Organizers of a truck convoy that churned through fish habitat on the Fraser River near Chilliwack were served with a warning letter by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
No charges will be forthcoming for water crossings through side channels at Gill bar, said fishery officer Bijan Sametz-Asgari, from DFO’s Fraser East conservation and protection office.
“The reason why they are receiving a warning, rather than any charges, is because they are not the only ones doing this activity at Gill, and they had no prior violations,” he said.
Gill bar, the Fraser gravel bar near Gill Road, has a long history of use by different user groups, from campers, to off-roads, fishers, and agate seekers.
Organizers of the truck event were co-operative throughout the investigation, the officer added, and have been actively advocating for protecting fish and fish habitat across North America since the video became a cause of concern a few months ago.
After the video was posted to Facebook showing trucks splashing through the waterways to a catchy soundtrack, it drew criticism from fish advocates, conservationists, and the leader of four-wheeling group.
As part of the investigation, Sametz-Asgari requested a review of the crossing impacts be conducted by a DFO habitat biologist.
The site at Gill bar was inspected and water crossing activity by the trucks was determined to have “disrupted 1,000 square metres of aquatic habitat,” reported the fishery officer. That was contrary to Section 35 (1) of the Fisheries Act, which states that “no person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction” of fish or aquatic habitat.
“DFO is committed to working with the Province of B.C., First Nations and City of Chilliwack to come up with a plan to mitigate the impacts of use in that area,” said Sametz-Asgari. “Many jurisdictions overlap in that location so we’re committed to working with all agencies, stakeholders and rights’ users.”
The fishery officer noted that DFO does not have the authority to lock the gates at Gill bar.
“But we do support a temporary gate closure to protect fish habitat until a more comprehensive plan for the area is developed,” Sametz-Asgari said.
Planning for the future of Gill bar, as a park, has been ongoing quietly for a few years at a table that included the Four Wheel Drive Association of BC (4WDABC), the Fraser Valley Illegal Dumping Alliance, as well as City of Chilliwack, provincial Conservation Officer Service (COS), the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and DFO representatives.
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