Fish and Watersheds

In recent weeks, Hyacinthe Creek – one of a handful of  salmon bearing streams on Quadra Island – has experienced a few salmon swimming up its waters. Their arrival has not been an easy journey!

Life for all adult salmon, for millennia, has been a series of survival challenges. Depending upon the species, life cycles range from 2 years (Pinks) to 7 years (Chinook). For new born salmon referred to as fry, making it from their Coastal and or Interior BC birth streams to salt water can require many weeks to months of learning what to eat, while being swept over waterfalls to then crash through rapids for many more kilometers downstream. 

In the past 25 plus years, making it past the Discovery Islands to Port Hardy (approximately 381 km) has required swimming the gauntlet of 35 plus Atlantic Salmon fish farms.  With each farms’ stock of over 700,000 fish come clouds of sea lice.  Before the arrival of the farms, during their migration to sea fry rarely encountered such volumes of adult salmon with their sea lice and diseases.  The sea lice being parasites suck the life out of many of the 10-cm. long wild fry in the weeks it takes to pass the farms. 

In the north Pacific hungry orca whales, dolphins, sea lions and various birds feed on their share of growing salmon.  

Reports [1] suggest that the numbers of fry reaching adult spawning age, historically, was about 1 percent.

In the past 120 years an unnatural cause of salmon deaths has been fleets of commercial boats, harvesting millions of tonnes of salmon by licenced fishers. Add in the unregulated “bi-catch” and even more tonnages caught by pirate fishers: all to feed billions of humans and their pets.  

Showing up, in north Pacific waters around 2010, has been the “Blob” a huge, multi-hundred square kilometers zone of warm waters with growing volumes of algae.  Naturally dying algae have reduced the dissolved oxygen in the water leading to the countless deaths of even more maturing salmon, bottom fish and all other life within its margins. (Covid 19 followers will understand the importance of needing a good oxygen flow.)

2021: coastal creeks have just come thru 7 months of unprecedented declining water flow down to zero liters per minute. Spring thru summer, Coho and Chinook fry, need grow-up time in the creeks and lakes.  Many Coho fry, swimming in what were streams and pools in May, died from warm water and / or NO water by early August.

Throughout BC, coastal and interior regions, approximately 12 communities are rallying to address steps needing to be taken for improving wild fish survival tied in with the water crisis.

What ALL communities have experienced in the past 40 years has been the government ministries of the Environment combined with the Ministry of Forests inadequate monitoring of logging practices, cut volumes and resulting impacts on the natural environment by industrial practices. Those decisions were left up to the companies to contract trained and educated staff, guided by the new mantra of Professional Reliance.  

The Forest Practices Board, independent of any environmental groups, has more than a few files outlining the impacts of clear cut logging on watersheds: not meeting standards required in road construction, ditching; the insufficient installation of the required number of culverts and inadequate riparian management zones. 

When the faulty practices are combined, the resulting effects include landslides and slope failures.  High levels of stream siltation has killed salmon and other aquatic life, through suffocation.  Human towns and villages have experienced extensive flooding of homes, businesses plus farmlands, deaths of millions of farm animals, to the level of a Provincial Emergency being declared, November 15, 2021.

2021: Government Compliance and Enforcement operations and Forest harvesting industries have lost their credibility and public trust! Seventeen years of Professional Reliance on Industry, by the public and government has shown itself to be too easily manipulated, all motivated by human greed expressed through corporate profit maximization. 

Individuals, families, businesses in recent years, however, have realized that only through coming together as a united community, can we obtain sufficient power to take control and steward back to health our remaining natural resources: the forests, birds, animals, fish and watersheds. 

Top photo credit: Save the Hyacinthe Creek salmon – Photo by Rod Burns


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