said Wednesday.
Bonnie Antcliffe said data from an acoustic monitoring device installed upstream from the rocks suggest about 700 fish, mostly chinook and some sockeye, have passed through.
Fish were blocked after the slide happened around June 21 or 22 in a remote area near Big Bar, northwest of Kamloops.
A second acoustic device is expected to be installed on Thursday while other options are being explored to save the fish, Antcliffe told a conference call.
“What we don’t know is how many fish we would expect to migrate through at this time of year,” she said. “The water is very turbid and you cannot see the fish in the water, and until further acoustic monitoring devices are on the downstream side, it will be difficult to tell.”
Technical staff and engineers are monitoring the area by helicopter because it’s unsafe for crews to do any work in the remote area, Antcliffe said.
An incident command post has been set up in Lillooet, with representatives from First Nations and the federal and provincial governments.
Jennifer Davis, provincial director of fish and aquatic habitat for B.C.’s Forests Ministry, said the safety of crews is the main consideration, followed by addressing the passage of fish and finding a solution to move them, if necessary.
“This is a very dangerous site,” she said. “It’s prone to rocks falling anyway and it’s got fast-moving water to begin with, which has been amplified through this side event, so there is a very high human safety concern that’s number one.”
The slide narrowed an already tight spot and created more debris in the river, along with a five-metre waterfall, Davis said.
Jennifer Naner, director of salmon management for the Fisheries Department, said while chinook numbers have been better than in the last two years they are lower than historic figures.
“We still have conservation concerns for this stock, even before this slide.”
The Canadian Press