Migration paths of chinook, sockeye salmon blocked in British Columbia

A rockslide on British Columbia’s Fraser River has created a five-meter waterfall, which has blocked the migration path of chinook and sockeye salmon, prompting Canadian officials to begin airlifting fish past the blockage. 

The river, which sees millions of fish annually swimming inland to spawn, was blocked in an area some 250 miles upstream near Lillooet, British Columbia, Canada. Scientists believe the slide actually occurred last November, but because it was in such a remote area, it was not detected until this June, when it was seen by satellite imagery.  

Earlier this week, workers from the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations began trapping the fish in holding pools and then transferring them into oxygenated aluminum tanks to be lifted by helicopters just two miles past the slide site. Radio tags were also inserted into the fishes’ stomachs to track their journey upstream.

“As more fish arrive, we’ll keep trying to collect them, tag them and ship them farther upriver,” British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations spokesperson Noelle Kekula said. In the meantime, a crew of around 80 people have been trying to clear the rockslide using drilling and explosions.

“Our number one goal is to open up the partial blockage,” Kekula said. 

The provincial government of British Columbia made an agreement with Canada’s federal government last week to do everything in their power to ensure that the salmon are able to reach their spawning grounds. 

The ministry is also experimenting with fish ladders and fish wheels to move the salmon upstream and admits that the helicopters are not a practical long-term fix, as millions of chinook and sockeye salmon are due to reach the site of the rockslide in the coming weeks. The Fraser River produces more chinook salmon than all of Puget Sound’s rivers combined. 

Image courtesy of Christina Dutkowski/Shutterstock


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