"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

Despite the cold soggy spring we are having, our volunteers are as busy as ever and even managed to squeeze in some tree planting on a rare sunny day. Read on to see some of things we have been up to.


A Great Partnership




The Snaw-naw-as First Nation and MVIHES have formed a partnership in habitat restoration on Shelly Creek. Andrew McNaughton, a consultant for the Snaw-naw-as, approached MVIHES to see if there were projects we could partner on and indeed there are.


                                                                                                                        You may remember that last summer MVIHES conducted work on a 400 m stretch of Shelly Creek on the Shelly Farm. There were still a couple of tasks remaining with that project including shrub and tree planting along the edge of the creek, and installing woody debris for fish cover. Andrew consulted with our biologist, Dave Clough, on the native shrub and tree species that should be planted for providing stream bank stabilization and mega shade for Coho Salmon fry during the hot, dry summers. 

ShellyCreekTreePlant6The Snaw-naw-as purchased 255 plants in 2 gallon, 5 gallon, and 7 gallon pots from Streamside Nursery. So these weren't the tiny seedling plugs planted by professional tree planters. The plants were much larger and robust to increase survival and provide shade to the creek quickly. And downright heavy (oh my aching back). In fact, the Snaw-naw-as had to rent a Budget moving truck to pick up the plants from the nursery. It took 2 trips. Species included Salmonberry, Pacific Nine-bark, Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, and Black Hawthorn.


The planting began on April 19 with six band members and twelve MVIHES volunteers (seen in photos below) and was finished up on April 20 by 5 band members. A job well-done by everyone.









Since then, Andrew has sourced two truck loads of small tree stumps and logs from a logging operation and had them delivered to the Shelly Farm. This woody debris will be installed in the creek later this summer with our Snaw-naw-as partners to provide the salmon fry cover from predators. As they say in  "Casablanca", I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  Many thanks to:

Andrew McNaughton

Snaw-naw-as First Nation Team lead by Chris Bob

MVIHES Volunteers: Austin Peterson, Brenda and Dennis Riley, Carl Rathburn, Dick Dobler,  Sue Wilson, James Craig, Randy Walz, Rick Walz, Pat Ashton, Brian Lea, and Barb Riordan

And of course, Murray and Shelly Laplante, owners of Shelly Farm.


 Speaking of Coho Salmon...

Our smolt trap was installed in March (see photos below) for our annual count of Coho Salmon smolts and juvenile trout as they migrate out of Martindale Pond on Shelly Creek into the Englishman River and out to the ocean. The project is headed up by MVIHES volunteers Shelley Goertzen and Carl Rathburn. The lifting of Covid restrictions has meant all of our volunteers can be involved like the good old days. Woohoo!


 smolttrap2022 1smolttrap2022 5smotltrap2022 2






The migration was delayed by the unseasonably cold, wet spring. With lots of water and oxygen (due to cool water temperatures) why would the fish want to leave the relatively calm and safe waters of the creek for the ocean full of predators? Warm water temperatures and a drop in oxygen levels are what trigger the fish to begin their migration which finally started at the end of April. As of May 13, a total of 1764 Coho smolts and 54 Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout have been counted. The highest daily count so far is 337 Coho smolts. The actual number of fish is probably higher since high water levels have allowed some of the creek flow to bypass the smolt fence. The BC Conservation Foundation is once again PIT tagging the fish captured in the smolt trap for the Salish Sea Survival Bottlenecks Study.


smolttrap2022 4An interesting observation this year is that many of the smolts are bigger and more silver in colour than in past years and some of the trout are just plain big, up to 30 cm (left-hand photo). Is this due to the restoration work conducted in Martindale Pond and upstream in Shelly Creek? Or is this being observed at the other smolt traps across the island? We'll have to ask Laura Terry, our Community Salmon Program Advisor. By the way, the trout in the photo was one of four sea-run Cutthroat Trout that probably came into the creek to snack on the smolts, rotten scoundrels. David Mackenzie from Nanaimo has been taking footage of fish in the smolt trap and has provided us with an awesome video which you can view here.




Many thanks to our volunteers: Andrew Borelli, Austin Peterson, Carl Rathburn, Chris Smith, Dave Erickson, Dick Dobler, Jo McIlveen, Pete Law, Shelley Goertzen, Terry Baum, Barbara Wildman-Spencer, Ben McManus, and Gordon Armbruster.


A Tale of One Urban Creek 

During the month of August, MVIHES will be participating in the ETHOS  program at the McMillan Arts Centre (MAC) in Parksville,  part of an art installation project at the MAC titled  A Tale of One Urban Creek.  The objective of the program is to bring art and science together in celebration of our beloved Shelly Creek. While local artists (including MVIHES board member Chris Smith) are exhibiting their works of art themed around the creek, an interactive display of aquatic life and programs conserving aquatic ecosystems will be in the room across the hall. 

Other partners in the interactive display include: VIU Deep Bay Marine Station, Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute,  Regional District of Nanaimo Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Program, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  



MVIHES will be running a Pond Critters aquarium thoughout August as part of the interactive display plus 2 or 3 beach seining events at the Community Beach (left-hand photo) to demonstrate the diversity of life in aquatic systems. The goal is to encourage people to become stewards of aquatic environments.





