British Columbia

More than 1,000 fish lifted over Seymour rock slide as project caps off its third year

More than 1,0000 steelhead, coho and pink salmon have been transported over the 2014 rock slide since the installation of a fish fence. The waterway could be restored as early as next year.

Steelhead, coho and pink salmon transported over 2014 rock slide since installation of fish fence

A Seymour Hatchery volunteer holds a coho salmon. (Seymour Salmonid Society)

More than 1,000 steelhead, coho and pink salmon have received a helping hand, over the last three years, getting over a large blockade in the Seymour River.

A team of rescuers is capping off its third year trying to restore a major fish hatchery, after a landslide dumped over 80,000 cubic metres of rock into the Seymour River in 2014.

"[The rock slide] effectively eliminated migration of fish or salmonids — both adults coming up into the watershed and juveniles trying to get back out," said Brian Smith, hatchery manager with the Seymour River Salmonid Society.

Since 2015, volunteers have been transporting fish over the rock slide by hand using a variety of methods. The team has now transported over 1,000 fish, with the help of a floating fish fence that intercepts fish before they reach the rock slide.

The Seymour River Salmonid Society crew stands on its recently installed floating fish fence. The fence will hold adult fish further downstream from the rockslide, making it easier for volunteers to capture and truck the fish upstream around the obstacle. (The Seymour River Salmonid Society)

2nd season of explosives

Smith says it has taken a concerted effort from multiple levels of government — including Metro Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Squamish and Tseil-Waututh First Nations — to come up with a single plan to restore the waterway.

Last year, they settled on drilling and using low velocity explosives to blow up the deposited rock.

"[The goal is] to develop a channel that will allow adult migration back up into the watershed and allow juveniles to get back out," said Smith.

A massive rockslide came down into the Seymour River in December 2014, effectively blocking the stream. The Seymour River Salmonid Society's hatchery manager, Brian Smith, says some of the rocks are as big as houses. (The Seymour River Salmonid Society)

Smith said initial plans called for five years of drilling. However, he says, with adequate funding, the river could be restored as soon as next year. To date, more than $1 million has been raised through conservation groups, including the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.

"We have just a jewel of a river system in the backyard of over one milion people, and I've spent over 24 years of my life on this river."

"I would love to see this migration route and the populations on this river protected once more."