Fraser River rockslide and log jam                                      Credit: Vancouver Sun


There could be less wild salmon from British Columbia this year as a big rockslide on the major Fraser River is keeping the fish from their spawning grounds.   Dale Mickey is a manager with Fisheries and Oceans Canada –

“All that rock on the top of that face has fallen into the river which is confining passage for fish. I’ve never seen anything to this degree on this side of the river.”

Nearly 80 percent of the sockeye runs from eight tributaries head up the Fraser River which this year is expected to be 3.5 million fish. They expect 180,000 reds will start arriving per day and a sense of urgency has resorted to a temporary solution – flying the fish upriver by helicopter.

CTV News Vancouver reports crews have built a holding pond below the rockslide where salmon can swim in and are netted, tagged and put in oxygenated aluminum tanks for transport and release upriver.

In the race against time, crews also are working to secure the canyon and create a “natural fishway ” using artificial fish ladders inserted into the river.

Another assist could come from big pressurized tubes called fish cannons created by Seattle-based Whooshh Innovations. The cannons literally shoot the fish up and over dams or other obstructions blocking their migrations. Vince Bryan is Whooshh CEO –

 “Studies that we have conducted now for a number of years have shown that compared to the present way of getting fish past barriers; and a lot of the was that people have tried, this way is less expensive and less stressful on the fish.”

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Bryan says results have shown that the salmon cannon provides far less stress on the fish than other transports, like trucks and helicopters.

“People have asked us how do you know it’s okay for the fish? And we say, because when they come out of the tube the turn their head and look back at us, waving their tail saying thanks. But really in all seriousness what we have found in the very first studies that we did was really on the stress levels of the cortisol levels on the fish, and if they were raised by going into the tube. The outcome was that it was not raised.”

Meanwhile, Canada’s provincial and federal governments say they will do everything possible to make sure sockeyes, Chinook, steelhead and cohos are able to reach their spawning grounds.