Fish habitat is being impacted in some manner over the entire length of the Fraser River. One area approximately 100km long is worthy of special attention. The stretch of the Fraser River between Mission and Hope is referred to as the “Heart of the Fraser”. It is a special area and, according to Mark Angelo, renowned river advocate, “This part of the Fraser may well be the most productive stretch of river in the world”. Given the importance of this area one would expect a commensurate level of protection and management but this is not the case. “The lower Fraser River riparian lowlands continue to rapidly disappear due to continued encroachment through land development, agriculture, and industrial activities that include extensive resource extraction (i.e., logging and mining).” http://commonsensecanadian.ca/bcit-conservationists-team-up-save-heart-of-the-fraser-fish-mark-angelo-marvin-rosenau/
The valuable spawning gravels are being excavated without the care and knowledge required and, as a result, millions of pink salmon fry have been killed. This happened while the proponents were being monitored by Fisheries and Oceans Canada without compensation. According to the Auditor General in 2009 “The Department does not have a systematic approach to monitoring proponents’ compliance with the conditions of its project approvals. Nor does it evaluate whether its decisions on mitigating measures and compensation are effective in meeting the no net loss principle. As a result, projects may be causing damage to habitat beyond the amount authorized, and mitigating measures and compensation may not be effective.”
Mark Angelo and others are advocating for a change through the Heart of the Fraser Program. “Our goal is to identify, conserve, protect and restore key portions of the Gravel Reach in order to sustain and secure the biological and ecological integrity of the area”. The program is seeking to develop a “Lower Fraser River Ecosystem” working group, comprised of program participants, First Nations, representatives of all levels of government, NGOs and other key stakeholders. Objectives of the program include: purchasing/protecting key parcels of land; Crown forest protection and/or designation as Wildlife Management Areas; habitat restoration.
Recognizing or branding the Heart of the Fraser as the special place it is can be most beneficial. In this way it would be similar to the Sea to Sky branding that has served the Whistler/Squamish corridor well in terms of tourism, recreation and managing sensitive lands.
Key Actions needed
- Acquire key parcels of land in the Heart of the Fraser region to protect spawning and rearing habitat.
- Formally recognize the importance of the Heart of the Fraser Bio-region; initiate a moratorium on gravel extraction, and develop a Sustainability Plan for this area.