Jessica Hartum from the chum salmon project with Friends of Bowker Creek gets waist-high while testing waters behind Oak Bay High. The group is testing the waters for salmon livability. (Derek Shrubsole Photos)

Jessica Hartum from the chum salmon project with Friends of Bowker Creek gets waist-high while testing waters behind Oak Bay High. The group is testing the waters for salmon livability. (Derek Shrubsole Photos)

Testing underway for Bowker Creek as a salmon habitat

Bowker Creek could have salmon fry by 2022

After more than a decade of planning and restoration work, salmon fry could be swimming in Bowker Creek as soon as 2022.

The Friends of Bowker Creek plan to plant salmon eggs in the stream in the winter of 2021-22, said Gerald Harris, director and chum salmon project lead.

“The last time that we can find anyone reported salmon in Bowker Creek was in the Fireman’s Park area (in 1914), which had a ravine, which was then turned into a garbage dump until it filled up,” Harris said. “Until then chum were seen all the way up to the Jubilee hospital.”

Volunteers from the Friends of Bowker Creek are first sampling water quality and surveying the habitat to assess the creek’s capacity for supporting salmon. The ideal habitat is from the mouth at Willows Beach along the daylighted section of the creek to Oak Bay High School.

READ ALSO: New signs explain Bowker Creek 100-year restoration plan

“We need to show the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that the salmon has good enough water quality over the winter that the salmon eggs can incubate in the gravel with a good survival rate,” said Harris, a retired teacher who took the streamkeeper’s course.

He’s being helped by Oak Bay High biology teacher Derek Shrubsole and recent UVic grad Jessica Hartum.

“There has been ongoing water quality testing by the CRD that is encouraging,” Harris said. “We’ll more intensively sample this fall and winter to make that information clear.”

Harris explained that the Department of Fisheries want to be reasonably assured that salmon can make their way up the stream from the ocean, to Monteith Street, which is just before Fireman’s Park.

At that point is the major culvert under Fireman’s Park and the fire and police station. There is a possibility that they could place a fish fence that could trap the spawning salmon during the spawning run and they could be transported upstream to additional spawning grounds.

The Friends of Bowker Creek have been working with the CRD, Victoria, Oak Bay and Saanich to create and follow the 100-year Bowker Creek Blueprint, a comprehensive plan for the entire creek and watershed.

The chum salmon recovery project combines efforts of Oak Bay High teachers and students, Peninsula Streams Society, and support from the Community Living Lab Project at the University of Victoria, School District No. 61 Indigenous Education and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

READ MORE: Trio of 10-year-olds swap invasive plants for native in Bowker Creek

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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