As good causes go, the chum salmon carcass program in the Comox Valley does not have the sexiest name.
Eight dedicated volunteers, though, are lifesavers every year to salmon that are in a desperate struggle to get up the Puntledge River and spawn before they perish.
Larry Peterson, still going strong at 71, explains that many salmon can’t get past BC Hydro’s power-generating dam high on the Puntledge.
That prevents them from reaching Comox Lake and the streams that flow into it, as they did before the dam was built about 100 years ago to supply power for John Dunsmuir’s coal-mining operation at nearby Cumberland.
“We’re helping Nature carry on the work she used to do,” says Peterson.
What they do is take already-spawned dead chum from the Puntledge Hatchery and distribute them into streams that feed into the lake, providing nutrients for living salmon and trout.
BC Hydro supplies $2,000 to pay for gas and rent a truck, which Peterson says Budget rents to them at an affordable rate. Nick Strussi of the Puntledge River Restoration Committee co-ordinates the program.
Volunteers come from groups such as the Comox Valley chapter of the Steelhead society of B.C. and the conservation committee of the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association, with support from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Eight volunteers worked five straight days earlier this month to distribute 3,000 to 4,000 carcasses, Peterson estimates.
Strussi is two years older than Peterson, who admits the program could use some younger recruits for next year.