Rock scalers removing sections of rock face at Big Bar slide site.

Emergency size limits coming to protect at-risk chinook salmon

‘Swift action’ needed to save chinook trapped by rockslide in the Fraser near Big Bar

Swift action is required to save salmon blocked by a rockslide in the Fraser River near Big Bar, said Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials.

Critical runs of spring and summer chinook, and several runs of sockeye salmon are among those trapped.

Removing the blockage, extricating fish by truck or helicopter, or employing a fish transport mechanism, are some of the innovative options being considered by experts.

READ MORE: Focus on freeing the fish

At the same time, efforts to remove the massive rock slide in the river are being severely hampered by challenging conditions such as the remote and unstable location where there are no roads, with steep slopes and dangerous, churning water.

Rock scalers recently chipped away at the rock face of the canyon cliffs to remove large sections deemed unsafe.

But federal and provincial officials with the the Unified Command Incident Management team said action to will not be taken to remove any trapped fish until rock stability is confirmed and the river bank directly below the slide is deemed operable.

The slide in the Fraser near Big Bar, northwest of Kamloops, was discovered by officials in June but likely happened last fall. It created a big barrier to fish passage and is still blocking all but the largest chinook trying to migrate upriver.

A new size limit for chinook salmon was announced by DFO officials at technical briefing Friday. The fisheries management measure is specifically aimed at chinook retention in the marine areas by anglers, and it came into effect on July 15.

“This will help avoid impacts on larger at-risk Fraser Chinook that are having greater success migrating past the landslide,” said Andy Thomson, regional DFO director, management branch.

Thomson said the “emergency measures” taken July 12 by DFO represent “an unquestionably difficult decision” in terms of impacts to First Nations, as well as recreational fisheries.

“However, the potential for permanent loss of these chinook populations represent a greater threat to the livelihoods of all those who depend on salmon for sustenance and economic opportunity as well as for the wildlife that depend on them as a food source,” Thomson said.

“Only a small percentage of spawning salmon are able to get over (it) and reach spawning areas,” Thomson said.

That makes it imperative that they take “swift action” to save as many salmon as possible.

They don’t know exactly how many are stuck behind the obstruction because high water is hampering monitoring efforts, but they estimate migrating chinook numbers to be in the tens of thousands, while the sockeye salmon stocks could be in the millions.

The maximum size limit of 80 centimetres for chinook was the emergency measure they decided on, with a reassessment to be undertaken by July 31 to see how successful it has been.

“At the end of July, the vast majority of the at-risk Fraser Chinook should have migrated past these areas into the Fraser River.”

READ MORE: FN calling it ‘extreme crisis’

The First Nations Leadership Panel, comprising reps from DFO, FLNRORD and First Nations leaders from the Fraser River watershed and river approach area, is considering fish passage mitigation options.

A Strategic Steering Committee, which includes senior leaders from both DFO and FLNRORD, is providing direction and oversight to the onsite team as well.

DFO is working with impacted First Nations to minimize chinook harvests above the slide site to allow as many fish as possible to reach the spawning grounds. The emergency measures announced Friday will be in effect for recreational fisheries off the West Coast of Vancouver Island and the Northern Strait of Georgia.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

The Big Bar slide site on the Fraser River, northwest of Kamloops. (Submitted)

Just Posted

Missing man last seen in Chilliwack Sept. 7

Friends concerned for well-being of 44-year-old Jean Pierre Baril

Agassiz pawn shop ordered to pay thousands due to ‘criminal interest rate’

Pioneer Trading Post charged 25% interest a month, similar to other pawn shops in the region

First Nations given max compensation for Ottawa’s child-welfare discrimination

2016 ruling said feds didn’t give same funding for on-reserve kids as was given to off-reserve kids

Coquitlam woman killed on motorcycle along Highway 3 near Similkameen Falls

According to RCMP Sgt. Rob Hughes, the accident occured on an S-turn

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema continues torrid scoring pace for PSG

Huitema, who signed with PSG in May, also scored twice Sunday

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Pedestrian struck and killed by vehicle in Surrey

Investigators were asking anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward

Fewer trees, higher costs blamed for devastating downturn in B.C. forestry

Some say the high cost of logs is the major cause of the industry’s decline in B.C.

Federal food safety watchdog says batch of baby formula recalled

The agency says it’s conducting a food safety investigation

Vancouver’s Tristan Connelly shocks the UFC world

Late replacement upsets big favourite Pereira, main event sees Gaethje stop Cerrone in round one

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Most Read