By Andru McCracken

In 2018 the Committee on the status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada [COSEWIC] classified the Chinook salmon that spawn in the valley as endangered. And that was before the Big Bar slide of 2019 that blocked the Fraser River to an extent that challenged salmon returning to their streams that year.

Mayor Owen Torgerson was shocked that federal fisheries hadn’t alerted the municipality that the local salmon were in such great peril.

“From a municipal standpoint it is well outside our jurisdiction but […] when news like this becomes available we need to have a chat,” he said.

Torgerson said he would follow up with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, when a species is classified as endangered it can invoke a sweeping regulatory regime that mandates action to restore the species. In special circumstances it can be done unilaterally without consideration of local economic impacts.

“Honestly if they are on the endangered species list, [the Species At Risk Act] could be activated much like the caribou has,” said Torgerson. “We need to remain proactive and build back up those relationships [with DFO].”

COSEWIC gives the reason for designation as a decline in abundance.

“Declines in marine and freshwater habitat quality, and harvest, are threats facing this population. Anticipated changes to North Pacific weather systems that affect groundwater availability, will impact spawning sites and overwinter survival.”