The remote site of a rockslide on the Fraser River near Big Bar, continues to fill with rocky debris, which is impeding any fish-rescue efforts. (Submitted)

The remote site of a rockslide on the Fraser River near Big Bar, continues to fill with rocky debris, which is impeding any fish-rescue efforts. (Submitted)

First Nations leadership call salmon blockage ‘an extreme crisis’

Rock slide threatening Indigenous communities’ food sovereignty along the Fraser River, they say

Several First Nations leaders say a “state of emergency” could arise from the blocked salmon situation necessitating immediate action on the part of other governments.

The remote site of a rockslide on the Fraser near Big Bar continues to fill with rocky debris, which is impeding any fish-rescue efforts despite the establishment of a multi-agency Incident Command Post out of Lilooet with experts working on it every day.

“The Big Bar rockslide has occurred at the worst possible time of year as key chinook, steelhead, coho and sockeye salmon runs traverse that area of the Fraser River,” said Cheryl Casimer of the First Nations Summit political executive, in a joint news release.

READ MORE: Experts seeking solutions to free fish

The blockage is threatening the “food sovereignty” of Indigenous communities all along the Fraser River since it will not only impact food sources this year but in future as well.

“Immediate mitigation efforts, in consultation with impacted Fraser River First Nations, must be the top priority for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and associated provincial ministries,” Casimer added.

Only 700 fish are estimated to have gotten through as of last week, and it is unknown how exactly how many salmon may be trapped at the base of the blockage.

On Thursday the First Nations Leadership Panel convened for the third time to discuss and consider fish passage mitigation options, according to information from the Incident Command Post management team. The panel is jointly led by DFO, FLNRORD and First Nations leadership.

“To date, three staged fish passage mitigation options and support for collaborative monitoring methods have been agreed upon by the panel via consensus amongst leaders,” according to a release.

The slide has created a five-metre high waterfall which is obstructing salmon from travelling upstream on their migration route to spawning beds.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs called the rockslide disaster “an extreme crisis for our sacred salmon,” and is calling for fisheries targeting Fraser stocks to be temporarily closed on the river until a solution is found.

“We fully support the call from the Fraser Salmon Management Council (FSMC) that all recreational and commercial fisheries fishing Fraser River salmon stocks immediately stop and any contemplated recreational and commercial fishery, including catch and release, not take place until after it is determined that all salmon have safe access around the slide area and that any such openings only be considered after conservation and First Nations priority needs are met,” Phillip said.

Watching salmon stocks dwindle has been excruciating for communities that depend on the food source.

“Natural disasters such as landslides are becoming more common due to climate change and we are deeply concerned by the Big Bar rockslide and the fragile future of the many salmon species which First Nations depend on for cultural and physical sustenance. Urgent action must be taken to mitigate this blockage, not only to ensure the future of salmon survival, but also to provide continued abundance into the future,” stated Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

Leaders will continue to monitor the situation and push for commitments to immediate mitigation of the rockslide to maximize salmon migration for this and future years and immediately expedite the creation and implementation of a plan including full participation of Canoe Creek Band, High Bar Band and Esketemc and all other concerned First Nations, that immediately allows salmon to safely make it through or around the slide area.

Several types of fish are being impacted, including some of conservation concern, officials said. The impacted stocks include: Interior Fraser Steelhead (Chilcotin), Spring/Summer Chinook, Interior Fraser Coho, Early Stuart Sockeye, Early Summer Sockeye, Summer Run Sockeye and Fraser Pinks.

READ MORE: Slide saw massive rock fall into the river


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press Media files)
Snowfall expected for Lower Mainland on Saturday night, Sunday morning

2 to 5 cm of snow predicted Metro Vancouver, according to Environment Canada

Fire on Yale Road north of the overpass Friday morning. (Progress file)
Early morning blaze guts Chilliwack restaurant

The fire erupted north of the overpass closing one lane of Yale Road

This woman is one of two people the Agassiz RCMP are asking for assistance in identifying after a string of alleged thefts in Popkum. (Agassiz RCMP)
Agassiz RCMP ask for help to identify suspects in Popkum thefts

Images of the two suspects were captured on surveillance footage between Jan. 10 and 16

Empty Royal Hotel windows are seen on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 along Main Street in downtown Chilliwack. They will soon be home to an upcoming project called Art on Main. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Local talent sought for ‘Art on Main’ display in downtown Chilliwack

Art on Main a way for local artists to display work in windows of Chilliwack’s Royal Hotel

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read