"Committed to the recovery 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"


Volunteers on the Go - Part IV

The unusual drought we're experiencing this summer has left creeks and rivers on the east side of Vancouver Island with very low flows, putting pressure on our fish stocks. The situation is so serious that the BC River Forecast Centre is "expecting fish to die in the shallow, warm rivers this summer and are asking people to call the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) if they see any significant numbers of dead fish that could be caused by the hot dry weather." CHEK News broadcast the Centre's concern on July 6 which included a segment with MVIHES Vice President, Pete Law, on our concerns with lows flows in Shelly Creek. Our volunteers jumped into action.

Fish Wranglers to the Rescue

MVIHES volunteer and Director, Dick Dobler, rounded up some of his friends to rescue salmon fry and smolts stranded in shallow pools in the Englishman River and French Creek. So far they have relocated over 5,000 fry and several hundred smolt into areas of the river and creek that improve their chances of survival. This caught the attention of the Freshwater Alliance which has been following fish rescue activities across the island. They sent their student, Katia Bannister, to cover the action and take the photos shown below.












      Looking for fish in French Creek                       Capturing fish with a pole seine net                 Transferring fish from the net to a pail


                                  The Fish Wranglers left to right: Dick Dobler, Doyle Meservia, Randy Walz, Rick Walz 

Katia has posted her experience covering the guys on their quest on her blog. Thank you Katia!


Yellow Fish and Brown is the New Green

yellowfish3This summer we brought back the Yellow Fish Program with a twist. A few years ago MVIHES ran a water conservation program where homeowners pledged to leave more water in the creeks and rivers for the fish by not watering their lawns in the summer, allowing them to go brown. In return, they would get a yellow wooden sign in the shape of a fish to put on their lawn. The neighbours would ask about the signs and the message about water conservation would get passed on. This summer we need water conservation more than ever.  

 Earlier in the year, 96 wooden fish were produced by Kees Luchs, a professional wood artisan. The next and messiest step was getting the fish painted a bright yellow. Two fish painting parties were held this summer as seen in the photos below.








                            Don McConnell puts on a second coat                              Brian Lea "Who me? Spill the paint?"

The twist is we have added a message on the fish: "brown is the new green" to make the transition from a green lawn to a brown lawn a cool trend. The other fish painters included Sue Wilson, Pat Ashton, Catherine Watson and Barb Riordan.                                                                                                                                                                                          Shelley Goertzen shows off her new gold highlights                                                                                     



A few of the yellow fish signs were given to people who made the pledge at the Shelly Creek Neighbourhood Information Session on August 28. The session was organized by Pete Law and MVIHES volunteer, Ross Peterson (in the yellow vest) who informed residents on how they can manage rainfall in their yards to benefit Shelly Creek, and included a great demonstration. But that's another story coming soon.




Tagging Fish at the Smolt Trap


Hey, what's happening at the smolt trap?

Our annual smolt trap operation on Shelly Creek is just one of many sites on Vancouver Island where PIT tagging is occurring as part of an investigation into “survival bottlenecks” of Coho and Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout populations in the Salish Sea.

A “survival bottleneck” is an event that drastically reduces the size of a population. In this case we are referring to the recent declines in Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead  populations in the Salish Sea. The bottlenecks that are drastically reducing the size of these fish populations are believed to occur in their    Smolt Trap on Shelly Creek  - photo taken before pandemic                                                                first year in the ocean. Yet little is known about their first year of marine life and what impacts predation, competition, and climate change have on them.

A Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tagging program is one of the tools the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) and BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF) are using to examine the first year of marine life and to follow fish throughout their life cycle. A PIT tag is a very small metal tag implanted into the abdomen of a salmon or steelhead juvenile. Each tag contains a unique code with information about the fish, like the species, age, date and location of where it was tagged. When a tagged fish swims over antenna arrays that have been installed across the bottom of creeks and rivers, the code is picked up and stored by the arrays so the movements of individuals can be tracked. Scanner technology employed at cleaning tables at high-traffic recreational fishing landing sites will pick up the codes of captured tagged fish and provide information on exploitation rates. Routine scanning for expelled tags at heron rookeries and sites where seals and sealions hang out will provide information on predation rates. Tagged fish that survive to spawn will be scanned as they return to the rivers and creeks of origin.



