salmon spawning

Tzoonie River

Aerial view of Tzoonie River Watershed

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Maximum estimated returns from 1947 to 2018 (retrieved from Department of Fisheries and Oceans, British Columbia) of Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye salmon for Tzoonie River.

Maximum estimated returns from 1947 to 2018 (retrieved from Department of Fisheries and Oceans, British Columbia) of Chum and Pink salmon for Tzoonie River.

The Tzoonie River reaches salt water at the head of Narrows Inlet about 25 kilometers due north of Sechelt. The Strategic Land Use Plan for the shishalh Nation (Draft 2007) notes that the lower portion of Tzoonie River and all of Narrows Inlet form the largest cultural emphasis area within their territory. The Sechelts consider the river to be the largest salmon and anadromous Cutthroat Trout producing system in Sechelt Inlet.

The Tzoonie River once supported five species of salmon, Steelhead, Cutthroat and Dolly Varden. By 1970 the Sockeye, Chinook and Steelhead runs were all but lost. A set of falls 5km from the mouth was blasted in 1975; however these stocks continued to decline. Between 1948 and 1988, Chum returns numbering more than 30,000 occurred eleven times. In 1947, 75,000 Pink were estimated to have arrived to spawn; that number has not been repeated. The maximum Pink escapement from 1986-1994 was 1500. The maximum return for Coho (1989-98) was 250. Within the Jervis Inlet Management Area, specifically Statistical Area 16, the Tzoonie is still considered to be one of the three most important systems for Chum and one of 11 for Pink.

Logging has a long history in the Tzoonie watershed. Large scale mechanized clearcut logging has been underway here since the early 60s. Currently there is very little old growth remaining in the Tzoonie watershed, especially so in the lower elevations. Other activities are now influencing conditions in this watershed; a private run-of-the-river hydro-electric facility on Tyson Creek polluted the main stem of river with heavy sediments and glacial rock flower in February 2010. More run-of-the-river diversions have been proposed and are undergoing a provincial environmental assessment.

A Fish Habitat Assessment Procedure was conducted in 1998 that focused on damage to fish habitat in the main stem and major tributaries. This was followed in 1999 with detailed reach assessments, prescriptions and an examination of barriers to fish passage at culvert-bearing road crossings. That report noted that the watershed was still home to small populations of all 5 species of salmon, Steelhead, Bull Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden. In 2005, Cutthroat trout still existed in Tzoonie Lake. In 2002, the summer run of Steelhead was identified as a special concern and logging was identified has having had a high impact on the species.

Chum returns for the Tzoonie over the last 5 years have been disappointing.

View of Tzoonie River Watershed

Tzoonie watershed circa 1990

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