Riverside Logging Linked to BC’s Steelhead and Salmon Decline

Originally seen in Fish’n Canada’s Week in Review

In a timely study, released as fisheries close throughout the province, riverside logging has now been firmly linked to the decline of native steelhead.

Published earlier this year but now making headlines due to the situation on the Skeena, Thompson, and Chilcotin, two studies out of Simon Fraser and UBC were in the news this week as people seek to explain the steelhead decline across the province. The studies primarily focused on the salmon and steelhead populations in southwestern BC, specifically in the Salish Sea, where Coho, Chinook, and Steelhead numbers have fallen by nearly 90% in the last 40 years.

While many of the causes for the decline are thought to take place while the fish are at sea (orca and seal predation, overharvest, etc.), these new studies suggest that actions nearby their freshwater environments may be doing more harm than once thought. According to the studies, logging activity nearby the spawning habitat of these fish is having a drastic effect on the amount of fish that return and the percentage of fish that are able to spawn once they get there.

More than just pollution concerns, the removal of trees along river banks has the potential to raise water temperatures by reducing shade. This is especially concerning as our summers grow hotter and longer as steelhead require temperatures in the low 40s to spawn. Logging near waterways also loosens soil and adds debris to the water, threatening pools that salmon and steelhead use to stage, adding to the turbidity of once-clear waterways, and further adding to the temperature increases.

Thankfully, much of these harmful logging practices have been abandoned, however, we are not out of the woods just yet and will likely be dealing with the consequences of misguided harvest for years to come.

This excerpt was taken from Fish’n Canada’s Week in Review, our weekly recap of all things relevant to the Canadian outdoorsman. For more stories like this, check out the full article below and tune back in every Friday to catch up on everything you missed!

Week in review