British Columbia·Video

Migrating salmon blocked by Fraser River landslide could be trucked out: DFO

Salmon blocked from migrating upstream to spawning grounds could be trapped and trucked around an obstruction following a rock slide in the Fraser River, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said Wednesday.

Fish were impeded from moving upstream after slide in remote area near Big Bar in June

A significant rock slide in the Fraser River appears to be blocking salmon from migrating upstream to spawning grounds, raising concerns about the impact on species that are already in peril. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada via the Canadian Press)

Salmon blocked from migrating upstream to spawning grounds could be trapped and trucked around an obstruction following a rock slide in the Fraser River, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) said Wednesday.

The slide happened in a remote area near Big Bar, northwest of Kamloops, around June 21 or 22.

DFO spokeswoman Bonnie Antcliffe said it's difficult to estimate how many fish are being impeded by the slide.

She said data from an acoustic monitoring device installed upstream from the rocks suggest about 700 fish, mostly chinook and some sockeye, have passed through.

A second acoustic device is expected to be installed on Thursday while other options are being explored to save the fish, including the trucking option, 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.''

Video taken from a helicopter shows the magnitude of the slide and Chinook salmon jumping out of the water:

A rockslide into the Fraser River Canyon has caused an obstruction that may be blocking salmon from migrating upstream and reaching their spawning grounds. 0:22

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 slide event, so there is a very high human safety concern that's No. 1.''

Fish were blocked from migrating up the Fraser River after a rock slide in a remote area near Big Bar, northwest of Kamloops, on June 21 or 22. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada/Twitter)

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 past two years, they are lower than historic figures.

"We still have conservation concerns for this stock, even before this slide," she said.

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