Department of Fisheries and Oceans launched an investigation last month into allegations of habitat destruction on islands eyed for development in the Fraser River.
“On November 22, 2018, Conservation and Protection (enforcement branch of DFO) directed the Herrling and Carey Island property owners to take corrective measures,” said Leri Davies, strategic media advisor to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“Failure to comply with the corrective measures issued by DFO is a serious matter that may result in further investigation by fishery officers and possible prosecution.”
Several groups have been calling for protection of the world-class salmon and sturgeon spawning habitat that those islands provide, like the B.C. Outdoor Recreation Council and the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. Some were pleased to hear about the investigation launched by DFO.
“We’re anxious to see what they come up with,” said Lina Azeez, Connected Waters campaign manager for the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “We’re definitely going to be paying attention to their findings.”
The large island complexes were rezoned in 2016 and clearcut in preparation for agriculture or development.
“The events that have unfolded along the Heart of the Fraser the past two years have been tragic,” said Mark Angelo, ORC Rivers Chair and a longtime river advocate. He says it’s only getting worse, and action is required.
The developers had also applied to build bridges over the river to Herrling and Carey Islands which would “further compound” the damage done by clearcutting to the water’s edge. ORC reps strongly recommended the bridges not be approved, as did B.C. Wildlife Federation and Watershed Watch Salmon Society.
DFO is not taking the matter lightly.
“Fisheries and Oceans Canada recognizes the importance of salmon, eulachon and white sturgeon habitats in the Fraser River and the fisheries resources they support,” Davies added, saying DFO regards the incident “as very serious and will take every measure possible to ensure that non-compliance incidents like this are not repeated.”