salmon spawning

Homathko River

Aerial view of Homathko River Watershed

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Maximum estimated returns from 1929 to 2018 (retrieved from Department of Fisheries and Oceans, British Columbia) of Chum and Coho salmon species for Homathko River.

Maximum estimated returns from 1929 to 2018 (retrieved from Department of Fisheries and Oceans, British Columbia) of Chinook and Pink salmon species for Homathko River.

The Homathko River system is one of three major watersheds emptying into the head of Bute Inlet in the northernmost part of the Sunshine Coast Forest District. The peak historical escapements were 15,000 Coho, 7,500 Pink, 75,000 Chum, 15,000 Chinook and 7,500 Steelhead.

Logging began in the early 1900s and continues today. In 1983, fish sampling was undertaken as part of BC Hydro’s interest in building a dam upstream of Waddington Canyon. A Watershed Restoration Program proposal (1994) noted the very high fish and wildlife values and identified some of the damage resulting from the logging. This resulted (1997-98) in an overview assessment and preliminary fish assessment on the lower Homathko. Homathko Estuary Provincial Park and the Homathko River-Tatlayoko Protected Area were created in the same years.

A Level 2 Watershed Assessment (1999) was conducted within the Chilcotin plateau region of the watershed where Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden are present. These species, as well as Cutthroat Trout, are also present in the lower section of the river; the presence of Bull Trout was confirmed in 2001. The most recent readily available maximum escapement (1988-97) is 100 Pink and 2,000 Chinook, 6,000 Coho (1986-2000) and 18,000 Chum (1989-99).

The river continues to be a major Chum and Pink producer (2009). Nine Grizzly Bear Wildlife Habitat Areas were designated in 2008.

In 2009, a report noted the world class nature of the Cutthroat and Bull Trout recreational fishery and identified concern with the proposed private run-of-the-river hydroelectric projects in the area. In their Statement of Intent, filed with the BC Treaty Commission, the Homalco First Nation (Wxemalhkwu) has identified Bute Inlet as part of their traditional territory; there are three reserves near the estuary. A confidential Impact Benefit Agreement, which establishes a framework under which both the Homalco and an independent power producer (Plutonic) work together to advance projects within the territory, was reached in 2011.

View of Homathko Rive into Bute Inlet

The Homathko River - photo courtesy of Damion Gillis

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