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UPDATE with VIDEO Nature Conservancy of Canada Purchases Carey Island – “Sensitive Area”

Fraser Valley — British Columbia’s iconic salmon now have more protected spawning habitat in the lower Fraser River, thanks to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) conservation acquisition of Carey Island.

The Carey Island Conservation Area protects 248 hectares of land and seasonally flooded side channels in the Fraser River. The island is located between Gill Bar and Jesperson.

Located near Chilliwack, in an ecologically important area known as the Heart of the Fraser, Carey Island and its gravel channels offer calm and crucial spawning and rearing habitat for the river’s fish and aquatic species.  

Environmentalist Ross Aikenhead posted to social media: I was involved with some of the discussions about Gill rd and had no idea how important and environmentally sensitive this area is.

NCC raised the necessary funds to purchase the 613 acre (248 hectare) island, with funding contributions from Environment and Climate Change Canada, through the Canada Nature Fund, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Sitka Foundation, Aqueduct Foundation, Collings Stevens Family Foundation, Rudy North and numerous other individual and anonymous donors.   

Diking, ditching and other modifications have altered more than 90 per cent of the Fraser River’s shoreline between Hope and the Salish Sea, leaving very little natural and undisturbed habitat for fish and other aquatic species that rely on the river for some or all of their life cycle.  

Carey Island is one of the few remaining privately held lands in the region that has not been diked, allowing its side channels and gravel bars to fill with water during the spring snowmelt. Chinook, pink and sockeye salmon have all been documented in the channels around and through Carey Island. These gravel beds are also some of the most important spawning habitat for the threatened white sturgeon.  

As the most populous region in BC, the Lower Mainland is under immense pressure from development. Carey Island itself has a recent history of small-scale farming, though pockets of mature cedar and Douglas-fir remain. Conserving this island will prevent further land conversion and ensure that the shorelines remain intact for the many species that rely on these habitats. 

The conservation of Carey Island has long been a priority for supporters of the lower Fraser River’s salmon runs, with groups like the Heart of the Fraser coalition advocating for its protection. The Pelólxw Tribe, which includes the Cheam, Skwá and Kwaw-kwaw-a-pilt First Nations, is actively working to restore the resilience of aquatic habitat within this stretch of the Lower Fraser. NCC is exploring opportunities to collaborate with the Pelólxw Tribe in support of their vision for stewardship of the area, which prioritizes both ecological and cultural values. 

2024 Nature Conservancy of Canada Purchases Carey Island – Photo by Fernando Lessa

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