'Fish transportation system' could be used to move salmon trapped by slide near Lillooet
A Seattle-based company is waiting to find out if its “fish transportation system” will be called into action to help move tens of thousands of spawning salmon trapped by a rockslide in the Fraser River north of Lillooet, B.C.
The slide was discovered in mid-June, and has left behind what’s been described a high-speed waterfall which is obstructing salmon trying to return to their spawning grounds.
The provincial and federal governments have been working to find ways to get the fish moving again, and are currently transporting tank-loads of fish via helicopter. Fisheries and Oceans Canada said so far, 1,340 fish have been moved above the slide using this method, but at the last available count, 40,000 had gathered below.
Whooshh Innovations CEO Vincent Bryan said his company has developed a fish transport system using flexible pressurized tubes, capable of moving as many as 50,000 salmon a day.
“The concern here is we have millions of fish arriving in the next few weeks, and that the fish are just going to back up,” Bryan said.
Bryan said Whooshh is in contact with DFO, but so far, has not received the green light to proceed.
“It’s two weeks to get the barge in there and get it set up and then it’s another week to a week and a half for us to get our system up and running on that barge and so, time is running out and that’s the urgency here,” Bryan said.
No one from DFO was available for an interview. In an email to CTV News, the department said a final, amended proposal for the fish transportation system was submitted by Whooshh last week, and is now undergoing a third-party safety review.
According to the email: “At this time Incident Command is awaiting the results of the safety review evaluating risks surrounding the installation and operation of the WHOOSHH system on a barge which would be constructed further downstream and then winched upstream to the obstruction."
Bryan said generations of fish recovery are at risk.
“I think there’s a recognition by everybody on the ground that if we’re really going to save the run we have to be doing a lot more than is being done today,” he said.
Larger tanks and helicopters are being brought in to potentially move more fish. Work is also underway to create a natural passage by moving large boulders at the site in the hopes of making it easier for the salmon to continue their journey. A specially constructed fish ladder is waiting to be installed, and a water-powered device called a fish wheel, which is used for catching fish, is also being assembled.