Scientists study impacts of oil spill in B.C. freshwater salmon habitat

Reaseach comes ahead of completion of TransMountain pipline expansion

University of Guelph adjunct faculty member Dr. Sarah Alderman studies salmon in a swim flume to test the ability of the fish. (Photo submitted by University of Guelph)

University of Guelph adjunct faculty member Dr. Sarah Alderman studies salmon in a swim flume to test the ability of the fish. (Photo submitted by University of Guelph)

Researchers are taking a close look at how an oil spill in freshwater habitat will affect the physiology and health of B.C.’s coho salmon.

The University of Guelph study comes ahead of the late-2022 completion of the TransMountain Pipeline Expansion project that will triple the outflow of millions of litres of diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to Vancouver. The research, led by Prof. Todd Gillis and Dr. Sarah Alderman at the U of G’s Department of Integrative Biology, was spurred by public concern of how a pipeline rupture will impact imperilled salmon populations in the Fraser River Watershed.

“It’s an ambitious project,” said Alderman, “but these data are essential for making informed decisions on how to protect salmon, before or after a spill.”

READ MORE: 102 Fraser River estuary species at risk of extinction, researchers warn

Coho spawn in over half of the 1,500 streams in B.C. and Yukon, generally spending one year in freshwater. In northern populations, most juveniles spend two or three years in freshwater before entering the ocean.

With $350,000 in funding from the federal government’s Oceans Protection Plan – Fate, Behaviour, and Effects Initiative, which aims to better understand oil spill behaviour and its biological impacts, the two-year study will determine which life stages of the salmon are most vulnerable to diluted bitumen, whether higher temperatures in contaminated water alter egg development and whether the fishes’ sense of smell, which they use to locate their natal streams, is impaired by exposure to the substance.

Alongside colleagues at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, the U of G researchers have received $1.2 million in funding over the past six years to address knowledge gaps in early life stages of salmon exposed to diluted bitumen, contributing to a broader understanding of the impacts of contaminants on fish and fisheries.

The group was the first to publish studies describing how even a small amount of diluted bitumen can affect salmon development, and impair their ability to swim.

“So a spill into a salmon-bearing river could be devastating to populations that are already struggling,” Alderman said.

READ MORE: Future value of Trans Mountain pipeline rests on Liberals’ climate plans, PBO says



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Fisheries and Oceans CanadaSalmon

Just Posted

Do Your Part Recycling Co is celebrating 15 years of its operation in Terrace this May. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)
How a homegrown Terrace business became a vital cog in the regional recycling initiative

Do Your Part Recycling owner Kasey Lewis on how they started 15 years ago

Construction continues on Coast Mountain College’s student residence on May 12, 2021. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
VIDEO: Work continues on major projects at Coast Mountain College

Price tag of $35 million set for housing, substantial renovations

Terrace city council gave first and second reading to zoning amendment bylaws for the proposed transload facility located next to Keith Ave. (Image courtesy Hatha Callis, Progressive Ventures Group)
Next inland port public hearings set for June

Terrace council gave first and second reading to establish new zone, rezoning application

Skeena Valley Farmers Market will host Northern Health’s COVID-19 vaccination booth on May 15. ( Skeena Valley Farmers Market/Facebook)
Northern Health to set up COVID-19 vaccine booth at Skeena Valley Farmers Market

The booth will be set up on the south side of the market towards Park Ave. on May 15

Both Lanfear Hill, pictured here, and Kalum (Skeenaview) will be closed at different times this evening going into Friday morning. (File photo)
Two hills to be temporarily closed tonight

Pipe inspections first on Lanfear and then on Kalum

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen outside a hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Channi Anand)
B.C. donates $500K to Red Cross COVID-19 relief efforts in India

The money will provide oxygen cylinders and ambulances for patients in communities grappling with the virus

Superintendent Aaron Paradis, community services officer with the Surrey RCMP, during a media availability about a recent drug bust in Port Coquitlam. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Police seize 13 million ‘potentially fatal doses’ of pure fentanyl at B.C. drug lab

The evidence was seized at large, illicit drug manufacturing site in Port Coquitlam

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth debates the province’s latest measure to control crime, March 10, 2021. The legislation allows police to impound vehicles used to transport weapons and further restricts sale of vehicle and body armour. (B.C. legislature video)
B.C. seeking ways to ‘name and shame’ gangsters, minister says

Mike Farnworth appeals to family members to talk to police

Jonathan Prest had to climb way up to the top of a dead red cedar tree to rescue a terrified cat, but he made it up and down successfully. (Facebook photos)
Tree cutter rescues cat stuck 100 feet up a dead and dried-out cedar

Jonathan Prest put himself in extreme peril to get a terrified cat out of a dangerous situation

The Greater Victoria School District continues to face backlash over its wording and approach to Indigenous learners in its 2021-2022 budget talks. (Black Press Media file photo)
School district’s approach to Indigenous learners leaves Victoria teachers ‘disgusted’

Backlash grows over ‘pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership’

Most Read