Video shows hundreds of thousands of fish dead in dry B.C. creek bed

Click to play video: 'The impact of drought conditions in B.C. can be seen with the state of spawning salmon right now'
The impact of drought conditions in B.C. can be seen with the state of spawning salmon right now
From the Central to the South Coast, many creeks are drying up and rivers are at extremely low water levels, leading to die-offs of fish, and fears about the future of several salmon runs. – Oct 6, 2022

Video shared on social media shows the devastating effect that the current B.C. drought is having on fish.

The video, taken by Sarah Mund and shared by William Housty, shows Neekas Creek in Heiltsuk Territory, which is in the central coast region of the province.

The video shows thousands of salmon dead in the creek bed. The majority of the salmon were pink with about 10 per cent being chum.

Housty, conservation manager for the Heiltsuk Integrated Rescource Management Department, said the conditions have been so dry lately that the salmon are dying either because the rivers are dried up or the salmon cannot travel up the rivers at all and end up dying while waiting.

“As far as I can see, we’re in for another week or so of dry conditions and so it doesn’t look good for the time being, but we’re hoping that the salmon that are still here can hold on for the rains to come.”

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He added that those who saw the salmon estimated that between 65,000 and 80,000 had died.

Housty said the salmon are waiting to enter the rivers to spawn. They did have some rain recently, prompting the salmon to rush into the river but the water dried up and that’s when the salmon died.

“It doesn’t look like a very good year for the returning salmon,” he added.

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The Lower Mainland, the Sunshine Coast and west Vancouver Island have now reached Drought Level 5, meaning adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are almost certain.

At Level 5, conditions are exceptionally dry, according to the provincial drought scale, and all efforts should be made to conserve water and protect critical environmental flows.

Click to play video: 'Drought conditions impact Sunshine Coast drinking water'
Drought conditions impact Sunshine Coast drinking water

Efforts to save fish in other parts of Vancouver Island are also underway.

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Stephen Watson with BC Hydro said they lowered the flow of the Puntledge River near Courtenay by a third on Wednesday due to the very dry weather.

They also had fish salvage crews working in the area to move any isolated fish back into the river.

“They moved some of the rocks out a little bit so the fish can, as they detect the water moving down, move back into the main stem,” Watson said in a video update posted on social media.

Impacts on the rivers and spawning streams will be felt for years to come, Housty said.

“We’re going to really feel the effects in two years when the pink salmon come back to spawn.”

“In four years when the chum salmon come back in their cycle, it’s the same thing. We’ve been on a steady decline for a long time and situations like this don’t help the overall health of the stocks of the salmon.”

For now, the salmon are waiting but if the situation doesn’t change soon, they might not make it home to spawn.

“By now, usually, they are starting to move into the river and change colour and lose all their oils,” Housty said. “It’s been a long time they’ve been holding out in the ocean. By now, we normally have enough rain for them to make it into the rivers.”

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Click to play video: 'B.C. sees driest September ever according to preliminary data'
B.C. sees driest September ever according to preliminary data

Housty said this should be taken as a “global issue” and everyone should work together to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“We all just need to work together to make sure the biodiversity in our province and these creeks are maintained in the long-term.”

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