"Committed to the restoration of wild Pacific salmon in mid Vancouver
Island watersheds through habitat restoration and community engagement"
"Committed to the restoration of wild Pacific salmon in mid Vancouver
Island watersheds through habitat restoration and community engagement"

Newsletter Volume 4

Written December 20, 2016

2016 Salmon Counts for the Englishman River
by Pete Law

salmon1DFO Stock Assessment Division provides an annual “preliminary relative abundance estimate” of all species of salmon that spawn on the east coast of Vancouver Island. For this Newsletter, we have separated out the estimates for the Englishman River (see table below). The last bulletin we (MVI) received from Nicolette Watson (DFO Stock Assessment Biologist) was on the 8th of November, so the Chum and Coho estimates do not include fish spawning in late November and December. Salmon Counts in the Clay Young Channel are completed by VIU and are not reflected in the numbers below. A final salmon escapement estimate from DFO will be completed in January of 2017.
One comment about the salmon escapement counts this year on the Englishman River is that the river’s flows from early October until early December made the counting of fish very difficult.
The 2016 “Observations to Date” from DFO, for salmon escapements had the following comments:


Chinook – fish abundance was near normal for Hatchery Rivers –however monitoring of runs in wild rivers was poor this year due to high flows throughout the fall (including the Englishman).


Coho – Due to high river flows this fall, inspections/counts have been difficult. DFO predict that Coho runs should be better than average this fall, with most fish spawning in the upper reaches of rivers.


Chum – Abundance of spawners exceeded forecasts throughout Vancouver Island rivers, which is also true for Englishman River. Chum were observed in high numbers in the main stem by MVIHES volunteers and in tributaries (Centre and Shelly). Chum salmon carcasses were abundant in the river, including at the Orange Bridge (see photo)


Pinks – Pink spawners were lower than normal in Island steams. The run in the Englishman was very disappointing this year.


Sockeye - Fewer Sockeye returned this year to their -traditional streams. Englishman River generally sees a few Sockeye every year, however none were counted this year.

System Englishman River Survey Type/ Count Type Enumeration Conducted by: Date of Last Count Number of Surveys Total Count 2016 Last Years Count 4- year Average 12 Year Average
Coho Periodic/PL+D* St AD/BCCF** 12-Oct 5 2,285 2,557 6,790 3,610
Chinook Periodic/PL+D St Ad/BCCF 01 Nov 5 249 553 800 710
Chum Periodic/PL+D St AD/BCCF 01 Nov 5 6,700 4,463 27,620 16,350
Pink Periodic/PL+D St AD/BCCF 12- Oct 4 415 14,030 5,380
Sockeye Periodic/PL+D St AD/BCCF 12 Oct 4 0 25 5 4

*Periodic/PL+D – the count of salmon involves a survey of the river by snorkelling from the Englishman River Falls to Plumber Road over a day. The numbers shown are a cumulative “peak” count live spawners during the six surveys, plus dead fish observed.
** StAd/BCCF – DFO Stock Assessment staff and British Columbia Conservation Foundation Staff

 

Adventures in Water Sampling
by Elaine Lefebvre

As many of you already know, volunteers for MVIHES do water sampling in area streams for the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) in August and October. So, on a typical Tuesday morning in October, our volunteers met up at 9:00 at the Orange Bridge at the south end of Parksville. We did our readings under the bridge, then headed out to our other locations to obtain samples: two more in Parksville, three in Errington, and three off Island Timberlands' logging roads.
This time, we got a bit of a surprise when we salmon3arrived at Morison Creek in Errington, as for the first time in our experience, we saw salmon there. We got caught off guard, and so did they, as we almost stepped on them: a group of about 10 salmon were in a quiet offshoot of the creek, which was a raging current. We suspected that they were Coho, because of their size and coloring, and female, because of their streamlined heads. They did not seem to be spawning, as none of the pebbles underneath them had been swept clean in preparation for dropping their eggs; instead, they seemed to be resting, likely in preparation for the rest of their journey. We noted that a couple of salmon had white noses, so they had already started the long process of dying. At our sudden approach, they took off with a lot of spinning and jumping about, then, when they realized we meant them no harm, they returned. A couple of show-offs continued to race, jump and skim across the water in front of us, but then they all settled down and, I think, had a nap.
At our last water sampling location at Centre Creek, we again noted salmon, churning their way upstream; considering how fast the current was against them, we were so impressed with their strength. At the same time, we realized we would have to cross this stream to do one of our measurements, a task that is not for the faint-hearted. The rocks are slippery and if you fall, it could hurt; nevertheless, our stalwart leader, Bernd, and one of our agreeable new volunteers forged ahead, crossed the creek, and after sampling, returned without incident, except for a feisty salmon that tried to swim up Bernd's pant leg and into his boot.

