Big Ziploc bags of slithery, writhing salmon fry were handed out like Halloween candy Thursday afternoon at Wolf Creek.
Darlene Caldwell knelt by the water’s edge and paused to look at the 100 or so tiny fish bumping their faces into the side of the plastic bag before spilling the fish out into the creek.
Caldwell is the Canadian Wildlife Federation director for Nova Scotia and was one of several directors on hand to help release 10,000 chinook salmon into the water.
Only one per cent of these fish will ever make their way back to Wolf Creek. The rest will die en route to the Bering Sea or they will provide a meal for a sea lion, whale or human.
Overfishing of salmon and poor management of waterways have led to vastly depleted fish stocks.
“We’re rebuilding fish stocks in the Yukon and this is just one part of the process,” said Gord Zealand of the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
About 50 representatives from the Canadian Wildlife Federation were at Wolf Creek yesterday to help release chinook. They’re in Whitehorse this weekend for the federation’s annual AGM, which this year, highlights the issue of climate change and its effect on water systems.
Earlier in the day, a talk by Rick Janowicz, hydrologist for the Yukon government, touched on local climate-change impacts in the Yukon.
“The Yukon is a great region to be in to see how (climate) changes are taking effect firsthand.”
Janowicz described how temperatures and water levels in the Yukon have significantly changed as a result of fossil fuels being mercilessly pumped into the atmosphere.
“Climate change is a reality here,” said Janowicz. “Ten years ago, we thought changes were due to weather variability, but it’s a reality now, physically and politically.”
Average summer temperatures have increased by two to six degrees Celsius in the Yukon while winter temperatures have gone up by four to six degrees said Janowicz.
And increased snowfall in the last few winters coupled with melting permafrost have drastically changed water levels in the Yukon.
“2007 was a phenomenal year.
It was a warmer year and a hugely wet year … the winter snowpack was an all-time record; it was 60 per cent higher than above normal,” he said.
The increased moisture led to the largest flood Marsh Lake had seen in 50 years. The flooding lasted for 67 days.
A field trip to Marsh Lake with Canadian Wildlife Federation representatives confirmed just how devastating the flood of 2007 was.
“There were 10 million gallons of water pumped out of the Marsh Lake area that year,” said Tami Hamilton, a conservationist and volunteer with Canadian Wildlife Fund.
“Millions of dollars went into protecting the homes around Marsh Lake,” she said.
Large pumps were brought in to move the excess water into nearby marshes and lakes. The water level that year was 1.2 metres higher than average flooding.
“It was a climate change situation that couldn’t have been prevented by local measures,” said Hamilton.
“Adaptability is the name of the game now.”
Flooding in the Marsh Lake area will remain a concern for residents in the area said Hamilton. But a flood this year isn’t necessarily in the cards.
“This year we’ve had hot temperatures and sublimation but factors aren’t yet pointing to another flood,” she said.
It will be an area to look out for in the future said Paul Jacobs, director of the Yukon for the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
“It did bring concern to us. We want to monitor it to see if it gets worse and worse,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs realizes that curbing the effects of climate change in the Yukon will be challenging.
“Even if we killed all vehicle emissions here in the Yukon, it wouldn’t make a difference since there’s more than 6 million vehicles in Canada. But every little step helps in the long run,” he said.
Contact Vivian Belik at email@example.com