If action isn’t taken immediately, future generations of salmon are at risk, according to at least a few different locals.
Bruce Wilkinson, whose efforts contributed to the $700,000 Swift Creek bank stabilization project, says jet boats are destroying salmon nests located upstream from the old Tête Jaune Bridge, where boats are unloaded into the Fraser River, also near the bus turn around on Old Tête Jaune Road.
“The salmon digs a nest, and out there they’re about 18 inches deep,” says Wilkinson.
“Salmon lay eggs there. If a jet boat goes over, it blows the eggs out. Then, they’re gone,” he says.
The operation of motorboats in the area is an enforceable offence, according to the Federal Government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), but it’s difficult to prove the destruction of fish habitat, or if fish are actually killed due to the activity.
Yet, Wilkinson says he, and others, have spotted salmon eggs on shore after they’ve been blown out of the nests on more than one occasion, and he says calls were made to the DFO.
This in addition to photos taken by local, Gene Blackman, which were shared on Facebook.
“It’s been in the last four or five years,” says Wilkinson.
“Last year, we had a group of 14 (boaters) come at one time. In eight years we’re not going to see any salmon. It’s a scary thought,” he says.
The DFO confirmed it has received information and photos regarding concerns of boat use in the area, but based on the information provided there has been no contravention of the Fisheries Act, in that there has been no harmful alteration of fish habitat.
“Dealing with (DFO) is a difficult thing,” says Wilkinson. “It’s (Federal) Government. We’re way up here, and they’re way down there.”
The DFO added it will continue its efforts to raise awareness and education in the community about the importance of stewardship and protection of ecosystems.
Once calls are placed to the DFO, the department says enforcement officials will attend the sites, take photos and collect evidence.
“It’s a huge deal because it’s national waters,” says Wilkinson. “Anything to do with the salmon has to be done federally.”
But Wilkinson isn’t as convinced waiting for it to happen, and then submitting photos, is the best way to solve the problem.
A community group is needed, he says, to support and enforce the closure of the river to motorized boats from August to October.
The DFO is concerned about any incident causing harm to fish and to fish habitat, and encourage the public to report incidents to our ORR (Observe, Record, Report) line at 1-800-465- 4336.