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‘Almost complete loss’ of early salmon runs at Fraser River slide last year: DFO

Plans are in place to significantly increase the number of fish that survive and reach spawning grounds

June 9, 2020  The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Early runs of Stuart and Chinook salmon were devastated last year because they couldn’t make it past a massive landslide on British Columbia’s Fraser River.

Officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans told a commons committee briefing on Tuesday that 98% of early Stuart and 89% of early Chinook were lost.

Rebecca Reid, the department’s regional director for the Pacific, said in a statement that salmon survival improved later in the summer when work begun to transport fish past the slide, helping them get to their spawning grounds.

It’s believed the massive slide on the river occurred in fall of 2018 north of Lillooet, but it wasn’t discovered until last June after fish had already begun arriving.

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Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said about 60,000 fish were helped over the slide last year, while 220,000 made it past the site on their own once water volume dropped.

So far, Jordan says just two Chinook have been observed arriving this year.

She said plans are in place to significantly increase the number of fish that survive and reach spawning grounds this year, including using a pneumatic fish pump, or a so-called salmon cannon, and building a series of boulders to create a fish ladder.

Jordan said another small slide of about two cubic metres occurred last month while no workers were present, an indication of the dangerous terrain at the remote site.

“The ultimate goal would be to clear it enough so that it’s a natural passageway for the fish, so that it’s not something that we have to continually monitor or maintain,” Jordan told the committee.

“But in the meantime, we are making sure that there are measures in place to get the fish through.”