View of the Kitimat River at the Lower Dyke, with two men headed out to fish on June 21, 2020. The DFO is urging people not to drive in the Kitimat River, as vehicles can damage salmon and their habitats. (Black Press Media file photo)

View of the Kitimat River at the Lower Dyke, with two men headed out to fish on June 21, 2020. The DFO is urging people not to drive in the Kitimat River, as vehicles can damage salmon and their habitats. (Black Press Media file photo)

DFO warns of danger to salmon from people driving through Kitimat River

Off-road vehicles can squish, bury and beach fish eggs and fry

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is reminding people that off-road vehicles and salmon habitat do not mix, after receiving numerous reports of vehicles driving in the Kitimat River.

Kitimat Fishery Officer Jordan Wilson said that there have been more reports of people driving through the river this year compared to the past, which could be due in part to the Lower Dyke bar forming a shallow island.

The area is one of the most popular fishing spots around Kitimat, and there have been reports of people driving across the river to reach the island to fish.

“Vehicles, ATVs and dirt bikes can cause damage in different ways,” Wilson said in an email.

“The pollutants and fluids from engines can leak out and of course contaminate fish habitat and other sensitive areas. There are also sediment concerns where eggs will get covered with fine sands and may not hatch because a vehicle stirred up sand and gravel nearby, which then settled out on top of the eggs.”

Vehicles in the river can also crush eggs and fry in the gravel of the stream bed. Wilson said that the DFO is aware of incidents where ATVs have sprayed water and gravel up the bank.

“This could kill many fry and end up beaching eggs that were once hidden under the gravel, which would have a significant impact on future fish stocks,” Wilson said.

The DFO have not received as many complaints in the Terrace area, likely due to the fact that common fishing sites on the Skeena and its tributaries are usually boat or foot-access only, whereas there are extensive off-road trails in the vicinity of the Kitimat River.

The DFO asks members of the public to report people driving in rivers by calling 1-800-465-4336.