Pacific Salmon Foundation Activates Drought Pilot Project

Image: Pacific Salmon Foundation.

A collaborative rapid response group at the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF), with funding from the Province of British Columbia, has approved $76,000 (in Canadian dollars) to activate four projects to help combat adverse impacts of climate change on salmon.

The effort to save salmon from drought conditions was announced by the PSF in early September.

Project goals include digging dry gravel bars in the Coldwater River at sites supporting high densities of salmon, to creation of cool groundwater refuge areas for fish, to narrowing channel width and increasing water depth at Joseph Creek to ensure that salmon fry at Dunn Creek Hatchery have enough water to migrate through.

The Coldwater River project is led by Scw’exmx Tribal Council and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), while the Dunn Creek Hatchery project is led by Simpcw First Nation.

For Comox Valley, work is planned to install solar-and generator-powered aerators in the Tsoum River to increase the dissolved oxygen levels, which are low as a result of drought conditions.

Local partners meanwhile are repairing dried up habitat at the mouth of the Tranquille River by re-establishing water flows between the Tranquile River and Kamloops Lake to allow salmon to migrate upstream to their spawning groups just in time for their return.

The project is led by DFO with support from the Secwepemc Fisheries Commission.

A fourth project on Vancouver Islands Tsolum River is being led by the Tsolum River Restoration Society, with support from K’omok’s First Nation and DFO.

Jason Hwang, vice president of Salmon and the Pacific salmon Foundation, said drought is an everywhere problem in British Columbia this year, with even the wettest areas of the province seeing dry and hot conditions.

“We are seeing significant impacts on salmon-bearing rivers and streams,” Hwang remarked. ”Salmon returning to their freshwater habitats are facing these extreme drought stressors, It’s the equivalent of trying to run a marathon in a sauna.”

“Increasing oxygen levels for fish through aeration devices in refuge pools increases their chances of survival,” Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Aquaculture Kelly Greene commented.

The province supports the pilot project measures through the Climate Adaptation Fund to the Pacific Salmon Foundation.