Media Release: New study highlights need for re-connecting waterways in the lower Fraser

New study highlights need for re-connecting waterways in the lower Fraser

(April 29, 2016) VANCOUVER—A new paper published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences looks at the impacts of small-scale barriers such as floodgates in tributaries of the lower Fraser River, concluding that floodgates decrease suitable habitat for wild salmon.

“Our study revealed that these small scale barriers, which are abundant in the lower Fraser, have ecological effects similar to large dams,” says David Scott, lead author of the study from Simon Fraser University. “Upstream of floodgates we found fish communities which were completely altered relative to reference sites, and dissolved oxygen concentrations significantly below safe minimum standards for fish.”

These waterways used to flow naturally into the Fraser River but many are now severely restricted, with flood-boxes and gates that don’t allow fish and water to pass through. The result is poor water quality, limited flow, and degraded, disconnected salmon habitat.

“Many of these tributaries and sloughs were once home to wild salmon,” adds Lina Azeez of Watershed Watch Salmon Society who is leading the Connected Waters campaign. “Restoring these waterways can be accomplished by upgrading out-dated flood control infrastructure to improve the passage of water and fish.”

Other habitat restoration—like riparian planting and removing invasive species—is also needed in many cases. Improvements like these can be implemented across the region, re-connecting these degraded waterways to the Fraser and opening up considerable amounts of prime salmon habitat.

Watershed Watch is working to improve water quality and salmon habitat in the region with a combination of community engagement and science-based advocacy at the local, provincial, and municipal levels. The ultimate goal is to secure government commitments and funding for the installation of fish-friendly flood control infrastructure for the benefit of the entire community.

“It started with one waterway in the community of Pitt Meadows and before we knew it dozens of waterways with the same problem were identified along the lower Fraser,” said Lina Azeez. “It is a shocking amount of lost fish habitat. Luckily there are solutions. It just requires action.”

Connected Waters: Backgrounder available here

New Study: Flood control structures in tidal creeks associated with reduction in nursery potential for native fishes and creation of hotspots for invasive speciesAuthor: David Scott et al. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (April 28 2016)

Moore Lab: Ecology & Conservation of Aquatic Systems, Simon Fraser University 


Lina Azeez: Engagement Coordinator, Watershed Watch Salmon Society. / 604.537.2341

David Scott: Biologist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation / 604.817.6700

Ian Hinkle: Communications Manager, Watershed Watch Salmon Society / 250.217.3933

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