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Babine Lake Mines Leaking Dangerous Contaminants into Salmon Habitat, Say Critics

Babine Lake Mines Leaking Dangerous Contaminants into Salmon Habitat, Say Critics

Advocates want greater oversight as a mapping project identifies more than 170 mines putting waterways at risk.

Two closed mines on islands in Babine Lake are leaking dangerous levels of copper that could be damaging the Skeena watershed’s most valuable sockeye salmon spawning lake, The Tyee has learned.

In a report due out this week, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust and the Lake Babine Nation say an analysis of monitoring data from mine owner Glencore shows wastewater from the mines has included elevated levels of heavy metals, including copper contamination up to 20 times greater than provincial water quality guidelines.

It’s unclear what impact that could be having on Babine Lake’s salmon stocks, which account for 90 per cent of the Skeena watershed’s sockeye.

But Donna Macintyre, fisheries director for Lake Babine Nation, says there is clearly a threat.

“Does it affect salmon? Obviously, if we’re putting discharge into the lake, and we’ve got zooplankton that the fish depend upon for food, it will affect them,” Macintyre told The Tyee.

“We have these guidelines for copper, all of the heavy metals that are discharged into the lake, but they’re basically for human consumption. Nobody has really done major studies on fish.”

Lake Babine Nation worked with SkeenaWild to analyze data that dates back to the mines’ operation in the 1970s. But the research focused on the past 12 years since the start of Glencore’s monitoring program at the sites. The studies were done on samples of water, sediment and tissue taken from lake trout and sculpin.

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Genetically engineered salmon: What could possibly go wrong?

Genetically engineered salmon: What could possibly go wrong?

As U.S. regulators cleared genetically engineered salmon for sale in the United States last week, they opened the door to what many scientists already feel is inevitable: The escape and reproduction of GE salmon in the wild and the possible destruction of competing wild species.

Under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved application, the company behind the so-called AquAdvantage Salmon, Aqua Bounty, can only raise such salmon in land-based tanks with “multiple and redundant levels of physical barriers to prevent eggs and fish from escaping.” These barriers are described in detail and suggest that it will be very difficult for any eggs or fish to escape into waterways.

The FDA said it considered four interrelated questions about confinement of the fish:

  1. What is the likelihood that AquAdvantage Salmon will escape the conditions of confinement?
  2. What is the likelihood that AquAdvantage Salmon will survive and disperse if they escape the conditions of confinement?
  3. What is the likelihood that AquAdvantage Salmon will reproduce and establish if they escape the conditions of confinement?
  4. What are the likely consequences to, or effects on, the environment of the United States should AquAdvantage Salmon escape the conditions of confinement?

Right away we can see that the FDA is asking these questions in the wrong way because it misunderstands the risks involved. It should be asking if there is ANY LIKELIHOOD WHATSOEVER that the salmon will escape, survive, disperse, reproduce and establish populations in the wild.

Why is it important to ask the question in this way? Because although the salmon are sterilized, the “sterilization technique is not foolproof,” according to The New York Times.

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Living Downstream of B.C.’s Gold Rush: Alaska’s Fishermen Fear End of ‘Last Wild Frontier’

No fish in the car, warned the rental car attendant at Juneau airport, with the weary tone of someone who had cleaned too many fish guts out of returned vehicles. It was a warning underlined by signs in hotels pleading with guests not to clean fish in the hotel bathrooms.

Fishing is in the DNA of Southeast Alaskans, not only as a sport and common way of filling the freezer, but also as a driver of the state economy. So it is not surprising that the perceived threat presented by a rush of mine applications on the B.C. side of the border has brought together diverse groups who want B.C. to give Alaska an equal seat at the decision-making table and to have the issue referred for review to the International Joint Commission.

I can’t conceive of not being able to fish for salmon. The grief would be too much to fathom,” said Heather Hardcastle, co-owner of Taku River Reds who has been commercial fishing for most of her life.

We share these waters and we share these fish. There has to be an international solution,” she said.


Jill Weitz, Trout Unlimited outreach coordinator, wonders why Canadians are not taking the risk of pollution from the mines more seriously.

This is one of the largest king salmon runs in Southeast Alaska. How is this not significant?” she asked, looking over the side of a boat into the waters of Taku Inlet.

It is a cruel joke that, for the second time in history, the richest minerals in the world have been found in the richest salmon habitat in the world, said Lindsey Bloom, as her gillnet dried in front of her Juneau home

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LNG Project Would Affect ‘Grand Central Station’ for Salmon, Researchers Say

LNG Project Would Affect ‘Grand Central Station’ for Salmon, Researchers Say

Science letter asks gov, industry to acknowledge ‘full impacts’ of BC project.

The proposed Pacific Northwest LNG project and related pipelines located at the mouth of the Skeena River in northern British Columbia would affect more than 40 different salmon populations harvested in at least 10 First Nation territories, according to a letter published in Science.

That is twice the number of First Nations groups that industry proponents identified as needing to be consulted about the impacts of the project, add the researchers who signed the letter.

Pacific Northwest LNG is an international consortium led by Malaysia oil giant Petronas. If approved by an ongoing federal environment assessment, its $11-billion liquefied natural gas terminal would be built on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert.

The waters surrounding the proposed project are critical for the rearing of millions of wild B.C. salmon — an estuary that Allen Gottesfeld of the Skeena Fisheries Commission calls “the Grand Central Station for salmon.”

The letter, penned by fisheries biologists, First Nations leaders from throughout the Skeena River watershed, and Simon Fraser University professor Jonathan Moore, cites research that shows “industrialized estuaries depress salmon survival.”

Moore, an aquatic ecologist, explained that the purpose of the letter was to get the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) to properly consider the new data on the importance of the estuary for one of the world’s great salmon watersheds.

“This little local spot supports all of these fish from all around,” said Moore. As a consequence, he said, the LNG terminal could “affect populations of salmon 10 kilometres away or 400 km away in the headwaters. What happens in the ‘Central Station’ affects the whole transportation system for salmon.”

In addition to presenting new biological data, the letter asks that government and industry acknowledge the full impacts of the project on salmon, the watershed, and aboriginal communities that depend on both.



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