"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



Return of the Yellow Fish

Several years ago, MVIHES ran a Salmon Friendly Lawn Program that included handing out yellow fish lawn signs, like the one in the left-hand photo. To receive a yellow fish sign, the homeowner pledged not to use pesticides in their yard or water their lawn from the tap. The goal of the Salmon Friendly Lawn Program was to leave more water in the creeks and rivers for fish during the summer drought and prevent pesticides which harm fish from entering water systems, either through stormdrains or directly off the land.

We are bringing back the yellow fish sign program in partnership with Qualicum Beach Streamkeepers, and expanding its scope. Education on methods to manage rainwater on residential properties that benefit fish will be included. Rainwater from roofs and hard surfaces typically runs into a drainage system that sends it straight into a creek or river, often overwhelming the water channels and causing erosion. In a natural setting, a lot of the rainwater seeps into the ground where it slowly moves towards river and creeks, reducing the severity of floods and providing water to creeks and rivers during the summer drought. Residents that utililze methods for good rainwater management will receive a yellow fish sign to display on their lawn. The signs are a committment strategy that reinforce the homeowner's efforts. And these signs are going to be fancy schmancy, believe me.



We received some funding from the Public Conservation Assistance Fund to buy the materials to make and paint the fish signs, and for a decal to go on each sign identifying the program. We had been searching for a long, long, long time for a skilled woodworker to make the signs, until Chris Smith, our newest Board member, used his connection with Island Artisans to find Kees Luchs (right-hand photo), a professional wood artisan. Kees volunteered his time and machinery to make 96 fish signs for us from the cedar we supplied. Yay Kees! Many thanks!


woodenfishAnd aren't they beeyootiful! We could not be more pleased with the excellent quality of work he has provided us free of charge.  

The challenge now is for our team of volunteers to find more woodworkers to make signs; develop a marketing campaign to educate the Parksville and Qualicum Beach homeowners of the initiative; and encourage those who want to help us to get involved.

  • We are  really looking forward to the end of COVID (aren't we all) so we can meet and greet homeowners face to face, and get the message out to “conserve water”.



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