A mid-December ariel view of impacted waterways and the devastation of salmon habitat from a November landslide near Elliot Creek in the Coast Mountains of B.C. (Photo supplied by 49 North Helicopters)

A mid-December ariel view of impacted waterways and the devastation of salmon habitat from a November landslide near Elliot Creek in the Coast Mountains of B.C. (Photo supplied by 49 North Helicopters)

Generation of B.C. salmon likely wiped out by central coast landslide

Homalco First Nation to push for special hatchery permits

Chief Darren Blaney expects the worst for a generation of coho and chum salmon mowed down in the Southgate River by a massive landslide last month on B.C.’s south-central coast.

“With the speed and violence of this devastation, we expect all the eggs were washed out,” said the Homalco First Nation leader. “It really gouged out the mountainside when it came down. The boulders are pretty big. Just the momentum of it; it took out all the trees and the inlet is now just full of debris.”

The landslide originated in the Coast Mountains near Elliot Creek, tearing into a glacier and plunging ice and forest debris into a swollen glacial lake. A powerful outburst flood generated a wave reaching between 70 and 110 metres tall, turning to the Southgate River and bulldozing its way to the head of Bute Inlet.

The event occurred late November, but due to its remote location the impacts are only now coming to light.

READ MORE: 100 metre wave causes massive washout in coastal B.C. inlet

Blaney is meeting with the provincial government this afternoon (Dec. 15), and planning an aerial tour of the area tomorrow with Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials.

With only one bridge washed out, and no known human life lost, Blaney said his attention is fixed on salmon recovery. The nation’s Orford hatchery will be requesting a special permit from the province to replace the salmon losses.

“We’ll see what supports we can get to rebuild the stocks, enhance them at Southgate,” Blaney said.

Brent Ward, co-director for the Centre for Natural Hazards Research at Simon Fraser University, said the waterways will eventually re-establish their paths, but the landslide will have a serious impact on fish.

“The lower reaches of Elliot Creek are Coho habitat, and if you look at those images, that habitat is now buried with gravel,” he said.

“These landslides happen, but when you’re dealing with a four-year life cycle of a fish, it’s going to have a longer effect than that.”

Blaney said the losses will factor into consultations alongside six other First Nations with the federal government over the fate of salmon farming in the Discovery Islands.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island First Nation chief tells mayors to butt out of Discovery Island fish farm consultations

The narrow waters form a bottleneck for out-migrating juvenile salmon, which opponents to open-net pen farms fear increases the potential for sea lice and parasite transmission. Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan is expected to decide this month whether to renew the licences of 18 farms in the area.

“We’re waiting for a decision, but this landslide will only add to the urgency to get those farms on land,” Blaney said.

A 2020 prohibition on salmon farming in the Discovery Islands was recommended in the 2012 Cohen Commission report, which looked into the collapse of Fraser River sockeye, if the salmon farms presented more than a minimal risk to wild stocks.

DFO risk assessments showed the farms were operating within acceptable limits.

Nonetheless, while the consultations have focused on sockeye salmon, Blaney said all species are still potentially impacted by the salmon farms. With a generation of chum and coho wiped out by the landslide, he will push for their inclusion in consultations.

“The stocks that are passing by Johnstone Strait are becoming less and less reliable,” Blaney said. “We’ve been working hard at Orford so we can create our own food security, that we’ll have enough chum stocks for our own community, but also so we can look after our elders, pass on knowledge and hang on to our culture.”

– with files from Marc Kitteringham



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Fisheries and Oceans CanadaSalmonSalmon farming

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: It’s the highway’s fault!

One component of Vision Zero (our current road safety strategy) is highway design.

Moira Mercer spent her summer riding her e-bike around Cowichan Lake and beyond, collecting any empties she found along the way. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan 2020 in review — conclusion

What were your top stories from 2020?

Staff meetings can be difficult when everyone has his own agenda. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Garden additions at request of staff

I’ll sow the catnip in flats on the seed table inside

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson column: Snowballs fights and dead spiders

Even if it doesn’t end up how we hope, it’s the trying that matters most.

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy, Everett Bumstead.
The tree-planting life on Vancouver Island featured in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)

Most Read