The pre-freshet Fraser River in Chilliwack in April 2018. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

Threats to the Fraser River at ‘new zenith,’ says river conservationist

The ‘Heart of the Fraser’ should be deemed ecologically significant according to ORC statement

Threats to the Fraser River hit a new all-time high in 2019.

The impact of slides, habitat damage, and plummeting fish stocks will require political will and decisive action, according to Mark Angelo, chair of the Outdoor Recreation Council (ORC) of B.C.

“The Fraser River remains the heart and soul of our province but it’s also critically endangered,” Angelo said in ORC’s annual year-end statement, putting the Fraser at the top of the province’s list of most endangered rivers, if not the country’s.

READ MORE: More must be done to protect habitat

The impact of the Big Bar slide on fish passage, land-clearing, the potential extinction of Thompson-Chilcotin steelhead, non-selective gillnet fisheries, dismal salmon returns, climate change, and the need to restore damaged habitats, all play into it.

The impact of these issues on the river’s health exceed those in any year since the ORC began compiling data on the Fraser almost 40 years ago.

“The threats and pressures confronting the river can be addressed if there’s a will, but we must act quickly and decisively,” Angelo warned.

Big Bar slide blocked fish passage for salmon returning to key Fraser River tributaries such as the Stuart, Quesnel and Chilco River systems. Many of the Fraser’s sockeye stocks are dependent on tributaries in the northern part of the river’s drainage as are many chinook populations.

Extensive land clearing in ‘Heart of the Fraser’ between Hope and Mission have taken out huge swaths of habitat essential to both sturgeon and salmon around key islands such as Herrling, Carey and Strawberry.

While efforts are underway to restore some of these key private lands by acquiring them, one of the most important things governments can do now is to designate the islands within the Heart of the Fraser as an “ecologically significant area,” a new designation created under the Fisheries Act, Angelo stressed.

The Heart of the Fraser sustains almost 30 species of fish as well as B.C.’s largest single spawning run of salmon along with its finest sturgeon spawning habitat. It’s key rearing habitat for millions of young salmon, especially chinook which provide the primary food source for southern resident killer whales.

“The threats facing the Fraser River reached a new zenith this past year and yet, there is the potential to rectify many of these if the desire exists,”Angelo warned, as someone who first paddled the full length of the Fraser in 1975 and is both an Order of BC and Order of Canada recipient for his river conservation efforts.

“The events that have unfolded along the Heart of the Fraser have been disheartening,” Angelo, internationally renowned river advocate and ORC Rivers Chair. “We have to do more to protect what is Canada’s most important fish habitat.”

READ MORE: Fraser makes the endangered list – again


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich’s autumn full-moon lantern celebration shifts to drive-thru

Harvest Moon event takes place Sept. 26 in Gordon Head

Voting now ready for Arts Alive 2020 sculptures

Audio and written descriptions posted for all 10 sculptures

Three years for serial bank robber who hit Sidney branch

Lucas Bradwell was wanted for robberies in Sidney, Abbotsford and Vancouver

New report finds ‘chronic’ shortage of daycare spaces across Greater Victoria

Sidney meets 52 per cent of demand, the best figure for six surveyed communities

Cook Street Village grocery icon closing, new owners plan major renovation

Louie family has operated Oxford Foods and predecessor for five decades at Cook and Oxford streets

POLL: Do you agree with the decision to call a provincial election for Oct. 24?

British Columbians will put their social distancing skills to the test when… Continue reading

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Rare fish washes onto Whiffin Spit in Sooke

Deep water fish identified as ‘King-of-the-salmon’

BC Liberal Leader talks drug addiction in the Lower Mainland

Drug addiction and public safety a top priority says Andrew Wilkinson

Island Corridor Foundation launches survey on importance of Vancouver Island rail

“ICF remains 100 per cent committed to the restoration of full rail service on Vancouver Island”

Island RCMP remind drivers not to text after 19 tickets handed out in 90 minutes

The $368 fines were handed out Tuesday on Norwell Drive and Old Island Highway in Nanaimo

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Most Read