In a shocking turn of events, a significant number of coho salmon have been found dead at the mouth of Brothers Creek in West Vancouver, Canada. The discovery has left local volunteers and experts bewildered, pointing fingers at a chemical commonly found in tires as the potential culprit. John Barker, a dedicated volunteer with the West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society, described the loss as devastating. This incident has shed light on the urgent need for solutions to prevent further harm to these iconic salmon.
The suspected chemical behind the tragedy is 6PPD-quinone, known to be lethal to coho salmon. This compound, which aids in increasing the longevity of tires, becomes toxic when exposed to sunlight. Although other species like pink and chum salmon seem unaffected, coho salmon are particularly vulnerable to its deadly effects. Water contaminated with this chemical, often collected from streets and deposited into watercourses, poses a significant risk to the health of these fish.
The West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society has suggested that the lack of rainfall may have contributed to the build-up of 6PPD-quinone on roads. When heavy rains finally arrived later in the fall, the compound was flushed into waterways. The already low water levels in streams concentrated the chemical, making it even more harmful to the coho salmon as they arrived to spawn.
To understand the extent of the problem, the society has provided samples of the dead coho fish to Fisheries Department Canada for analysis. Early indications from the department suggest that 6PPD-quinone may indeed be a significant factor in the deaths. The department has previously conducted a study in Washington state which concluded that the compound was likely responsible for the deaths of coho salmon returning to urban streams and rivers in Puget Sound.
Experts have been actively monitoring various creeks across Metro Vancouver, including Brothers Creek, for the presence of 6PPD-quinone. Tanya Brown, a research scientist for the fisheries department, revealed that monitoring during rain events has consistently shown lethal concentrations of the chemical. Research groups are now striving to understand why coho salmon are more susceptible to its effects compared to other salmon species.
In the quest for solutions, John Barker suggests implementing filtration systems to purify run-off water, reducing the presence of harmful chemicals. However, a long-term solution lies in the tire industry finding an alternative to 6PPD-quinone. Michal Majernik, spokesman for the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, acknowledged the industry’s sponsorship of ongoing research on the matter. He noted that changing the composition of tires is a complex process, as it may impact safety and performance. Mr. Majernik also highlighted other possible strategies, such as treating storm water and maintaining proper tire inflation to minimize the release of the chemical.
Although there is a glimmer of hope with the recent arrival of a healthy cohort of coho salmon in creeks, the incident at Brothers Creek serves as a wake-up call. It signals the urgent need for change and collaborative efforts among concerned individuals to protect the fragile ecosystem that salmon rely on for their survival. With time and collective action, it is hoped that alternatives to 6PPD-quinone can be found, sparing the coho salmon from further devastation.
In the spirit of progress and conservation, let us hope that increased awareness and concerted efforts will drive positive change, ensuring the survival of these remarkable coho salmon for generations to come.