The stream keepers have been very busy this past month fry salvaging from the local streams as they dry up in our summer heat. Water levels have been relatively good up to the last few weeks due to all the rain and cold with most streams maintaining a subsurface flow. This small amount of water flowing is able to keep what pools remain viable, as the fish will move to the flow. This makes the catching of fry a lot easier. Using a small seine net to block any escape back downstream most fish then are dip netted into 5-gallon pails equipped with small air pumps to keep the water oxygenated. On an average day, we can catch up to 2,000 fry from several pools before we have to make the run up into the hills. We purchased a new air pump for the truck tank this year replacing our modified 12volt tire pump. This new pump makes riding in the truck 75% quieter than the old one, which rattled and banged the whole ride up into the hills. When releasing the fish into the Beaver pond they all tend to swim around slowly moving into the cover of the vegetation growing along the shore. Then as you watch them, they tend to separate off into smaller groups as they search for their social group. When the fry are in their pool they have a definite social order. By combining them all into one tank they get mixed up with other groups which places stress on them as they try to adapt to the new social order [chaos]. So far this year we have moved over 10,000 fry to a year round wetted habitat ensuring their survival for another year. As these are wild salmon any amount that we can help survive will ensure their overall survival into the foreseeable future.
A story posted on the stream keepers message board hosted by the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation [Remembering Wild Coho by Terry Slack] tells of the once abundant 12 pound Wild Coho which used to spawn in the Salmon River. Then along came urban and rural development, which reduced the spawning habitat for these once big fish. In an attempt to stop the decline, the solution of the day was to take the remaining stock and build a hatchery to try to help rebuild the stocks. The result was that the large 12 pound fish disappeared and were replaced by smaller fish. This is another case of humans thinking they know what is best for nature. Good intentions aside, we have made some drastic mistakes on the coast with respect to our once mighty runs of Wild Salmon. A biologist once told me that the reason they were taking brood stock for the hatchery was that they had to have something for the volunteers to do during the winter months. Luckily, this was not one of our streams as years ago we knew to avoid any advice that would have put us in the same predicament. As this goes to press, Alexandra Morton, champion of wild salmon, will be giving testimony at the Cohen Inquiry into the Fraser River Sockeye collapse, along with the testimony of Dr Kristi Miller. A multi-million dollar study then had a gag order placed on her by our federal government to prevent her talking about her findings. We hope to have some progress into the relationship between the decline of the Sockeye and the Atlantic salmon farms and disease vectors spreading out into the wild fish from these farms. As the ocean is an open environment, if those farm fish get sick then it is only common sense that the virus will be out in the environment for all fish species to become exposed, resulting in who knows what sort of consequences.
Our beach sampling for forage fish continues throughout the year trying to identify which beaches and at what time of year spawning occurs. These fish are the link between the phytoplankton and our salmon since they become the feed for the young salmon as they enter the ocean environment. All along the shore as you swim during the summer month (or months, if we are lucky), are thousands of young fish, both salmon and forage fish, feeding and being fed on all the way up to whales.
A quick plug here for the new edition of Whelks to Whales by local author Rick M Harbo.
This week there have been two seals cavorting along Sebastion beach slapping the water with their tales as they corral the feed fish between them.
Last night I went to the social event of the year at the legion. Being celebrated was Bruce and Brenda Chicks combined birthdays; a big happy birthday to you both and thanks for such a wonderful evening of friends and awesome music. Donna & Bill Konsarado provided the music with Bruce’s son, Miles, playing some tunes. Mike Vira showed up to lend his guitar playing for this awesome evening.
September brings another Minetown day celebration where we will have our tent set up to answer questions about our activities on the local streams.
Best Fishes. John Dunn