The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is supporting the efforts to respond to the Mount Polley Mine tailings breach confirmed DFO’s regional director Stu Cartwright.
“We have our science, habitat, conservation and protection measures staff involved and are continuing to play a supportive role as the province is taking the lead with respect to response,” Cartwright said from his Kamloops office.
Cartwright also confirmed that a DFO stock assessment crew continues to monitor the salmon run, and has been working out of Likely since Aug. 14 doing enumeration programs and will remain working there until the middle of October.
While it is too early to give specifics, the sockeye are returning in “good numbers,” to the Quesnel and Horsefly Rivers, Cartwright said.
“The Fraser River Panel is looking at the Quesnel run of a catch plus escapement of 2.2 to 2.25 million as of earlier this week.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 10, 6,000 salmon had arrived at the Horsefly River upper spawning channel, he added.
“We’re expecting hundreds to follow, probably a million and a half. There’s going to be a lot of fish.”
Cartwright said Hazeltine Creek, which received severe damage from the mine tailings spill, did support sockeye and coho in the past, however, not consistently and not in big numbers.
Some years beaver dams blocked the creek or other naturally-occurring factors resulted in the fish going elsewhere.
Coho will stray more than other species, he explained.
They will return to their natal system but may spawn in other systems within the general geographic area.
Sockeye can do the same but not as commonly.
“So far it’s too preliminary to notice how the fish are adapting to the spill,” he said, adding based on the test results and fish flesh sampling there’s nothing to suggest anything outside the levels for human consumption.
“There is a lot of effort going into understanding the immediate and longterm impacts of the spill.”