"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"

Spoiler Alert: Sand Lance Found on Beach

sandlanceYou may recall that on June 22 and 23, a group of us met on San Pareil beach for a training session on mapping and documenting spawning grounds for forage fish species (surf smelt and sand lance). Our instructor was Ramona de Graaf, Independent Researcher and Co-ordinator of the Shore Spawner's Alliance, who walked us through the process of collecting samples from the top few centimetres of the beach sand and gravel, within the intertidal zone where forage fish typically spawn. We learned how to  isolate the finest sand particles, where the eggs and embryos are found, by running our samples through a series of sieves to remove the coarser materials. This was followed by "winnowing" the sand samples, a process similar to panning for gold,  to bring any eggs and embryos to the surface. The top layer of sand in the pan was collected with a spoon, placed in a jar and taken to our CSI (Crazy Scientists In-training) laboratory.  We placed small portions of the sand samples under microscopes to search for eggs and embryos. Unfortuately, we didn't find any in our samples.

Not to be discouraged, we decided that we just needed to hone our skills. On December 5, we descended upon San Pareil beach with equipment and data sheets in hand, determined to collect some eggs and embryos to prove to the world the beach is a forage fish spawning ground. And what did we find? Sand lance scattered across the beach, suggesting that sand lance had been spawning there the night before. Well that was easy. Who needs to go through the process of looking for tiny eggs and embryos in the sand when the fish are just going to throw themselves up on the beach for us to prove they were there. And just to make sure  the sand lance were there for the purpose of spawning, our CSI guy (Crazy Scientist In-charge), Pete Law, dissected 13  specimens. He found 3 females with ripe eggs, 1 female that was spawned out, and nine males with milt.(For those of you who enjoy that sort of thing, the morbid results of Pete's dissections are in the photo below.)

Why did some of the sand lance die on the beach? Our hypothesis at the moment is that we had  very cold temperatures the night before and the fish, being cold-blooded, sucuumbed to the unseasonable temperatures. We are checking with Ramona and other forage fish groups to determine if our hypothesis is correct and if anyone else has experienced this occurence. In the meantime, we will continue to sample the beaches in our area for evidence of forage fish spawning.


A Place of Honour for Faye Smith on Centre Creek


Nov. 2, 2018 was a significant day for Oceanside conservationists. They gathered at the mouth of Centre Creek, a salmon-bearing tributary of the Englishman River to dedicate a plaque in honor of Faye Smith. Faye, a long time conservationist, died in the spring of 2017, leaving a huge legacy. She was well known for the yellow boots she wore while working on local streams – boots that will be hard to fill.

Fayememorial2The memorial plaque was placed on a large boulder near the stream by TimberWest with whom Faye and the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES) partnered on restoration projects to improve salmon production.

Faye’s friends from a number of organizations, including TimberWest, Island Timberlands, MVIHES, Qualicum Beach Streamkeepers, Friends of French Creek and others paid their respects and planted trees in Faye’s honor. Witnessing the event were coho salmon spawners, a bald eagle, a pair of kingfishers and a few dippers. As someone said: “Faye would be pleased with the appearance of some of the wildlife that she so passionately loved and respected”.

MVIHES wishes to thank TimberWest (particularly Molly Hudson), and Island Timberlands for this demonstration of appreciation and respect for a valued conservationist and friend.”

For more information, contact
Peter Law, President
Mid-Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society
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Annual General Meeting


10:00 a.m, Saturday, September 8, 2018

Parksville Community Centre, 132 E. Jensen Avenue, Parksville


Keynote Speaker:  Ramona de Graaf

"More Than Just a Pretty Beach:
Marine Shorelines as Critical Habitats"


Guest speaker, Ramona de Graaf, BSc. MSc., Research Coordinator and Consultant is a marine biologist, forage fish specialist, marine educator and researcher. Ramona is advising MVIHES on the importance of mapping our beaches, identifying and mapping Forage Fish habitat. MVIHES will begin mapping forage fish habitat at local beaches along San Pariel.




