Tens of thousands of migrating salmon stuck behind a rock slide on the Fraser River in a remote part of British Columbia will be flown over the barrier by helicopter.
The solution was made public Saturday by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the B.C. government after weeks of speculation over how to help the trapped fish.
In late June, officials discovered a landslide had partially blocked the Fraser River west of Clinton, B.C., and created a waterfall that was preventing thousands of salmon from getting upstream to spawn.
First Nations, conservationists, fishers, officials and others are all worried that if the fish can’t get upstream there could be a permanent loss of Chinook salmon populations.
Work crews are now building a holding pond along a part of the river south of the slide. It’s hoped that once constructed the fish will swim into the channel through a weir. The weir will allow the fish to get in, but not swim back out.
From the pond, the fish will be transferred with nets into aluminum tanks ranging in size from 780 litres to 2,700 litres. The holding tanks will have equipment in them to help oxygenate the water and reduce stress on the fish.
Once in the tanks, helicopters will lift them over the landslide.
“This operation is intended to safely transfer the salmon beyond the partial blockage as quickly as possible,” said a release from both governments.
In the meantime, workers have been using nets to capture salmon so that they can be tagged. Officials want to know how many of them successfully get above the blockage.
Scaling crews on the face of the slide continue to remove rock and debris to ensure safe working conditions and prevent another landslide from happening.
The temperature of the water in the Fraser River is also helping the fish.
Officials said on Saturday that the water is cooling, which is beneficial. The level of the water has also decreased, which means there is less debris being carried downstream.