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

Dead salmon fry found in Terrace stream prompts response from City

Public Works crews are marking storm drains to raise awareness of salmon habitat vulnerability

RCMP bust five impaired drivers in one day in Terrace and Kitimat

Police were doing road checks as part of distracted driving, seatbelt enforcement campaign

Horgan makes campaign stop in Terrace and Kitimat

BC NDP leader met with local First Nations leaders, reiterated campaign promises

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

‘Monkey Beach’ supernatural film adaptation premiers at VIFF

Based on Kitamaat author Eden Robinson’s debut, mystical novel

Orange Shirt Society launches first textbook on residential school history

Phyllis Webstad and Joan Sorley worked on the 156-page book to help educate students

Horgan vows to replace B.C.’s shared senior care rooms in 10 years

$1.4 billion construction on top of staff raises, single-site work

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

Orange Shirt Day lessons of past in today’s classrooms

Phyllis Webstad, who attended St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in British Columbia, is credited for creating the movement

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Greens’ Furstenau fires at NDP, Liberals on pandemic recovery, sales tax promise

She also criticized the NDP economic recovery plan, arguing it abandons the tourism industry

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Most Read