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

Kay Gallivan paints a mural on the east wall of North Park’s Tiny Home Village (Kiernan Green / Victoria News Staff)
North Park Tiny Home Village opens at Royal Athletic Park lot to 30 unhoused

Residents will settle into new private units and the North Park community over the weekend

Commonwealth Place recreation centre was shut down before 8 a.m. on Friday following a power outage. (Saanich Parks, Recreation and Community Services/Twitter)
Saanich Commonwealth Place closed due to power outage, outdoor classes still running

Indoor classes, programs at pool and weight room halted

The woman also received distracted driving tickets in 2018 and 2019. (Black Press File Photo)
Oak Bay driver gets third distracted driving ticket in four years

Officer caught the woman using her phone while at the wheel

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
MISSING: Salt Spring RCMP find woman’s car, still seek Island resident

Sinikka Gay Elliott is 5’3” with a slim build and dark brown short hair

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 11

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A Saanich man received almost 10 years in Supreme Court in Courtenay for a shooting incident from 2018. Record file photo
Shooting incident on Island nets almost 10-year sentence

Saanich man was arrested without incident north of Courtenay in 2018

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Most Read