The Giant Salmon Rescue

Along with skincare, regular readers of this blog know that we love to share information about our oceans. We are so passionate about our environment, especially our marine environment, that we feel strongly about sharing information.

To help salmon get up to their spawning grounds, crews have built a holding pond below the rock slide on the Fraser River. Salmon will swim through a one-way gate, or weir, into the pond where they'll be netted, tagged, and placed in oxygenated aluminum tanks. Photo courtesy @DFO_Pacific/Twitter

To help salmon get up to their spawning grounds, crews have built a holding pond below the rock slide on the Fraser River. Salmon will swim through a one-way gate, or weir, into the pond where they'll be netted, tagged, and placed in oxygenated aluminum tanks. Photo courtesy @DFO_Pacific/Twitter

Much of that information we highlight, unfortunately but necessarily, is the damage caused by humans. There are spots of good news here and there and we like to point those out, too, as many are working hard to do good things and they deserve mention.

Like our provincial and federal governments who are working with local First Nations communities to save migrating salmon.

Workers from all parties are busy airlifting thousand of salmon upstream after a rock slide blocked the path of migrating fish in the Fraser River, just north of the town of Lillooet which is a couple hundred kilometers from Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Big Bar rock slide was believed to have happened late last year but it was undetected until late June because of its remote location. The slide created a five-meter high waterfall which is preventing millions of chinook, steelhead, coho, and sockeye salmon from swimming upstream to their spawning grounds. Everybody involved is working to move the salmon upstream by manual means, creating holding ponds that allow the fish to rest and then be transported by helicopter to a site further upstream.

We shudder to think what would have happened if the slide had not been detected and if people hadn’t joined together in saving the fish. It would have meant sheer devastation along the chain, including for our southern resident orcas that desperately depend on a diet of chinook salmon to survive.

While transporting some of the fish by helicopter is a temporary solution, officials are working on other options such as manipulating the riverbed into what they call a “natural fishway.” Fish ladders are also being considered if moving the rocks is unsuccessful. Chinook salmon are already making their way up to the blocked part of the river but the big rush will happen mid-August when an expected three-million sockeye will be making their way up the Fraser.

The salmon populations that use the river are already in peril and their numbers would greatly suffer if they were not able to spawn, Aaron Hill, executive director of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society told CTV News.

"People and wildlife depend on those salmon all the way from the West Coast to up into the Northern Interior and out to the Rocky Mountains," he said. "Further depletion of those salmon runs will have a profound impact."

The article also includes a point made by Vincent Bryan, a Washington-based innovator behind a possible solution known as a "salmon cannon.” Bryan said the problem is urgent because the fish will start arriving en masse in August and by the middle of that month there will be a million or more sockeye backed up.

Bryan's Washington-based company, Whooshh Innovations, has created a flexible, pressurized tube that moves fish over obstructions and he's been at the rock slide site assessing how the system could work there.

Asked how soon a fix was needed, he replied, "Last week."