Information booth on recreational boating survey impact on Kalamalka and Wood Lakes was one of the exhibits at the Environmental Flow Needs water management conference in Kelowna this week. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Ignoring climate change poses potential catastrophe for B.C.

Fisheries scientist says ‘extraordinary challenges’ in water management lie ahead

Environmental disaster will be our global reckoning if “we continue on our current path” regarding response to climate change, says a leading Canadian fisheries research scientist.

Kim Hyatt said fish are already being forced to adapt to the current impact of climate change and how it affects water flows and temperatures, and if left unchecked that adaptation will continue at an evolutionary rate unprecedented in history with potentially dire consequences.

“Scientists are already saying we are looking at a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius at a minimum, and the likelihood is that if we continue with the business as usual schedule we are at now globally, it will be something in the two to four degree increase,” Hyatt said.

RELATED: Aquatic species surviving climate change

“That may not sound like a whole lot, but of you warm up the ocean by two to four degrees, it will take centuries for that flywheel to spin down as the impacts play out. For fish, it will influence their productivity and distort their abundance.”

Hyatt’s expressed his thoughts on global warming as one of the speakers at the two-day 2018 Environmental Flow Needs Conference on water management science, policy and structure held this week at the Coast Capri Hotel in Kelowna.

Experts from agriculture and environmental management community along with First Nation representatives attended the conference, which featured speakers from across Canada and the U.S.

Hyatt said sustaining river, lake and creek flows are not the only issue presented by climate change.

“It’s not just good enough to have those water flows. Quality of flow also matters as much as quantity. The (temperature) regimes in streams and rivers in B.C. will dictate along with the amount of water what fish will be able to live in,” he said.

He cited the example of 2015, when the salmon run mortality en route to the Columbian River system was 97 per cent, attributed to a 1.5 degree water temperature increase recorded the latter week of June and first 10 days of July.

“By 2070 that could the new norm so the challenges we face in how to intervene and sustain that salmon run will be extraordinary…we need to think outside the box and bring other people of expertise into this discussion who are clearly not present right now in this room.”

RELATED: Suzuki—Emergency order seeks to protect resident orcas

Hyatt noted the collaborative efforts involving the Okanagan Nation Alliance and environmental agencies and groups to revive the sockeye salmon run in the Okanagan River, much of which is generated from the Columbia River basin.

‘The end point we often forget is one of human systems, the infrastructure we have built to manage and exploit water resources and extract benefits from them has to change. From ocean fishing fleet to water use regulations, we have to look at ways to identify solutions to these problems and those solutions will be challenging.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, past chief of the Penticton Indian Band and past chair of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, also spoke at the conference about facing the difficult decisions climate change will force us to confront.

Phillip said already Okanagan Valley residents are starting to look at spring in the Okanagan in terms of how bad the flooding will be, or at summer for how bad the forest fire situation will be.

While he voiced how impressed he was with the knowledge and expertise gathered for the conference, he said the time to accumulate data research can lead to the paralysis by analysis approach, which sometimes puts off confronting difficult issues facing future management of our environment resources.

RELATED: Okanagan River sockeye run down in 2017

“There are some controversial decisions that we face and as has been the case with our people for centuries, we need to collaborate and discuss those issues and reach consensus on how to go forward. What I have found is that when you are taking flak on all sides on a given issue, it usually means you are right over the target of what needs to be addressed,” Phillip said.

Dawn Machin, a biologist with ONA, said collaboration remains a key to combatting the influence of climate change on our fisheries.

“I would not say collaboration is solely responsible, but it has contributed to the sockeye revival in the Okanagan River that saw less than 2,000 fish spawning in the mid-1990s to where we see above 200,000 today. How we got there took commitment and a willingness with Department of Fisheries, the province and the utility district in the U.S. to work with us.

“Our commitment is we live here as we have for generations and we are tied to the water and its resources. We can’t be Okanagan people if we have to leave…that is why we push and fight to preserve our fish and our water.

“We can all work together and we get further when we do all work together. It takes a willingness for everyone to play a part, to listen and keep an open mind and open heart. We have to stay connected to our land…to be responsible and honour and protect these resources.”



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A view of the Burton Flats area. Photo: Submitted
Work progresses on man-made wetland near Burton

The project is already seeing modest results

A Spooks on Zukes actor from a previous year. Photo: Betsy Kline
Zombie apocalypse coming to Castlegar

High school students staging scary food drive

Katrine Conroy
Katrine Conroy declared winner in Kootenay West

Preliminary results put NDP candidate firmly in the lead.

There are few details but neighbours a Second Avenue house in Chilliwack say a huge police presence descended on the home after shots were heard. (File photo)
RCMP looking for witnesses in $5000 auto part theft

Two catalytic converters valued around $5000 were taken Oct. 22

Mayor Bruno Tassone was presented with a poppy to launch the Castlegar Legion’s annual poppy campaign. Photo: Submitted
Castlegar Legion kicks off poppy campaign

Remembrance Day ceremonies will look different this year

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Most Read