Letter to the Editor: Will salmon be in our future?

Salmon are an important part of our British Columbia community and we should take the time to protect them and the places they thrive.

Editor:

Salmon are an important part of our British Columbia community and we should take the time to protect them and the places they thrive. The Northwest coast of British Columbia is a beautiful, productive coastline and I hope it will stay this way for generations to come.

In the Skeena River watershed today, there are many proposed industrial developments that could alter the Skeena River estuary and potentially compromise the salmon populations that are rearing there. Studies on the juvenile salmon in the Skeena River estuary may be able to inform watershed management on the potential destruction the industries may have and be able to offer some alternatives or improvements on potential sites.

The Skeena River Estuary, located near Prince Rupert, is a very important part of our natural ecosystem and extremely important for salmon life-cycle development. This estuary habitat is a very fragile ecosystem that supports many living organisms, including six different salmon species and the second largest sockeye return in British Columbia. Most salmon use the Skeena River estuary twice in their lifetime. The first time while they are out migrating after emerging from the spawning ground and the second when they return from the sea to head up the river to spawn.

When juvenile salmon migrate, they rear in the estuary for varying lengths of time to feed, grow, and begin the transformation from living in freshwater to marine water. This is a very important time in juvenile salmon’s lives because their growth and health will decide their future when they travel out into the open ocean.

Little is known about the salmon rearing in the estuary, so ongoing research is being conducted to see which different habitat characteristics, such as substrate and vegetation, relate to the occurrence or absence of juvenile salmon.

Lax Kw’alaams Fisheries have been collecting data on juvenile salmon in the Skeena watershed since 2005 and continue to pursue different types of research to gain more knowledge on our west coast salmon populations.

Healthy salmon populations support First Nations and commercial fisheries and aquatic and terrestrial food webs. The more we know about the salmon habitat, the better we can preserve the ecosystem for which they need to survive.

If we want to protect some of the worlds’ most pristine coast lines, we must first gain knowledge — everything from the riparian zone surrounding the estuary to the salmon rearing and the interconnectedness within this fragile ecosystem.

With this knowledge and dialogue the public, along with the watershed management team, we can make more informed decisions regarding the proposed industry around the Prince Rupert area. Understanding how industry will impact this fragile ecosystem will lead us to more sustainable decisions in protecting and managing the Skeena River estuary.

We must take action now before there is nothing left to fight for in the Northwest region of British Columbia.

 

Stephanie Spencer, Prince Rupert