An oil spill in the Sutherland watershed could devastate unique Babine Lake rainbow trout population
May 22, 2012
Select this Link for FOMB's Media Release: http://friendsofmoricebulkley.ca/images/uploads/article_uploads/SutherlandMediaRelease23Feb12.pdf
Select this link for FOMB's brochure on the Sutherland including a map: http://friendsofmoricebulkley.ca/images/uploads/article_uploads/FOMB_sutherland_aug2011.pdf
Select this Link for Hagen's expert report on the Sutherland River/Babine Lake Rainbow Trout: http://friendsofmoricebulkley.ca/images/uploads/article_uploads/Rainbow_Trout_Sutherland_Babine_Lake_15Dec11.pdf
The Sutherland River flows into the southeast end of Babine Lake (BC’s longest natural lake). The proposed pipeline route crosses the Sutherland watershed just upstream from Sutherland River Provincial Park and Protected Area put in place to protect critical fish habitats.
Among the report’s key findings:
The Sutherland watershed provides critical spawning and rearing habitat and accounts for approximately two-thirds of Babine Lake rainbow trout production.
Sutherland rainbows are a rare ecotype of pelagic fish-eating rainbow trout and one of only 15 confirmed, native populations in British Columbia.
Babine Lake supports the largest sport fishery for rainbow trout in the Skeena Region. Trophy rainbows produced in the Sutherland include fish captured at ‘Rainbow Alley’, famous for its’ world class fishing.
The Sutherland is within the traditional territories of Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council First Nations. Members of the Yekooche First Nation have fished for Sutherland rainbow trout for generations.
Road access to the lower watershed is very limited, making it difficult or impossible to respond quickly to an oil spill. Numerous log jams and beaver ponds, high water velocities, and snow and ice cover much of the year would make containment and cleanup of spilled oil difficult or impossible.
The report concludes, “A significant leak or rupture of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline in the Sutherland watershed poses a risk to the long-term viability of the Sutherland River rainbow trout, and would have a direct impact on First Nations traditional use of these fish and the Babine Lake sport fishery.”
Dr. Daniel Heath and his students at University of Windsor carried out genetic studies on the Sutherland/Babine Lake rainbow trout in 2010. Dr. Heath states, “the Sutherland watershed produces not only the majority of the rainbow trout in the lake, but those fish are genetically unique and represent a valuable biodiversity resource.”