The Skeena is Canada’s second-largest salmon river and harbours all six species of salmon and steelhead. What the Bering Sea is to king crab, the Skeena is to salmon. So when Jonathan Moore read in the environmental assessment application of one Fortune 500 oil and gas company just how few fish the firm’s environmental consultants reported to find at the mouth of the Skeena—the nursery for the watershed’s fish and proposed site for the company’s energy project—he was confounded.
At the time, one of Moore’s graduate students was researching salmon habitat, alongside Skeena First Nations, in the area of the proposed development in northern B.C. Moore was familiar with the area from time spent sampling fish there. “We would catch more fish in one single net haul than their environmental consultants reported seeing all summer,” he says. Moore had recently moved to Vancouver from California to teach and research ecology at SFU. He’d arrived in B.C. excited to live and work in a region that, in contrast to the western states of California, Oregon or Washington, still had thriving wild salmon. Only now he couldn’t help but wonder whether B.C. was about to gamble with its healthiest fish stocks, ignorant of the risks.