Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Time of Essence as Fraser River Slide Blocks Spawning Salmon: Wilkinson

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Time of Essence as Fraser River Slide Blocks Spawning Salmon: Wilkinson

Article excerpt

Time factor in Fraser River slide: Wilkinson

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VANCOUVER - Time is critical to find a solution to a massive obstruction in British Columbia's Fraser River as 90,000 salmon wait downstream and an estimated two million more sockeye are about to arrive, federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Tuesday.

The minister said dozens of people are working against the clock looking for ways to clear a path that allows salmon to get through the area where a massive rockslide came down in the river northwest of Kamloops.

The slide was discovered in June and has created a five-metre waterfall nearly impassable for the salmon.

"We don't have a lot of time," Wilkinson said during a news conference. "A number of the chinook runs are already circling and waiting to get up. The sockeye run, which is perhaps two million, will start to arrive within a couple weeks. So, we expect somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 fish per day arriving below the rock slide."

He said rock scalers, engineers and blasters are trying to find a solution to the natural disaster.

"It is imperative we do whatever we can to enable as many fish as possible to pass through the slide to secure sustainability of these runs, and obviously the communities who rely on these stocks," Wilkinson said. "This is obviously a very challenging situation, one that could have long-term consequences for the communities on the river and far beyond."

He said the salmon, including dwindling chinook stocks and valuable sockeye, use the river to get to spawning areas in tributaries throughout central and northern B.C.

The salmon are vital to B.C.'s Indigenous people as food and ceremonial sources and provide thousands of jobs in the province's commercial and sport fishing industries.

The longer the salmon are delayed by the slide, the less energy they'll have to reach their spawning areas because they don't eat once they enter the river from the ocean, Wilkinson said. …

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