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Enough salmon eggs survive flooding for Bowker Creek to run incubation program

High water flows had destroyed group’s incubation boxes, washed away salmon nests in Oak Bay
Volunteers working for the Goldstream Hatchery to recover male salmon, as part of their salmon fertilization program. (Photo courtesy of Bowker Creek Salmon Recovery)

Despite recent downpours wreaking havoc, members of a local salmon protection group say they will be able to run their river incubation programs this year.

Bowker Creek Salmon Recovery had built a Salmon Chum egg incubation box, but faster flows caused by heavy rainfall around Bowker Creek had scattered the rocks used to build the stone box.

In a post on Facebook, the group said natural salmon nests had also been washed away by higher than usual river flows in Goldstream River, caused by the heavy rain seen on Nov. 15. The group was concerned not enough salmon eggs would survive for them to be able to run their incubation programs this year.

But the group said enough eggs survived and were collected by the Goldstream Hatchery, another salmon protection group that collects eggs to help fertilize them outside of the river.

ALSO READ: Upcoming 3rd atmospheric river could be worst since 1st B.C storm 2 weeks ago: Farnworth

Usually, the hatchery collects male fish and ripe female eggs when the salmon run happens, around October and November. They then take them to the group’s facility on Sooke Lake Road, near the Goldstream Falls, where the group fertilizes the salmon eggs and allows them to develop until they are ready for release. That happens around February. Around that time, Bowker Creek Salmon Recovery will receive 30,000 salmon eggs and build incubation boxes to allow the salmon to grow and develop.

“But small disasters can focus the mind,” the group said in a post to Facebook. “Climate change is here. Nov. 15, was a first small taste of many extreme rain events that Bowker Creek’s valley will need to manage.”

Heavy rainfall on Nov. 15 and over the past few days due to several atmospheric rivers has seen flooding and higher water levels along many of Vancouver Island’s rivers. The River Forecast Centre also issued a high streamflow advisory for all of Vancouver Island.

Experts have expressed concern about what the higher water levels could mean for the salmon run.

Brian Starzomski, an environmental studies professor at the University of Victoria, said while the summer droughts we’ve seen are more damaging, high water levels will also have an impact.

“It’s going to change the way that these streams function, with a lot a lot more water blasting through there and just changing the structure that’s in the streams.”

READ MORE: ‘Unprecedented’ weather causing Sooke Lake reservoir to fill up

ALSO READ: Gillespie Road, north of East Sooke, sees flooding


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