The goal is to tag over 50,000 wild and hatchery juvenile Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead throughout the Salish Sea region each year for the next four years. That’s a lot of fish!. The Englishman River is just one of many rivers where fish will be tagged. And since Shelly Creek is a tributary of the Englishman, and it’s where we operate our smolt trap each spring, the Coho and Steelhead we capture and count in our trap are being tagged by BCCF before they are released. The photo to the right shows a Coho captured at our smolt trap that is about to receive a PIT tag.  


Thea Rodgers and Thomas Negrin from BCCF are injecting the teeny tiny tags into the teeny tiny fish that we capture and count (see photos below). Good thing these young people are handling the job because most of us "slightly older" folk would probably inject those tags right into our thumbs. Imagine what that could do to a 5G system.



                    Implanting PIT tag into fish abdomen                                                                Scanner for reading PIT tags


Device for implanting PIT tags (I think I'd prefer a vaccine, thank you very much)                

By revealing key survival bottlenecks for Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead, strategies can be developed that may improve survival. To learn more, read this excellent brochure by PSF Bottlenecks Survival Study



The Parksville Rain Garden

parksvilleraingardengroupBack in 2012, MVIHES and the City of Parksville built a rain garden in front of the newly expanded fire hall. The project was funded with grants from The Nature Trust of BC and Pacific Salmon Foundation. The purpose of the rain garden is to collect the rain running off the fire hall parking lot and, like nature, hold some of it in the soil to water the plants while the rest filters through sand where it slowly percolates into the ground. From there, the water recharges groundwater aquifers and contributes to stream flow in dry periods.The captured runoff can contain dirt, fertilizer, chemicals, oil and other pollutants which are filtered out in the rain garden. Representatives of the city and MVIHES attended the ceremonial opening of the new rain garden in front of the Parksville Fire Hall, as seen in the above photo.                 

Faye Smith who was the MVIHES Coordinator at the time (wearing a pink sweater in the above photo) commented that “Rainwater pouring into storm drains from our streets, parking lots and other hard surfaces has a devastating effect on our streams and shorelines. Not only does the pollution in the water harm fish and other aquatic life, the volume of water that flows through the pipes during a heavy rainfall causes erosion and destroys critical habitat.” Faye was a strong supporter of rain gardens and hoped Parksville would become a city of rain gardens.

The garden includes local native vegetation and was meant to grow into a natural looking, manicured green area. The key word being "manicured". In 2020, our Vice President, Peter Law, realized the rain garden had grown into a impenetrable jungle and was far from attractive. You could lose your dog in there.







                                                         2012                                                                          2020

Pete sought the advice of Master Gardeners John and June Densienger from Bowser (volunteers at Milner Gardens) for pruning the tangled, overgrown assortment of red-osier dogwood, baldhip rose, red currant, Indian plum, kinnickinnick, juniper, soft-stemmed bulrush, and sword ferms, while removing invasive species like reed canary grass, ivy, and that dreaded Himalayan blackberry.

On March 17, 2021 a team of volunteers working under Covid-19 protocols gathered at the Fire Hall with pruners, shovels, and rakes to give the rain garden a good manicure. Thank goodness someone thought to bring a machete. Photos of volunteers in action are below.


 Ifoundasign  thesign









Volunteers Jo McIlveen and her husband Doug Herchmer provided a truck and trailer for hauling the cuttings to a friend's farm in French Creek. Four truck and trailer loads were hauled away over the course of two days, plus a load in Pete's truck. See photos below for examples of a load.











The photo to the right shows much improvement but the rain garden needs another day's work. Due to the additional Public Health recommendations recently implemented for Covid-19, further work on the rain garden has been postponed for now. In the meantime, many thanks to our volunteers: Pat Ashton, Dick Dobler (Machete Man), Shelley Goertzen, Doug Herchmer, Mike Jessen, Pete Law, Jo McIlveen, Barb Riordan, Catherine Watson and Sue Wilson.  See ya next time!