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

Just Posted

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

Police monitor protesters at a blockade in the Fairy Creek area of southwestern Vancouver Island on Wednesday, June 9. (Facebook photo)
8 old-growth logging protesters arrested in Fairy Creek watershed Friday

A total of 214 people have been arrested as of June 11

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

A temporary urgent and primary care centre will open in Esquimalt this week, offering residents more health care options in their own community. (Black Press Media file)
Esquimalt’s temporary urgent and primary care centre to open Monday

The Esquimalt Health Unit will house the temporary site, permanent location opening in December

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Most Read