Photo of restored fish habitat in Centre Creek

It was such a pleasure to see these wild salmon; how many people in Canada actually get to view these runs? These are very powerful and determined fish, and when you see the effort they put into making their way to their spawning grounds, you are impressed. It is also nice to know that we are doing our part to help improve their numbers, and seeing them in the streams we are monitoring is such a rewarding experience.

 

salmon5Shelly Creek: Parksville’s Last Wild Stream
is in Need of a Helping Hand
by Pete Law

Shelly Creek has been the focus of attention from members of MVIHES as part of the “Watershed Health and You” monitoring program. Part of this attention has been smolt trapping and release, which has proven that Shelly Creek is an important refuge for Coho juveniles as they overwinter in the wetland near Martindale Road in Parksville.
During a recent conversation I had with a City of Parksville employee, he referred to Shelly Creek as the “last wild stream” passing through the Parksville city limits. I thought about that statement and realized that yes, the City, in it’s bid to provide space for development over the years, has buried two streams, Romney and Carey Creeks. Hopefully this is not what is in store for Shelly Creek!
Concern about the creek’s health began to surface in 2013, when a report on water quality sampling for the RDN Community Watershed monitoring program indicated that Shelly Creek’s water quality was the worst in the RDN. MVIHES launched a creek assessment project aimed at finding out why.

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Beginning in the summer of 2014, our members began a systematic study of the creek’s physical and biological features, using a method developed by the Government of BC called the Urban Salmon Habitat Program. In 2015, we completed the survey in the upper reaches of the creek (above Highway 19). With up to 20 members contributing hundreds of hours measuring habitats in conditions that resembled a jungle, we now had a better idea of what was happening to Shelly Creek.
salmon8Two of the major findings of the study were:
1. The creek’s pools between Blower Road and Wildgreen Way have been filled in with sediments as a result of erosion of the creek’s stream banks from high (winter) flows.

2. Much of the 2 km of creek above Highway 19 has been excavated. This has resulted in significant changes to the natural hydrology of the watershed.

Click here to read the  complete report, Shelly Creek Stream Assessment and Fish Habitat Survey Report-2014 and 2015.
In an effort to understand how these changes to the stream’s hydrology can be modified to improve the stability of the creek, and hence the water quality, MVIHES hired one of British Columbia’s experts on water engineering, Jim Dumont, P.Eng., to study the creek and provide us with a report. He has provided us with his first review (condition of the watershed) and is preparing his second review (what can be done to restore it) early in the new year. We will provide the results of his work when we have a complete assessment.

salmon9DID YOU KNOW
Whirligig Beetles have Built-in Bifocals?
By Barb Riordan

If you have ever seen shiny black beetles swimming in circles on the surface of a pond or creek, then you have seen Whirligig beetles. These beetles live half in the water and half out so that they can hunt small insects that fall onto the water's surface, or dive underwater to catch other insects.
So how do they manage to see above and beneath the water surface at the same time? Simple: their eyes have been split in half, with the upper half sitting above the water on top of the head, and the other half looking down into the water from the bottom of the head. Kind of the same idea as our bifocals, except that we can only focus on one thing at a time. If we had eyes like a Whirligig beetle, we could read this newsletter and watch TV at the same time, or pour ourselves a beer without missing a second of the hockey game, or look at our poker hand while studying our opponent’s face. Cool! This is another example of the genius of adaptation in one of the small, but not insignificant creatures that lives in our waters. Perhaps, one day, we humans will develop Whirligig bifocals; meanwhile, we will have to settle for store-bought vision.


Best Fishes for the Holiday Season and hope to see you in the New Year.
From Faye and the gang at MVIHES

 

 

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