Heart of the Fraser: Ecological stronghold faces imminent threat

Collaborating with Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia, BCIT Rivers Institute, BC Wildlife Federation, and the BC Federation of Drift Fishers to conserve the Heart of the Fraser.

An aerial photo of the stunning vista and sunset over the Heart of the Fraser.

The Fraser River is an incredibly productive and important ecosystem which has supported abundant populations of salmon and sturgeon for thousands of years. However, in a few short centuries humans have drastically modified habitats throughout the watershed, converting landscapes to urban and agricultural developments, building structures which limit connectivity, removing riparian areas, constraining the river with dikes and extracting gravel.

Over time, these and many other human activities have made it more and more challenging for the river to support the fish populations which once flourished. These ecological communities, such as Fraser salmon, underlie extensive cultural, recreational and economic values for First Nations, local communities, and more broadly for all Canadians.

Currently, one of the most important areas of the watershed, the stretch between Hope and Mission, is facing the potential degradation of one of its remaining vital habitats. This stretch is referred to as the Heart of the Fraser and for good reason.

This area is also known as the Gravel Reach, it is where the river emerges from the canyon and flattens out, causing the majority of large gravel and sediment to settle out after being transported downstream by the power of the spring flows. It has been referred to as the most important spawning area for Sturgeon in the whole Fraser system and in odd years millions of pink salmon spawn directly in the main stem. This area of the river changes each year with the influx and movement of sediments, creating the complexity of habitats upon which species such as white sturgeon and pink salmon rely on for spawning, incubation and juvenile rearing in order to create the next generation.

Stand with us to defend the Heart of the Fraser.

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While the Heart of the Fraser has continued to support abundant populations of fish and other species, it is also facing increasing developmental pressures. Currently the area lacks any collaborative vision or conservation plan to help protect its ecological values, leaving it vulnerable to further degradation. Herrling and Carey Islands are an important piece of this area, providing critical fish habitat. Recently, developers have applied to build bridges to these islands which, if approved, would lead to the destruction of critical fish habitat for agriculture or subdivisions. These bridges must not be approved.

Raincoast is now now collaborating with Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia, BCIT Rivers Institute, BC Wildlife Federation, and the BC Federation of Drift Fishers to ensure these bridges are not approved. Please support these efforts by adding your name to a call to protect this important area. Add your voice at heartofthefraser.ca

David Scott, Raincoast Lower Fraser Salmon Program Coordinator A squinting David Scott explains about the Fraser River

David Scott is interested in resource and environmental management, ecology and conservation of aquatic ecosystems. He’s working in the Fraser river and doing a PhD at the University of British Columbia. You can find David in the wild, looking for salmon.

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