The pre-freshet Fraser River in Chilliwack in April 2018. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

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

Members of the Total Restoration South Okanagan team in 2109 at the Chamber Business Excellence Awards. (Contributed)
Penticton’s Total Restoration up for ‘Best Community Impact’ award

The BC Small Busines Awards will announce the winner in May

Students from Summerland’s Okanagan College often posed for photographs on the Big Rock. The rock was on the northern slope of Giant’s Head Mountain. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Summerland’s Big Rock had been deposited during last ice age

Rock was once a prominent feature on Giant’s Head Mountain

The Fortunato family received the Bill Neilson Volunteer of the Year Award for their efforts with the Summerland Skating Club. (Contributed)
Summerland Skating Club members recognized for efforts

Three awards presented to members of Summerland club

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

(Stock photo)
EDITORIAL: The freedom to read

Books have been challenged many times in the past

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project is on track, with closures expected to start as early as next week. (Government of BC photo)
Details announced ahead of Trans-Canada highway closures east of Golden

Closures will start in early March, with a month-long closure from April 12 to May 14

Enchante the cat. AlleyCats.
Okanagan pet rescue looking for adoption hero

AlleyCats is looking for a special forever home for a young grey tabby

Kelowna Law Courts. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Accused Kelowna Canada Day killer confessed to ‘murder’ in drunk tank, court hears

Noah Vaten is charged with manslaughter related to a killing on Canada Day in 2018

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

(File photo)
Federal Court exonerates Kamloops Mountie in burger beef dispute

A Federal Court ruling has overturned punishment in case involving a cop, McDonald’s manager

Numbers of new COVID-19 cases for the week of Feb. 14 to 20 appear to be trending down for all local health areas in the North Okanagan-Shuswap. (BC Centre for Disease Control map)
Weekly COVID-19 case count continues downward trend in Central Okanagan

BC CDC data show 36 new cases in the region over Feb. 14-20

(Kevin N. Hume/Black Press file)
Penticton’s bike lane gets $1 million provincial grant

The grant must be used by the end of 2021

Most Read