"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"


The Sand Lance Have Landed!


No, not on the moon.      moon        In San Pareil in Parksville. 


Last month we documented for the second year in a row that sand lance spawn on the beach at San Pareil in December.




Forage fish such as sand lance are the cornerstone of marine food webs,  playing an important role in the diets of salmon, humpback whales, porpoise, sea lions, seals, and marine birds. Sand lance lay tiny eggs (1mm) on pebble and sand beaches just below the high-tide line. Activities like development or construction work on shorelines can have a detrimental effect on forage fish populations by destroying eggs and embryos. For that reason, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has "timing windows" which ternwithsandlanceare periods when it is safe to conduct work on shorelines without damaging fish and fish habitat. Unfortunately, the winter timing window for fish is December 1 to February 15. So far, we have only found evidence of sand lance spawning on San Pareil beach in December, when it is assumed safe for shoreline disturbance. 





So what evidence are we referring to? Well, in June 2018, volunteers were trained in identifying and mapping forage fish spawning sites under the instruction of Ramona de Graaf, Independent Researcher and Co-ordinator of the Shore Spawner's Alliance. This included collecting sand samples below the high-tide lines and  filtering and processing the sand through a series of sieves to collect the right sized sand grains to which eggs would attach. Too small to be seen with the naked eye, the processed sand is placed under a microscope and searched for eggs and embryos.




MVIHES volunteers began collecting sand samples from the beach at San Pareil on a monthly basis in 2018 and continue to do so. You may remember that on December 5, 2018 we actually found sand lance that contained ripe eggs and milt on the beach, proving the fish were using the beach as a spawning ground. In May 2019, MVIHES joined forces with the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Insititute (MABRRI) based out of Vancouver Island University (VIU) that was also conducting forage fish surveys.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Nancy  Hancock collects sand samples, Oct 15, 2019.                                                                                           


vortexuse 2MABBRI has lent us an apparatus called a vortex, shown in the photo at right, which makes the separation of eggs from the sand easier following sieving. 

On December 6, 2019 two of the sand samples we collected at San Pareil contained sand lance eggs. You can imagine how satisfying it was after all those months of sampling to finally find eggs. The longest egg hunt of our lives. Many thanks to MABRRI and VIU for the microscope work.

The importance of this work is that the beach in San Pareil can now be identified as one where protection of sand lance spawining activity is crucial. MVIHES endeavors to inform the residents of San Pareil of the importance of their beach for sand lance production. We will also urge DFO to change the winter timing window for shoreline work, at least for this area.

It will be interesting to see what our sampling in the 2020 will reveal. Stay tuned!

Clean-up Under the Orange Bridge

bridge imageThe Orange Bridge in Parksville is very familiar to MVIHES since we collect Englishman River water samples from a spot on the bridge every two weeks. In mid-November, MVIHES received a request from volunteer James Craig for help in removing a very large volume of garbage (at least two pick-up truck loads) from the riparian zone of the Englishman River located under and downstream of the Orange Bridge. The heavy rains of winter were fast approaching which meant the river would flood the riparian zone and sweep the garbage onto salmon spawning grounds downstream of the bridge and into the estuary which provides habitat for salmon smolts migrating to the Salish Sea. 

Since mid-October, James had been searching for the government agency responsible for cleaning up  the garbage.  The location sits on the borders of multiple jurisdictions, making responsibility less than clear. One of his calls was to Brad Boyden, Bridge Area Manager for Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) in Nanaimo. Just when it appeared that MVIHES volunteers would have to clean up the huge mess themselves, Brad called James and stated he had directed Mainroad Contracting in Parksville to clean up the garbage, not just from under the bridge, but downstream as well which is well out of the highway right-of-way. Good news indeed!

On November 22, Supervisor Luke Maron and his crew of six from Mainroad Contracting in Parksville descended on the site with pick-up trucks and hand-bombed all the garbage into the back of their trucks. James Craig and Carl Rathburn (MVIHES past president) were in attendance to ensure the integrity of the riparian zone was maintained. A job well done by all.

cohenMany thanks go out to Brad Boyden of MOTI, the gang from Mainroad Contracting, and our own James Craig for identifying the problem and persevering in solving the problem. The salmon salute you! 

Shelly Park Gets Some TLC






Have you seen the  awesome signs that were just installed in Shelly Park? 









Shelly Creek is Parksville’s last fish-bearing stream. The stretch of creek within Shelly Park, located at Hamilton Road, has received a lot of attention lately from MVIHES, local residents, and Vancouver Island University to conserve the  Cutthroat Trout that spend their entire lives in the park. This includes:

 Stream Flow Monitoring for Hydrology Data            Riparian Planting                                      Cutthroat Trout Study









    Barb Riordan, Nov. 20, 2018                                         John Phllips, Mar, 3, 2019                                             Bradon Judson, Oct. 21, 2018


 The Park status, and the natural attractiveness of the area draws many local residents who walk the trail that follows the creek. In 2018, MVIHES volunteers who were monitoring stream flows within the park had many interactions with the park’s users – many of whom were unaware of the special ecological status of these Cutthroat Trout and their sensitive habitats. These public interactions  were mostly positive, with many expressions of concern and a willingness to help where they can. MVIHES viewed this as an opportunity to deliver an education program to heighten public awareness.

Upon seeing the fabulous sign installed by the Qualicum Beach Streamkeepers'  at the trailhead of Grandon Creek in the Town of Qualicum Beach,  MVIHES decided a series of signs that explain the presence of the Cutthroat Trout,  their life cycle and habitat, as well as the activities in the watershed that can have negative impacts, was a great way to increase public awareness. 

 Since the park is under the jurisdiction of the City of Parksville, Peter Law (MVIHES President) approached the City Parks Foreman, Warren Payne, about the proposal to install signs in the park. Warren supported the idea, especially since the City had begun installing these kind of "info signs" in some of the parks and thought Shelly Park was a good candidate. The City had hired a graphic artist to design the park signs, so Warren arranged for the artist to design the signs for Shelly Park using content and photos provided by MVIHES. Six signs were produced for Shelly Park, one of which is shown below.


A real beauty, eh? The City not only produced the six signs but installed them in strategic locations selected by MVIHES.

bridgeBuilding on the knowledge of these Cutthroat Trout, the Parks Department has submitted a request to fund a 17 meter bridge to cross the creek, replacing the make-shift crossing currently in use by park users, seen in the photo to the right.  This will be a huge benefit to the fish that are spooked (stressed) every time someone (or their dog) pauses to look at the trout in the small shallow pool at the crossing.  It will also mean a more stable steam channel as riparian vegetation will no longer get trampled by trail users.

Many thanks go out to the City of Parksville for recognizing this small park’s ecological importance, both from a neighbourhood perspective and a regional (watershed) perspective. Good things happen when government and stewardship groups collaborate on projects. If you haven't seen them yet, check out the signs in Shelly Park and at Grandon Creek. 

Many thanks also go out to the countless volunteers and residents who have contributed to the conservation of Shelly Park.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Shelley Goertzen, Feb, 27, 2019