Climate Change and Global Warming  – Impacts to the Fraser River Wild Salmon

On October 6, 2023, Xwísten put a callout for people to meet at the Fish Ladder at the Bridge River Rapids to rescue migrating salmon stranded below the rapids. This initiative was taken by Chief Ina Williams of Xwísten and Chief Darrell Bob of Xaxli’p. It was discovered that the fish ladders were ineffective due to the record low water levels during the critical salmon migration period, and immediate action needed to be taken. Extraordinary efforts were made by the volunteers who came out to help save the salmon struggling to get past the rapids. The progression of the rescue efforts included:

  • October 6-10: A large group of volunteers answered Chief Ina Williams’ call, who formed a brigade chain and transferred stranded salmon over the rapids, using fish nets. Approximately 6,500 salmon were transferred this way.
  • October 11-12: The volunteer brigade chain continued with rescue efforts until four water pumps were brought in to pump water into the fish ladders so the salmon could use the fish ladders.
  • October 13-15: A helicopter was brought in to assist rescuing the salmon, and due to safety concerns the brigade chain ended. The helicopter brought in two large water pumps to replace the four smaller pumps and transported sandbags filled by BC Wildfire Service crewmembers who came to assist in the salmon rescue efforts.
  • October 16: A Spider Excavator Machine was used to clear rocks at the rapids and created new waterways for the salmon.
  • October 18: the salmon bypassed the fish ladders, using the newly created pools, heading to their spawning grounds.

It was remarkable to see the leadership, volunteers, biologists, engineers, and technicians on-site making all efforts to save the salmon and determine the next steps with a focus on the short and long-term needs of the salmon.

Many elders and on-lookers who witnessed the water levels said they had never in their life seen the water that low during the salmon migration. It was a shocking site to see all the salmon that were stuck in different areas before the rapids, many of the sockeye had already turned pink and were nearing their stage of life where they should have reached the spawning areas to reproduce and complete their life cycle. This concern brought up a lot of questions on why this is occurring and how are we going to ensure we protect our salmon so they can continue their journey up our river. Salmon is a big factor in St’at’imc culture and traditions, and an essential food source for the people, including animals, eagles, and hawks, as well as the ecosystem. The question is, what happens now?

In discussions with Chief Darrell, a question was raised: “How can one individual help in the efforts to protect our salmon and land?”. A summary of his statement is as follows: we need to start only taking what we need and start protecting our land. Low water levels and global warming are occurring because of human greed, and that is where we can start improving our ways by going by the old teaching of taking what you need and starting the effort to save our tmicw (land) and nt’ákmenlhkalha (our way of life).

It is encouraging to see all the people, leadership, and professionals collaborate to ensure the generational recital of the legend of how Coyote brought salmon from the ocean into the Interior continues for generations to come.  Our challenge is to address capitalism by ensuring our laws, values, and principles are incorporated into land and resource management that will safeguard the survival of the Fraser River Wild Salmon. 

Please share and bring awareness!

To see more media and previous updates about the salmon salvage, please reference the Facebook group EMERGENCY FISH SALVAGE XWISTEN FISH LADDERS

To watch a video regarding these efforts and a statement from leadership, please view the video below or click the link to view Jeremy Williams (River Voices Productions) video SALMON PEOPLE – The future in our hands on Youtube.

See below to also view pictures taken on October 6, 2023 – Taken by Cheyanne Watkinson