Scientists study impacts of oil spill in B.C. freshwater salmon habitat

Reaseach comes ahead of completion of TransMountain pipline expansion

University of Guelph adjunct faculty member Dr. Sarah Alderman studies salmon in a swim flume to test the ability of the fish. (Photo submitted by University of Guelph)

University of Guelph adjunct faculty member Dr. Sarah Alderman studies salmon in a swim flume to test the ability of the fish. (Photo submitted by University of Guelph)

Researchers are taking a close look at how an oil spill in freshwater habitat will affect the physiology and health of B.C.’s coho salmon.

The University of Guelph study comes ahead of the late-2022 completion of the TransMountain Pipeline Expansion project that will triple the outflow of millions of litres of diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to Vancouver. The research, led by Prof. Todd Gillis and Dr. Sarah Alderman at the U of G’s Department of Integrative Biology, was spurred by public concern of how a pipeline rupture will impact imperilled salmon populations in the Fraser River Watershed.

“It’s an ambitious project,” said Alderman, “but these data are essential for making informed decisions on how to protect salmon, before or after a spill.”

READ MORE: 102 Fraser River estuary species at risk of extinction, researchers warn

Coho spawn in over half of the 1,500 streams in B.C. and Yukon, generally spending one year in freshwater. In northern populations, most juveniles spend two or three years in freshwater before entering the ocean.

With $350,000 in funding from the federal government’s Oceans Protection Plan – Fate, Behaviour, and Effects Initiative, which aims to better understand oil spill behaviour and its biological impacts, the two-year study will determine which life stages of the salmon are most vulnerable to diluted bitumen, whether higher temperatures in contaminated water alter egg development and whether the fishes’ sense of smell, which they use to locate their natal streams, is impaired by exposure to the substance.

Alongside colleagues at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, the U of G researchers have received $1.2 million in funding over the past six years to address knowledge gaps in early life stages of salmon exposed to diluted bitumen, contributing to a broader understanding of the impacts of contaminants on fish and fisheries.

The group was the first to publish studies describing how even a small amount of diluted bitumen can affect salmon development, and impair their ability to swim.

“So a spill into a salmon-bearing river could be devastating to populations that are already struggling,” Alderman said.

READ MORE: Future value of Trans Mountain pipeline rests on Liberals’ climate plans, PBO says



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Fisheries and Oceans CanadaSalmon

Just Posted

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

Municipality of North Cowichan.
Council acknowledges National Indigenous Peoples Day

Recommendations received for prioritization of the updated Climate Action and Energy Plan

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

North Cowichan’s committee of the whole have rejected staff’s recommendation to limit the use of fireworks to Halloween. (File photo)
North Cowichan rejects limiting fireworks to Halloween

Municipality decides staff recommendation would be unpopular

Flag exhibit is now set up in the Chemainus Valley Museum. (Photo by Val Galvin)
Fibre artists put their unique twists on climate change exhibit

Red Flag warning label affixed to collection now on display at the Chemainus Valley Museum

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read