North Vancouver, BC – The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) is deeply disappointed about the failure to protect salmon in the Cheakamus River following a BC Hydro ramp down operation between October 1 and 3, 2021. This significant stranding event impacting thousands of fish follows a similar tragedy in 2019.
The salmon is important to Squamish way of life and the people honour their return each year to traditional spawning grounds. Climate change, commercial harvest, habitat loss, and hydroelectric facilities have contributed to the steady decline of salmon populations for decades. Repeated mass stranding events like this one at the Cheakamus River jeopardize fish populations, and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw way of life.
Staff from the Nation’s Rights & Title department have participated in discussions with BC Hydro since the 2019 stranding event to improve their operations and better protect fish. This includes:
- Participation in the Cheakamus Adaptive Stranding Protocol, which brought together several technical parties, as well as federal and provincial regulators, to discuss river flow management and past effects on salmon from previous stranding.
- Supporting a plan for BC Hydro to fund a pink salmon program at Tenderfoot Hatchery in Squamish, to compensate for the losses from 2019.
- Working towards better communication to the Nation in advance of planned and unplanned discharge events.
- Identifying cultural values on the Cheakamus River and in the watershed that require better recognition and protection.
For something like this to happen despite efforts since 2019 has shaken our confidence that this Cheakamus facility can ever operate in a manner that recognizes the value of Indigenous ways in respecting and protecting our lands, waters, and the life within it.
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw is currently investigating the details of this event and exploring all options to prevent another tragedy. As a regulator who oversees activities throughout the territory, the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw is committed to justice for our salmon and addressing any impacts of this event on Squamish fishing rights.
Further statements will be made as more information becomes available.