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

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
UPDATE: Black bear tranquillized, being relocated by conservation officers

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Ladysmith resident Bonnie Cook lost the use of most of her basement and her backyard after experiencing a major water leak. (Cole Schisler photo)
Drip by drip: water line leaks lead to big repair bills for Ladysmith homeowners

Nearly all reported leaks occur on old copper lines that have been bent or manipulated

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ superintendent Scott Saywell at a May 6 press event showing off two new electric school buses. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district shows off electric buses

New buses anticipated to reduce 17 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from SD68 buses

An Ater-group Airon Slug identified during YES’s Bio-Blitz. (Yellow Point Ecological Society photo)
Yellow Point Ecological Society’s Bio-Blitz a big success

The Yellow Point Ecological Society held their first-ever Bio-Blitz over the weekend… Continue reading

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

NEW CUTLINE Payphone use is declining dramatically. (Black Press Files)

This payphone sits just east of TD Bank in Parksville, on Harrison Avenue. (Emily Vance photo)
Last call approaches for Vancouver Island payphones?

Some payphones don’t get used for days as mobile phones diminishing need

Garden centre manager Jack Olszewski and Chris Beaudoin say business has grown by 50 per cent at the Sooke Home Hardware Store. (Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror)
Flower power: COVID restrictions fuel bloom boom on Vancouver Island’

More people seeking flowers to add colour, says Sooke landscaper

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Most Read