To say that activity in the Fraser River Estuary picked up this spring would be an understatement, especially for Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) conservation staff in B.C. But for those in the centre of the action, like manager of provincial operations Sarah Nathan and conservation programs specialist Eric Balke, if their work can help secure the long-term future of this vital ecosystem, it’s well worth the effort.
As British Columbians marked Earth Day on April 22, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced more than $5 million in funding for three major conservation projects in the Fraser River Estuary to restore salmon habitat. The projects will receive funding through the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, a contribution program funded jointly by the federal and provincial government to support B.C.’s fish and seafood sector, and to ensure the sustainability of wild Pacific salmon.
DUC will partner with Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Tsawwassen First Nation and the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance to deliver the large, complex projects over the next two years to restore Fraser River Estuary tidal marsh habitat for Chinook, coho, steelhead and sockeye salmon populations. The work will also benefit other species and populations, along with white sturgeon and other wild B.C. fish stocks.
“Our work is partnership-driven, and these projects will be examples of how conservation can occur with effective collaboration and innovation,” says Nathan.
The funding announcement came on the heels of DUC’s release this March of a new, in-depth report that contains the most comprehensive analysis of tidal marsh creation projects in the Fraser River Estuary to date.
Over the past 40 years, more than 100 tidal marsh restoration projects have been constructed in the Fraser River Estuary to mitigate the loss of habitats from human activities and to maintain the ecological integrity of the area. More projects continue to be proposed. However, reports have shown that the success of these restoration projects varies. DUC’s report sheds light on factors that lead to some projects being more successful than others.
The Factors Influencing the Persistence of Created Tidal Marshes in the Fraser River Estuary report is the start of a longer investment by DUC over the next two years to restore tidal marshes throughout the estuary to support carbon sequestration and restore salmon habitat.
“We’ll use the findings from the report to inform restoration works and identify some unsuccessful compensation sites to restore,” says Balke, who co-authored the report along with Daniel Stewart, a local wetland plant ecologist.
The study was funded by the B.C. Wildlife Federation Wetlands Workforce project and supported through the provincial Healthy Watersheds Initiative delivered by the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. and Watersheds B.C. with the financial support from the Province of B.C. as part of its $10 billion COVID-19 response.
Nathan, Balke, along with other DUC staff, our volunteers and partners celebrated both the release of the study and funding announcement as welcome news after a year that saw natural disasters devastate the province, including summer heatwaves, wildfires and flooding caused by atmospheric rivers.
“Working alongside our partners, we look forward to advancing innovative solutions to build the resilience of key estuary marsh habitats for salmon, a wide variety of marine life and waterfowl, and coastal flood protection that will be vital for environmental sustainability and economic prosperity on B.C.’s West Coast,” says Nathan.
DUC believes the Fraser River Estuary’s ability to flourish is helped by our commitment to on-the-ground conservation. Find out more about the estuary and our work at ducks.ca/fraser-river-estuary
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