British Columbia

Plan hatched to return coho salmon to Coquitlam River after 105 years

Nearly 105 years after coho salmon were pushed from the Coquitlam River due to the construction of a dam, a plan has been hatched to return thousands of the fish.

DFO suggests annual transport of 100 coho salmon adults and 40,000 juveniles upstream of Coquitlam Dam

The Greater Vancouver Water District board of directors has approved a motion to help restore coho salmon numbers in the Coquitlam River. (Metro Vancouver)

Nearly 105 years after coho salmon were pushed from the Coquitlam River due to the construction of a dam, a plan has been hatched to return thousands of the fish upstream.  

The Greater Vancouver Water District has approved a request from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to be allowed to annually transport up to 100 returning coho salmon adults and 40,000 juveniles upstream of the Coquitlam Dam. 

Senior biologist Dave Nanson with DFO said that the Coquitlam Dam has cut off access to tributaries for coho and other salmon species that historically used the upper Coquitlam watershed for spawning and rearing.  

"The upper Coquitlam River contains some of the most pristine salmonid habitat in this region, and is therefore an ideal candidate to re-establish wild salmonid stocks that will be more resilient to future stressors such as climate change," said Nanson in a letter to Metro Vancouver.

He recommended a five year trial period.

Water quality and costs

Nanson says the project has a good chance of success, considering there are other similar examples of transporting salmon into appropriate habitats.

According to a Metro Vancouver report, 7,500 adult coho salmon and surplus steelhead trout are annually transported from a hatchery to the upper Capilano River above the Cleveland Dam, and there has been no evidence of any adverse impact on water quality.

North Vancouver's Capilano Watershed supplies a third of the region's drinking water.

Coho salmon are also transported upstream of the Seymour dam. 

Officials don't anticipate the new project will require extra funding.

Support from Kwikwetlem First Nation

The request was also supported by the Kwikwetlem First Nation, who say they want to see the restoration of the coho salmon run to the Coquitlam reservoir.

Kwikwetlem means "red fish up the river" in the nation's language. 

Metro Vancouver says the project will be managed by the Grist Goeson Memorial Hatchery downstream of the Coquitlam Dam, with the transporting of coho beginning in October.

Ecologist and Watershed Watch Salmon Society co-founder, Craig Orr, says he's been working on this project for more than a decade. 

"We're just excited because you know we lost these fish over a hundred years ago in that part of the river. It's great habitat. And it's going to go some ways to addressing past impacts to First Nations culture and heritage," Orr said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cory Correia

Associate Producer and Video Journalist

Send tips or comments to cory.correia@cbc.ca

With files from The Early Edition

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