We encourage everyone interested in protecting the health of our watersheds to attend the AGM and hear Ramona's presentation.






Sand Lance


Surf Smelt

Mapping Forage Fish Spawning Sites

ForageFish5On June 22 and 23, volunteers assembled on a beach in San Pariel to learn how to identify and map forage fish spawning sites under the instruction of Ramona de Graaf, Independent Researcher and Co-ordinator of the Shore Spawner's Alliance. The BC Shore Spawners Alliance is an alliance of community groups working to document and protect the intertidal spawning habitat of forage fish, specifically surf smelt (top in picture) and Pacific sand lance (bottom in picture). So what are forage fish and why are they so important? 

The following is from the Islands Trust Fund website.  

"Forage fish are small fish that travel in large schools and are a food source or 'forage' for larger fish and marine mammals. Forage fish, including Pacific herring, Pacific sand lance and surf smelt form the cornerstone of marine food webs. They, and other forage fish species play an important role in the diets of Humpback  Whales, Porpoise, Sea Lions, Seals, Salmon and marine birds.

From sand grains to whales, it's all connected. Surf smelt and Pacific sand lance lay tiny eggs (1mm) on pebble and sand beaches just below the high-tide line - an area called the intertidal zone. The number and health of these beaches play an important role in the lives of the salmon, whales and marine birds that rely on each generation of forage fish for food."

Our actions on and around these beaches, like shoreline development, can impact forage fish habitat, so it is important to identify and map these areas.


We first selected three 30 m stretches of fine sand and pebbles, and scooped up the top layer along each 30 m line to make a sample. The co-ordinates for the start and finish of each stretch were taken with a GPS so that they can be placed on a map. 

Then we seived and "winnowed" the sand samples to bring any eggs and embryos to the surface. This is a technique similar to panning for gold except no one has been able to retire on it. The top layer of sand, where we hoped the eggs and embryos surfaced, was collected from each pan and put in a jar.



The samples were taken back to our makeshift mad-scientist laboratory where we got to play CSI. No, not really. We placed small portions of the sand samples under microscopes to search for eggs and embryos. The photo below shows what the eggs and embryos look like under the microscope.







We hope to sample and map the stretch of coast line from Parksville to Qualicum Beach. Should be loads of fun and who knows, we may just find gold.



An Exciting Season of Smolt Counting Comes to an End

 Just like that song by Andrea Bocelli, it's "Time to Say Goodbye".....to the smolt trap for another year. On May 26, volunteers arrived with electric drills, trucks and a trailer to dismantle and take away the smolt trap that had been installed in Shelly Creek on March 23.













The past two months have been very eventful, with a mischievious otter stealing fish out of the smolt box for two days, a few lamprey eels (blech!),  and a smart phone that spent a day swimming with the fish at the bottom of the box and kept right on ticking (it even gave the owner a message that moisture was detected....smart). And we had a visit by a reporter from the PQB News. You can view the newspaper article and video here.

This year's Coho smolt count was the best in 5 years. We counted 6963 Coho smolts and fry, and with the approximately 400 that the otter ate, we estimate there were 7363 smolts and fry in the migration out of Shelly Creek into the Englishman River, with the smolts continuing on to the ocean. We also counted the most trout ever for the smolt trap: 296 of which 51 were identified as Cutthroat.

How does this compare to other years?          

























2017 had very low smolt numbers because an  extremely wet spring caused the creek level to rise high enough to bypass the trap. Depsite the bypass, we still captured the most trout  since the smolt trap count was initiated in 2011. We think the reason for the increase in trout in 2017 and 2018 may be due to the removal of yellow iris (an invasive species) which had taken up a great deal of habitat space in Martindale Pond. With the iris gone, the amount of open water habitat has increased significantly.

Many thanks to our volunteers for making 2018 the best year yet for the smolt trap count!                                                        

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