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

A brown bear and two cubs were spotted near Killiney Beach May 10. (Michael Dick photo)
Warm spring brings bears out earlier in Okanagan

Residents urged to keep their garbage secure until the morning of pickup

The spectacular Okanagan Rail Trail from Coldstream. (Linda Busch photo)
Get Outdoors! And explore North Okanagan trails

But, remember to uphold good trail etiquette

A Vernon councillor is facing potential legal action from a former city councillor. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Diversity debate leaves Vernon politician threatened with legal action

Coun. Dalvir Nahal alleged to have defamed a former politician, who is seeking concessions

District of Coldstream municipal offices. (Morning Star file photo)
Coldstream staff recommend cutting outdated, conflicting policies

A staff report also calls for Kal Lak access protections in the next Official Community Plan

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport in Richmond, B.C. on Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Meeting police chance to get sense of ‘frustrating’ gang violence situation: minister

Mike Farnworth met with police representatives Thursday following a recent spate of shootings

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue manager Ken Neden, as he goes over the events of the Qualicum Falls river rescue on Dec. 12, 2020, for a United Kingdom television program “Unbelievable Moments Caught on Camera’. (Mandy Moraes photo)
UK TV show spreading news of daring B.C. river rescue across the world

Arrowsmith SAR trio share their accounts for ‘Unbelievable Moments Caught on Camera’

Shane Ertmoed’s application for Escorted Temporary Absences was granted following a hearing May 4, 2021. (File photo)
B.C. child-killer an ‘average’ risk to sexually reoffend: Parole Board

Written reasons behind approval of Shane Ertmoed’s request for escorted absences shared

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Most Read