"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"

Newsroom

Shelly Creek Fish Habitat Restoration - Phase II Complete

This time last year we had just completed the Shelly Creek Fish Habitat Restoration project in Martindale Pond where over 30 truck loads of sediment and reed canary grass (an invasive species) were removed, restoring approximately 1000 m2 of overwintering habitat for Coho Salmon fry and smolts, and juvenile trout.

This year, fish habitat restoration work was completed on a 400 m section of Shelly Creek that flows through the Shelly Farm (located at Stanford Avenue in Parksville) before flowing into Martindale Pond and under Martindale Road on its way to the Englishman River. The restored section, shown between the two red lines on the map below, is also used as rearing habitat for Coho fry and smolts. The fish habitat restoration work was designed and supervised by our Biologist, Dave Clough.

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Decades of sediment from upstream sources had buried the creek, displacing habitat and enabling reed canary grass and that dreaded Himalayan blackberry to choke streamflow.  

 

 

 

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Shallow pools at risk of becoming oxygen deprived and too warm to sustain Coho fry were the only habitat in summer.

 

 

 

 

With a grant from the Pacific Salmon Foundation for $22,200, we hired Parksville Heavy Equipment (PHE) to excavate the sediment and invasive vegetation; re-establish the creek channel and deep pools; and add 80 cubic yards of gravel and rock to restore the aquatic habitat required for the bugs that the fry feed upon. The pools quickly filled with groundwater which means a water source for the creek had been cut off by the thick layer of sediment.The photos below illustrate the amazing job PHE did for us. What a transformation!! 

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The excavated sediment was used to make a berm to help contain water in the stream channel during high flows and stop the flooding of the farmer's field every winter. The berm was contoured so rainfall will flow off evenly, preventing erosion. MVIHES volunteers seeded the berm with a fast-growing erosion control seed mix and covered it in straw to prevent the seed from being washed away by the rain. Shrubs were already beginning to regenerate on the berm and creek bank. 

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 Spreading straw: Pat Ashton, foreground; Carl Rathburn; Ryan Christie, way in back.                          Don McConnell                                                        

The other seed and straw spreaders were Chris Smith, Dick Dobler, Brian Lea, Shelley Goertzen, and Barb Riordan.

Like Martindale Pond last year, this project was Carl Rathburn's baby. Carl did the communicating with the owners of Shelly Farm, and organizing PHE and Dave Clough to get the party started.

In addition to Carl and the super spreaders, many thanks go out to:

Dave Clough (DR Clough Consulting):  project design and "Notification for Changes in a Stream"; erosion and sediment control; site restoration.

Ryan Christie, John Christie, and all the crew at Parksville Heavy Equipment: contractor for creek excavation and site restoration.

Murray and Shelly Laplante, landowners of Shelly Farm : granted permission for completing work on their farm. Provided straw bales.

Laura Terry, Community Advisor for Department of Fisheries and Oceans: supported project and submitted "Notification for Changes in a Stream".

 Barb Riordan, MVIHES volunteer: applied for PSF grant; took some pictures; bossed a few people around.

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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.

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

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                                  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.

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                            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                                                                                     

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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

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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.

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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.

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                    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