© 2015 by Salmon Watersheds Lab

Industrial development and salmon in the Skeena estuary

The Skeena River is a large free-flowing river that runs for over 550 km through northwest BC from its headwaters to the ocean. This watershed is the second largest salmon producing river in British Columbia after the Fraser River and contains hundreds of populations of salmon that support recreational, commercial, and First Nations fisheries. Plans for a series of massive industrial projects in the estuary of this watershed are currently being evaluated. Our new research suggests that this project is located in a hotspot of salmon biodiversity that supports many different recreational, commercial and First Nations fisheries.

 

Key findings of our study:

  • The region of the estuary with proposed industrial development contained particularly high abundances of some species in some years. Specifically, juvenile sockeye salmon were 2-8 times more abundant in the proposed development areas than other estuary regions in both years. This region also contained the highest abundances of Chinook salmon in 2007 and coho salmon in 2013.

  • Genetic identification revealed that the industrial development region supports juvenile sockeye salmon originating from at least 13  different populations.

  • The study compared five regions in the estuary, one of which contains the industrial developments. All species of Pacific salmon were captured during this study, and salmon were found in all regions of the estuary that were surveyed.

 

 

Juvenile pink and coho salmon captured by sampling in Skeena River estuary; industrial drilling rig in the background. Photo credit: J. Moore

Media Coverage

The Vancouver Observer discusses this work in "LNG terminals could collapse B.C. wild salmon run: SFU scientists"- read article here.

 

SkeenaWild features this research in "Expert Says Development Threatens Critical Salmon Habitat in Skeena Estuary"  on website (here).

 

This research was cited in "Prince Rupert Environmental Society raises LNG red flags" by Martina Perry in The Northern View. Read the article here