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

Port Alberni’s Caden Tremblay played with the North Island Major Bantam Silvertips during the 2019-2020 season. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
BCHL: Port Alberni’s Caden Tremblay suits up for hometown Bulldogs

North Island Silvertips’ captain hopes to play for hometown crowd

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Barb Kalugin, chair of the Community For Kids Port Alberni Chapter, is presented with a cheque for $832 for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation from Anita Sutherland, Director of Operations and Opportunities with McLean Mill National Historic Site. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
McLean Mill Christmas event raises more than $800 for BC Children’s Hospital

Festival of Trees fundraiser went virtual due to COVID-19

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

On Aug. 26, 1947, a fire sparked in the lumber piles between Alberni Pacific Division sawmill and Alberni Plywood (located where Canal Waterfront Park is now). What resulted was a huge fire on Assembly Wharf One, where several buildings were gutted and stacks of lumber were burned. This photo is one of 24,000 contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives, at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN07386 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: 1947 fire destroys Port Alberni wharf

Take a peek into the Alberni Valley’s history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man accused of stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Most Read