"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"


Annual General Meeting 2023

On September 16 we held our Annual General Meeting at St. Edmund’s Church at 407 Wembley Rd in Parksville from 10 am to noon.

During the business section of the meeting, we elected officers to the Board for the coming year and received the President’s Report summarizing our activities from September 2022 to the present.

Our guest speaker was Jamieson Atkinson of the BC Conservation Foundation and co-manager of the multi-year Bottlenecks to Marine Survival Program funded by the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund. The program is investigating the cause of recent drastic declines in Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead populations in the Salish Sea using PIT tags, antennae arrays, and scanning technology to track individual fish to determine their fate. Jamieson provided preliminary results in his presentation:

Examining Survival Bottlenecks for Juvenile Chinook and Coho Salmon and Steelhead in the Salish Sea.







Every Tree Matters

Last winter a large cedar tree with a 1.5 m diameter fell into the Englishman River Estuary 400 m downstream of the Orange Bridge in Parksville. The tree was so large it was able to sit perpendicular in the river against the flow for many weeks before giving up and being washed against the bank at Plummer Rd. The tree had been undermined by the high winter flows in the river, a natural process that adds trees and large woody debris (LWD) to rivers and creeks which become important fish habitat.


How do trees and LWD become fish habitat? When they become lodged in a river or creek, they force water to flow underneath them which scours out a pool. The fish now have a calm, shady place under the tree or LWD to hide from predators and avoid high water temperatures which can be lethal. In fact, logjams and LWD are considered "old growth habitat attributes". 

The right-hand photos shows chinook salmon fry sheltering below LWD in the Englishman River  Estuary - photo by James Craig


MVIHES volunteer James Craig discovered the fallen tree and realized its potential for fish habitat. He informed Nature Trust since they are the landowner of the estuary. Nature Trust approached MVIHES to partner with them in getting the tree anchored. MVIHES approached the BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF) to assist with this project since they do LWD debris installations all the time. We learned that anchoring the tree would require a large machine to lift the massive tree and drag it partly up the river bank where it could be cabled to another large tree. We would need to hire a contractor with such a machine.  And even though the machine would be sitting on the bank and not in the river, we would first need a permit (Section 11) to conduct the work. The BCCF are experts at applying for the permits for doing those projects.




Led by MVIHES volunteer and board member, Maggie Estok, we partnered with Nature Trust in applying for a grant from the Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Fund which is administered by Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The funds would be used for paying the contractor and BCCF. Maggie, seen in the left-hand photo scouting out the tree, kept us up to date and organized on the project.






On August 24  at 7:00 am (groan),  the contractor Oceanside Wood off-loaded a John Deere 216 Log Loader with grappler capable of lifting 11,000 kg, on Plummer Road (right-hand photo). BCCF Technician Carter Kowalski handled traffic control during the off-loading.

Under the supervision of Lance Gray of Oceanside Wood and Jeramy Damborg of BCCF, the log loader was carefully walked through the riparian zone to the river bank. No trees were harmed in the completion of this project. 





The photos below show the grappler ready to lift the tree, and the tree in its final position on the bank ready to be cabled. Matt Fenton was the operator of the log loader. We think he had a few breathless moments when he first felt the weight of the log. Carter and Jeramy anchored the tree. Mission accomplished.











Many thanks to the Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Fund, Nature Trust, BC Conservation Foundation, and Oceanside Wood for a great collaboration in securing one tree that can make a difference to salmon.  


 DFO LogoNaturetrustlogo



Was' Up with Eelgrass



Enthusiastic volunteers were already out mapping eelgrass beds just one day after our training by Nikki Wright of Seachange Marine Conservation Society. We have mapped the inner perimeter of the eelgrass beds at Parksville Beach, Surfside, San Pariel and Rathtrevor-Craig Bay. The beds appear to be in the same locations as they were when they were mapped in 2008 but we have yet to map the outer perimeter which we will do by boat. 



So was' up with eelgrass? Eelgrass beds, or meadows as they are sometimes called, are highways for young salmon. For salmon, a large break in an eelgrass bed is like a washout on a highway for us. All species of crabs and some species of sea stars use eelgrass beds as nurseries. Forage fish (an important food source for adult salmon) use eelgrass beds as do rockfish. Eelgrass stabilizes shorelines, gives us oxygen, cleans the water, and sequesters carbon. In fact, the United Nations has declared eelgrass as a weapon against Climate Change.

There are two species of eelgrass in the Parksville area:




Dwarf eelgrass (Zostera japonica) is short and thin like vermicelli. It grows on the flat sandy areas that are exposed at low tide. It's an introduced species but does not compete with our native eelgrass. It's an annual plant and reproduces by seed.








Native eelgrass (Zostera marina) is longer and wider like fetuccuini. It doesn't like to be as exposed as dwarf eelgrass so is found out near the water's edge during extreme low tides. It also grows in the subtidal zone up to 10 m in depth, depending on water clarity. It's a prerennial plant and reproduces through spreading rhizomes. 




Dragging boat anchors and chains uproot the plants and have had huge impacts on eelgrass beds in the Salish Sea, especially in areas where boats and ships are moored. Learn about inexpensive eelgrass-friendly mooring lines here. Eelgrass prefers sandy or muddy bottoms and is sparse in gravelly and rocky substrate. Shoreline armourment such as seawalls and riprap cause deflected waves to scour and sweep away sand, exposing the gravel and rock that was sitting below. This can degrade eelgrass beds so using Green Shores methods in shoreline protection is important for conserving eelgrass.






And now an invader has entered our eelgrass beds: Sargassum (right-hand photo). Sargassum has been in the news lately for piling up on the shores in Florida and the Caribbean. There are many different species inhabiting the oceans however, none of them are  native to our coast.








The species found here roots itself to rocks and shells and shades out native species like sea lettuce and eelgrass, as seen in the left-hand photo taken recently at Rathtrevor. Eelgrass provides a complex habitat whereas the habitat provided by Sargassum is simple and lacks some of the features required by our marine species. Pulling up Sargassum only causes it to spread so the rock or shell it is rooted on needs to be removed along with the intact plant. This again emphasizes the need to prevent the erosion of sand from our beaches: less rock for Sargassum to root on. 


An interesting tidbit is that eelgrass and sand dollars do not live together. Sand dollars vibrate when they burrow and forage for food, changing the nature of the sand which prevents eelgrass from establishing. A bare patch in an eelgrass bed could be a sand dollar bed.

That's it for now. We'll keep you updated on our findings. Many thanks to volunteers: Jamie Pollard, Manon Fontaine, Liz Bredberg, Bruce Murray, Carl Rathburn, Pat Ashton, Dick Dobler, Austin Peterson, and Barb Riordan.