Saanich residents gathered to place frozen salmon carcasses and fry into Douglas Creek in Pkols (Mount Douglas Park) on Saturday. Ed Wiebe photo

Salmon carcasses placed, but salmon future in question

Douglas Creek restoration suffers, South Island salmon numbers dwindle

About 40 volunteers chucked, hucked, flipped and dropped frozen salmon carcasses into Douglas Creek on Saturday.

The salmon transplant, or salmon toss, has been going for a decade, part of the ongoing effort by the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society to restore salmon in the creek. Carcass throwers featured the Minister of Agriculture and Saanich South MLA Lana Popham, Saanich Couns. Judy Brownoff, Susan Brice, Vicki Sanders, Fred Haynes and Colin Plant, with help from the Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association (Howard English Hatchery at Goldstream) and Saanich Parks.

See: Where’s the fish? Early returns show Doom and Gloom for South Island salmon

“There were 100 frozen salmon carcasses from Goldstream,” said Darrell Wick, president of the Friends of Mount Doug. “Also, 500 coho smolts [one year old] were transplanted from the hatchery to Douglas Creek.”

The fish were picked out of Goldstream River during the November spawning run and the eggs harvested for the hatchery. Those carcasses are then saved and, by placing them in the creek, will provide nourishment to the ecosystem, similar to what existed when the creek was a thriving salmon spawning ground.

Coho smolts will stay in Douglas Creek for several months, ‘imprinting’ the smell and taste of the creek before leaving to the ocean. That ‘imprinting’ allows them to find their way back to Douglas Creek after years at sea. Unfortunately, the coho smolts will be the last placed into Douglas Creek for a while. They are from the 2016 run, when Goldstream had good returns, but this year’s returns were dismal, the number of spawning coho almost non-existent.

The same went for the chum eggs, Wick said.

“This lack of salmon returns is a serious, complex issue, with a lot of finger pointing to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans,” Wick said.

It’s been about 15 years since the salmonid restoration program started at Douglas Creek and about 10 years of throwing salmon carcasses into the creek.

There should be enough chum eggs to populate each of the local school salmon fry programs. Eleven local elementary schools will raise the chum fry, 200 per class, and drop those 2,200 fry into Douglas Creek later this spring.

“That’s about 2,200 from the school program for this year but nothing more, nothing like the transplants we’ve had, where we usually put 20,000 to 30,000, and have had up to 50,000 fry go into Douglas Creek,” Wick said.

 

Saanich residents gathered to place frozen salmon carcasses and fry into Douglas Creek in Pkols (Mount Douglas Park) on Saturday. Ed Wiebe photo

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