Tsawout fisheries manager Dan Claxton shows dead chum smolts collected from Goldstream River Monday

Tsawout fisheries manager Dan Claxton shows dead chum smolts collected from Goldstream River Monday

Biologists take stock of Goldstream disaster

Fish biologists are fearful for the future of the Goldstream salmon run after a tanker truck released 30,000 litres of gasoline into the river Saturday.



Fish biologists are fearful for the future of the Goldstream salmon run after a tanker truck released 30,000 litres of gasoline into the river Saturday.

“On a scale of one to 10, it’s pretty bad. It’s a 9.5,” said Ian Bruce, fishery biologist for Tsawout First Nation and Peninsula Stream Society. “There are dead fish up and down the river.”

Fish species impacted include chum, coho, chinook and steelhead salmon. Department of Fisheries and Oceans issued a temporary emergency closure of the harvest of shellfish including clams, oysters and mussels in Finlayson Arm and Saanich Inlet due to the spill.

Just hours before the crash, Goldstream hatchery volunteers and Tsawout First Nations members had released 8,000 coho salmon into the river. Earlier last week the hatchery had released an additional 20,000 salmon.

“That is about 30,000 coho that are not safe and are at risk,” said Peter McCully a fisheries biologist with the Goldstream hatchery. “It’s heartbreaking.”

The hatchery still has fish to release, but McCully said that won’t happen until the river is deemed safe. While picking up a dead coho fry from a bucket, McCully shows a clipped adipose fin, an indicator the fish came from the hatchery.

“This represents a huge amount of work, it was wiped out,” McCully said who has been working at the hatchery for 35 years.

Last year’s coho return was the lowest McCully had ever seen.  With with Saturday’s spill wiping out possibly thousands of coho, he is unsure what the future will bring.

Tsawout First Nations fisheries manager Dan Claxton walked the lower end of the river Sunday and Monday and said its likely thousands of emerging chum fry and coho smolts have perished.

“It’s just devastating to see that many fish gone. If you look under the banks and logs, there are lots of dead fish,” Claxton said Monday morning. “Our First Nation relies heavily in the chum. We harvest chum to fill our smoke houses to get us through the winter.”

The true effects of this spill will only be seen and understood when survivors return to spawn. The coho and chum are expected back in 2012 while the steelhead may not return until 2014.

“I don’t think there is anyway they will be able to survive this,” McCully said.

It’s not just the fish that are dying from this accident. Bruce has been finding dead caddisfly, an insect that lives in the river and are food to fish.

“The impact is not just on the fish, but on the (entire) river,” Bruce said.

“This is not a good situation,” confirmed Graham Knox, manager of the environmental emergency program with the Ministry of Environment. “We have been finding hundreds of (dead) fish. Typically you find 10 per cent so that tells us there are likely thousands of fish (that have died.)”

For ocean-based oil spills, it is common to see crews in the water scrubbing rocks, Knox said, but in this case, having people in the river cleaning rocks would do more harm than good.

“This gasoline is very toxic. It evaporates and dissipates quickly,” Knox said. “We want to achieve a net environmental benefit. We don’t want to go in with 300 people tromping though the water.”

Columbia Fuels, which owns the crashed truck, has been ordered to perform an environmental impact study.

In meantime, spill booms are in the river to absorb hydrocarbons. “Every minute that goes by this is being cleansed and diluted,” Knox said.

While wading in the stream, Bruce brought gasoline sheens to the surface by disturbing the river bed. “I lifted up some rocks and it smells pretty bad,” Bruce said.

“You can smells pockets of fuel and if you lift up rocks you can see a sheen,” Claxton said.

The Goldstream hatchery has 70,000 coho and 100,000 chum to release. McCully said that number isn’t significant in solving what’s been lost.

“Of those 70,000 coho, all things being equal, if they have a chance in the ocean, I’d be surprised if two to three per cent would come back.”

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com

–with files from Edward Hill

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

According to Statistics Canada, new housing starts and value of building permits in Greater Victoria rose in January 2021 compared to January 2020. (Black Press Media File)
New housing starts, value of building permits up in Greater Victoria

Cost of new housing also rising in region, now in excess of $1.15 million for a new detached home

Saanich Fire Department. (Black Press Media file photo)
Fire displaces three Saanich families from two homes

Saanich firefighters found the fire had spread to a neighbouring home upon arriving

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating Mackenzie Courchene, a Langford teenager.
MISSING: Mackenzie Courchene last seen in Langford on March 2

West Shore RCMP is asking for the public’s help in locating the Langford teenager

Alphabet Zoo Early Learning Centre wants to relocate from Langford to 3322 Fulton Rd. in Colwood, but has not been approved for a P-6 zoning by Colwood council. Residents who neighbour the property, have expressed concern to the Goldstream Gazette regarding the potential daycare site. Neighbours Ryan Landa and Selene Winchester said the noise of construction has been disruptive to the area, and the property is not suitable for a daycare. (Photo contributed/Ryan Landa)
Proposed West Shore daycare stirs up controversy amongst neighbours

Neighbouring property owners are concerned about traffic, noise that a daycare would bring to the area

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. Doctors in Alberta have signed an open letter asking for prioritized vaccination of health-care staff who work directly with patients on dedicated COVID-19 units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ and Indigenous Elders can book starting March 8

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Most Read