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CLINTON, B.C. - A spokeswoman for the Fisheries Department says more experts have joined the effort to determine how salmon in British Columbia's Fraser River can be helped to spawning grounds after a rock slide created a barrier in their journey.

Bonnie Antcliffe says a crew, including geotechnical personnel, is assessing the area near Big Bar by helicopter to gauge safety issues below, where a large chunk of rock fell into the river during a slide last month.

She says federal and provincial experts are working together with First Nations as they consider two main options - moving the rock obstruction or collecting the fish and transporting them upstream by truck or helicopter.

Antcliffe says both options are complex and involve risks and benefits but data from acoustic monitoring devices show some fish, including larger chinook and smaller sockeye, are passing through the pinch in the river.

Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the obstruction poses a threat to both commercial and recreational fisheries as well as First Nations who rely on salmon for both food and ceremonial purposes.

He says the issue is a key priority for the department's Pacific region.

“What has happened up near Big Bar is of great concern to us, to all British Columbians,” he says.

“We're looking at all options including whether we can dislodge the sediment that is created there without causing more problems,” he says. “The banks are not particularly stable so we have to ensure we're not going to create bigger problems. We also, obviously, have to be cognizant of human health and safety issues. We won't put our staff in harm's way in the context of trying to find solutions.”

Wilkinson says a command post has been set up in the community of Lillooet in order to find a solution as soon as possible.

“We will be looking at this expeditiously because there are fish there now that are waiting to pass.”