07/16/2015 03:09 EDT | Updated 07/16/2016 05:59 EDT

Stuck salmon to be trucked past Seymour River rock slide

Salmon migrating up the Seymour River will be getting a helping hand from the Seymour Hatchery to make it past a massive rock slide that came down in the area last December. 

Hatchery manager Brian Smith told Rick Cluff on The Early Edition that the Seymour Salmonid Society will trap the migrating fish and then truck them either up to the hatchery or in the spawning habitat above the slide.

Smith said that while the coho run usually starts in June, the fish haven't started migrating yet this year because of high water temperatures and low river levels.

"We're not seeing any fish on the river.They're all holding out in Burrard Inlet, and they're going to hold out there as long as they can hoping that the weather conditions are going to change in a favourable way."

Stuck between a rock and a cold place

Smith said this fish population does face certain risks by being out in the open water.

"They're holding out in the colder water, but they're also taking their chances with anglers and predators," he said.

When the fish migrate Smith said 30 coho and over 10 steelhead salmon will be given radio tags and monitored to see just how much the rock slide is a barrier to the fish.

Smith said the urge to spawn will eventually overtake the fish and they will start going up the river. Coho salmon can spawn up until mid-December.

Smith is also concerned that the salmon fry may not be able to make it past the slide and into the ocean. He said the preliminary data on some juvenile salmon the hatchery monitored in the spring does not look favourable.

He said the hatchery may have to trap and move the salmon fry below the slide next year.

"It's a huge endeavour. We're looking at a project of well over a 100 thousand dollars," Smith said. "But if we don't do it we could see a very steady and rapid decline in populations. Also, the high temperatures may have an affect on how successful the spawning season really is."

David Patterson, habitat research biologist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said increased water temperatures threaten the survival and growth of salmon.

"These high temperatures do affect reproductive development. They affect energy consumption rates. They affect their ability to recover from any stress such as fisheries capture well as also alters their behaviour."

To hear the full interview click on the audio labelled: Stymied salmon