Wild Border Watersheds

About the Nass

The Nass River watershed is one of the most important salmon watersheds on the Pacific Coast of North America. Known as the “River of Abundance”, in reference to its large runs of salmon and eulachon, the Nass flows 380 km/240 miles from the Coast Mountains to Portland Inlet, along the way absorbing the flow of its major tributaries, the Bell-Irving, Meziadin, and Cranberry Rivers. The majority of the Nass watershed is in the traditional territory of the Nisga’a First Nation, which signed the first modern day Treaty settlement in British Columbia in 2000. Gitanyow, Skii Km Lax Ha, and the Tahltan First Nation also have portions of their traditional territory within the watershed, which supports highly productive commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries.


Within the Nass, in-season fisheries management is considered to have improved significantly in the period leading up to and since the ratification of the Nisga’a Treaty, and salmon stock assessments are considered to be among the best in the world. While eulachon runs are now virtually nonexistent on many rivers on the Pacific coast, the Nass River still sustains a viable subsistence eulachon fishery. Steelhead fishing is excellent in several Nass River tributaries, and much of the watershed is important habitat for moose, black and grizzly bears. 

Threats to Conservation

While the Nass watershed is not strictly speaking a transboundary watershed, several industrial development projects in the tranboundary region could impact the long-term health of the watershed. The proposed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell mine would build two large tailings dams in the Bell-Irving drainage, creating a long-term risk to downstream water quality and fish habitat. The Northwest Transmission Line would impact wildlife and potentially pose a risk to water quality and fish habitat, primarily because its power delivery will support multiple mines, almost all of which propose to truck ore concentrate through the Nass watershed, greatly increasing industrial traffic and the risk of accidents, and posing a risk to moose and grizzly bear populations.

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