Stream Keepers

Stream keeping in the rain out in the forest is a real pleasure at this time of year.

Everywhere life is bursting forth from emergent fry to nesting birds, trees beginning to flush with spring growth. Salmonberry sprouts emerging from the forest floor makes a nice snack when walking along the streams, just realized that’s the perfect snack in the bush for a stream keeper. We have our smolts counting fence in place with around 20 fish so far moving through all around 115mm to 135mm with a couple of nice trout around 200mm. 

Giant Water Bugs find there way into the box on occasion, around 35mm they look formidable with the ability to suck the meat out of a fish leaving only skin and bone. Handle with care and off they go back into the stream. Some Hog Weed eradication is another project we tackle at this time of year and after several years we seem to be holding it at bay isolated to one spot.

Removal is by hand with extreme care not to get the sap onto your skin, as it is toxic.

Clearing Broom is safer though more daunting as it seems to grow as fast as you cut it. Broom now can be found way up in the bush as well as around suburbia, though a nice looking flower it does out compete native plants. Down in the estuary life also is bursting forth with Geese nesting, Red Wig Blackbirds, Ducks of all shapes and sizes and even the Beaver is busy at this time repairing there dams and building them higher to contain more water for the upcoming summer months.

With the huge returns of Wild Salmon last year we are expecting that this years fry salvage project will be a big one with more fry emerging from the big spawn last fall than we have seen for over 25 years.

Wild Coho are a species that was so abundant within the Salish Sea that fishing the adults was the easiest salmon fishery around. In front of Lantzville every resident that had the ability to fish would be found morning and night trolling or mooching out in front of Winchelsea Islands. It did not take too long to limit out your catch and this was true for the whole of the Salish Sea. For some reason, loss of habitat, Hatchery over production, the stocks of Salish Sea wild Coho plummeted from the early 80’s onward. Pumping thousands of Hatchery [fish factory] Coho into every stream from here to there in a vain attempt to bolster stocks proved to be a catastrophic failure with the continued decline of genetic diversity the stocks of wild Coho declined almost to the point of collapse.

Back in the height of the Coho crisis DFO applied a coast wide closure with the exception of certain fishing lodges who had whined that there businesses would suffer so they got exclusion zones around there lodges. Habitat loss along with over zealous transplanting of these factory fish almost brought the Wild Coho to extinction.

A few but sad to say not all stream keeper groups around the coast stayed away from the hatchery model of recovery even though this meant they did not get access to the huge funding opportunities that installing a hatchery would entail.

 

As with every thing in life when money enters the picture it seems all common sense goes out the window.

I have heard many times that if you would only build a hatchery you would have lots of funding and something for the volunteers to do over the winter.

Real stream keepers have no problem finding projects to do if they are truly active and want to really help the environment not only fish but also all flora and fauna. Many groups fall into the trap of bureaucracy becoming heavy with meetings, planning committees etc, chasing funding leaving no time to walk the streams and see how nature works without money or frivolous endeavours to sate the ego more than help the environment.

When decisions are made without regard to what is actually happening in nature and money becomes the driving force then failure will surely follow. Most stream projects have no follow up or ongoing monitoring once the checks are cut. The best projects come from years of watching how the streams function then you come to the conclusion that most of what you may think needs doing does not.

Leaving well enough alone does not come easy as humans we have a tendency to think we know best.

Posted in May 2014, Streamkeepers

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