A young fisher dips her net into the Skeena River in search of eulachons in 2018. (Shannon Lough file photo)

A young fisher dips her net into the Skeena River in search of eulachons in 2018. (Shannon Lough file photo)

High-tech projects to peer into health of Skeena River estuary

Proposals from Shift Environmental compliment ghost-gear retrival project with Lax Kw’alaams

The North Coast Regional District has issued a letter of support for two projects employing the latest technology to gain a deeper understanding of the Skeena River estuary ecosystem.

Nanaimo-based Shift Environmental Technologies (SETI) proposes to accurately measure the extent of eel grass beds at Flor Bank using a combination of drone mapping and side-scan imagery, in addition to a second project of using a sonar camera to estimate eulachon run sizes on the Skeena River this spring.

“Both these proposals are novel and employ the newest of technology with the hopes of a deeper understanding of ecosystem services of the estuary,” Robert Milne, SETI’s field operations manger said in a letter to the NCRD.

READ MORE: Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Eulachon populations, an important traditional food of many B.C. First Nations, crashed in the late 1990s and are still struggling to recover.

SETI came up with the project ideas during current work with the Lax Kw’alaams Fishing Enterprise to locate and remove lost and abandoned fishing gear, or ghost gear, using side-scan radar throughout crab-fishing Area B. The area contains high concentrations of ghost gear in sensitive marine habitat that sees some of the heaviest crabbing activity in the province.

SETI hopes to expand the program with other First Nations, as they have the required assets, infrastructure and capacity to keep the projects running and take a leadership role in designing and delivering new industry practices.

The project includes three key goals; a survey and retrieval operations with First Nation fishers to reduce the net load of lost gear in the marine environment; the development of a Pilot Recycling Center to re-use and recycle waste items; and to determine the feasibility of creating value added products from recovered waste, using a circular-economy model.

Lax Kw’alaams Fishing Enterprises is the operational lead for the project with administrative planning and operational support from SETI, alongside local partners Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA), Port Edward Harbour Authority (PEHA) and DP World Inc.

READ MORE: ‘A grave concern’: European green crabs discovered on Haida Gwaii



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

ConservationScience

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