Old Masset and non-profit step up to restore hard-hit Yakoun

Old Massett Village Council and a new non-profit are stepping up efforts to restore salmon in the Yakoun and Mamin Rivers.

Old Massett Village Council and a new non-profit are stepping up efforts to restore salmon in the Yakoun and Mamin Rivers.

Hard-hit by post-1950s logging, the Yakoun drains the largest watershed of any river on Haida Gwaii.

Since 1978, the Marie Lake fish hatchery run by the OMVC has worked to rebuild salmon stocks in both the Yakoun and the nearby Mamin.

Other projects have focused on restoring habitat after a generation of careless logging damaged the river beds and banks, or choked them with log jams.

“This isn’t quick,” says John Disney, Old Massett’s economic development officer.

“Fixing salmon habitat isn’t a one-off it’s something you have to keep at.”

The OMVC recently secured $220,000 for restoration work through DFO’s Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program.

To lead the project, the OMVC chose Bart Simmons, whose Vancouver-based Quillicum Environmental Services has overseen 14 similar projects in coastal B.C.

The plan is to slowly replace the brush and alders now growing by the rivers with spruce, hemlock and other conifers that can better stabilize the banks and slow the current when they fall.

Comparing photos of the Yakoun and unlogged stretches of the Tlell River, Disney pointed out how the Yakoun floods its banks after a heavy rain while the Tlell is shored up by large conifers and slowed by a big spruce that fell into the current.

“An old tree will sit in there for 100 years, and the river working its way around it slows it down,” said Disney, comparing photos of the Yakoun and unlogged stretches of the Tlell River where big spruce trees hold the banks or fall in to create potential spawning grounds.

Disney said it can be difficult to secure grants for restorations work, especially when it’s long-term.

But besides grants, the project is looking to build support through the Friends of Yakoun River Society—a non-profit society that started last December with support from islands fishing lodge owners Rick Grange of West Coast Fishing Club and Rick Vaughn of Langara Lodge.

Disney hopes the group can do for the Yakoun River what the Friends of the Marble River did on Vancouver Island—that society raised $1 million and over the next decade restored hundreds of thousands of Spring, Coho, and Chinook salmon to the Marble and six other rivers.

“We are hoping we can get the same thing going here,” he said.