"Committed to the restoration 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

Tagging Fish at the Smolt Trap

smolttrapsmall

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 first                        Smolt Trap on Shelly Creek  - photo taken before pandemic                                     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

 

 

The Parksville Rain Garden

parksvilleraingardengroupBack in 2012, MVIHES and the City of Parksville built a rain garden in front of the newly expanded fire hall. The project was funded with grants from The Nature Trust of BC and Pacific Salmon Foundation. The purpose of the rain garden is to collect the rain running off the fire hall parking lot and, like nature, hold some of it in the soil to water the plants while the rest filters through sand where it slowly percolates into the ground. From there, the water recharges groundwater aquifers and contributes to stream flow in dry periods.The captured runoff can contain dirt, fertilizer, chemicals, oil and other pollutants which are filtered out in the rain garden. Representatives of the city and MVIHES attended the ceremonial opening of the new rain garden in front of the Parksville Fire Hall, as seen in the above photo.                 

Faye Smith who was the MVIHES Coordinator at the time (wearing a pink sweater in the above photo) commented that “Rainwater pouring into storm drains from our streets, parking lots and other hard surfaces has a devastating effect on our streams and shorelines. Not only does the pollution in the water harm fish and other aquatic life, the volume of water that flows through the pipes during a heavy rainfall causes erosion and destroys critical habitat.” Faye was a strong supporter of rain gardens and hoped Parksville would become a city of rain gardens.

The garden includes local native vegetation and was meant to grow into a natural looking, manicured green area. The key word being "manicured". In 2020, our Vice President, Peter Law, realized the rain garden had grown into a impenetrable jungle and was far from attractive. You could lose your dog in there.

pkvilleraingardenRaingardenbefore

 

 

 

 

                              

                                                                 2012                                                                                         2020

Pete sought the advice of Master Gardeners John and June Densienger from Bowser (volunteers at Milner Gardens) for pruning the tangled, overgrown assortment of red-osier dogwood, baldhip rose, red currant, Indian plum, kinnickinnick, juniper, soft-stemmed bulrush, and sword ferms, while removing invasive species like reed canary grass, ivy, and that dreaded Himalayan blackberry.

On March 17, 2021 a team of volunteers working under Covid-19 protocols gathered at the Fire Hall with pruners, shovels, and rakes to give the rain garden a good manicure. Thank goodness someone thought to bring a machete. Photos of volunteers in action are below.

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 Ifoundasign  thesign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteers Jo McIlveen and her husband Doug Herchmer provided a truck and trailer for hauling the cuttings to a friend's farm in French Creek. Four truck and trailer loads were hauled away over the course of two days, plus a load in Pete's truck. See photos below for examples of a load.

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The photo to the right shows much improvement but the rain garden needs another day's work. Due to the additional Public Health recommendations recently implemented for Covid-19, further work on the rain garden has been postponed for now. In the meantime, many thanks to our volunteers: Pat Ashton, Dick Dobler (Machete Man), Shelley Goertzen, Doug Herchmer, Mike Jessen, Pete Law, Jo McIlveen, Barb Riordan, Catherine Watson and Sue Wilson.  See ya next time!

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.

KeesLuchs

 

We received some funding from the Pacific 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”.