We are looking for volunteers to help visitors at the MAC find and ID the bugs in the Pond Critters aquarium (you will be given a tutorial so no worries if you're not a bug expert) for 2 hour shifts between 11 am and 3 pm, Tuesdays to Sundays throughout the month of August. If you can spare 2 hours two or three times a week, or even once a week in August, and/or you would like to join us for beach seining, contact Ross Peterson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Yellow Fish and You





Why were MVIHES volunteers Shelley Goertzen and Chris Smith promoting yellow fish signs at the MABRRI Regional Research Open House on March 16, in Qualicum Beach?

(Photo by Dave Erickson) 



This is the time of year when we start thinking about our lawns and gardens. Before we know it, the dry season will be upon us and our lawns and gardens will be getting thirsty. This is a great opportunity to have a Salmon Friendly Lawn and all you have to do is nothing. Don't water your lawn or use chemical herbicides or pesticides in your yard. Let your lawn go brown this summer. It will green up again with the Fall rains. 

How does this give you a Salmon Friendly Lawn? The water from our taps comes from either rivers and creeks or groundwater wells. Up to 40% of the water we use in summer is for watering our lawns. By not watering your lawn you leave more water in the rivers and creeks for juvenile salmon, when the water is needed the most. Also, creeks and rivers are fed by groundwater in the summer so the more water left in wells means more water in the creeks and rivers to support salmon. Chemical herbicides and  pesticides are harmful to fish and enter creeks and rivers through stormdrains or directly off the land.

yellowfish3MVIHES is promoting Salmon Friendly Lawns through a Yellow Fish program, where residents who pledge to not water their lawns or use chemical herbicides and pesticides will get a groovy yellow fish sign to show off to the neighbours and help promote the message of conserving water. The sign comes with a decal stating "brown is the new green" which makes having a  brown lawn not only a great thing for salmon but states you're a cool trend setter and influencer.  To take the pledge for a yellow fish, contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you're interested in going the extra mile, rain barrels are a great option for watering trees, shrubs, vegetable and flower gardens to reduce tap water use even further. The  City of Parksville offers rebates for purchases of rain barrels. Check out the awesome brochure on rain barrels by Team Water Smart at the Regional District of Nanaimo.

Other things you can do to help your lawn remain healthy and reduce its watering needs are:                 

  • Mow your grass high (5 – 6 cm) and leave the grass clippings. Taller grass means less run-off, and healthier lawns. Healthier lawns are less likely to grow weeds.
  • Aerate your lawn and top-dress with compost to help rainwater penetrate deeper into the roots where it will do the most good and improve water retention.                                       

  You can make a difference.                               

Many Thanks To Our Sponsor



Pacific Sand Lance Storm the Beaches of Parksville

2021 was the best year yet for documenting Pacific Sand Lance spawning on our shores!

Sand Lance are just one of the forage fish species that travel in large schools and make up the cornerstone of marine food webs. Pacific salmon are just one of the predators of forage fish.



Sand Lance lay tiny eggs (1mm) on pebble and sand beaches just below the high-tide line - an area called the intertidal zone. Spawning occurs between November and February at high tide. It has been suggested the fish prefer full and new moons, when high tides are at the highest and providing maximum area for spawning.  At low tide, MVIHES volunteers visit the beaches from Craig Bay to Columbia Beach to collect sand and gravel samples to see if they contain eggs. Samples are collected from plots set up in the intertidal zone of established monitoring sites. The photo below shows a plot which has been set up with measuring tapes. 


A plot is 5 m wide and runs for 30 m along the beach. Samples are seived and "vortexed" (a process similar to gold panning) to sort out the smallest and lightest grains on which eggs are typically found.



The sorted grains are placed under a microscope at Vancouver Island University (VIU) where the Forage Fish project leaders at the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) check for eggs. The photo on the right is a microscopic view of Sand Lance eggs in a sample taken on December 13 from one of our beach monitoring locations in San Pareil. So far this season, eggs were found in our samples at the following locations:    

Craig Bay on December 1

San Pareil on November 17, December 1, and December 13

Community Park Beach on November 29 and December 13

French Creek Marina on November 29


 So why is it important that Sand Lance spawning sites be documented?

Our actions on and around these beaches, like shoreline development, can have negative impacts on forage fish spawning success so it is important to know where and when these fish spawn. Work by heavy equipment should be avoided on Sand Lance beaches between November and February. Unfortunately, this is the season when serious damage occurs to shoreline property and homes that require urgent repairs, as we have seen in the local news. A lot of the damage to property and homes can be avoided if shoreline development is conducted using ecologically sound practices. Best of all, these practices can help conserve the spawning habitat that is currently being degraded by retaining walls and other hard shoreline structures.

Green Shores is a program that is gaining popularity for making shorelines more secure against flooding and erosion and restoring shoreline ecological function for species like Pacific Sand Lance. Below is a figure from the Green Shores website that highlights the difference between standard and Green practices.



To learn more about Green Shores, check out their website at https://stewardshipcentrebc.ca/green-shores-home/







In the meantime, many thanks to our hard working Project Leader, Shelley Goertzen, and her school of volunteers who continue to monitor our beaches for spawning Pacific Sand Lance. They are: Pat Ashton, Chris Bob (Snaw-naw-as Fisheries Technician), Andrew Borelli, David Bradford, Alex Grant, Brenda Little, Don Lyster, Don McConnell, Janet and Ben McManus, and Catherine Watson.