As we have all noticed, there has been little snow accumulation in the mountains this winter, and very little seasonal rainfall. The Tsolum River Restoration Society’s annual spring fry salvage campaign has been very successful in collecting fry caught in decreasing pools and moving them to well-watered areas.
As water levels go down in the summer, fish are stranded in pools all along our rivers and streams. Although some of this is a natural process, some is due to man-made obstructions such as culverts and altered waterways. A lot of salmon, trout and other fish get trapped, have increased susceptibility to disease, or die from suffocation or predation.
This year the water levels have dropped early and perhaps will be lower than usual. Warm weather and lower than average rainfall and snowmelt has meant the local rivers and tributaries are at low volume flow and the water temperatures are already high. In the watershed, Wolf Lake storage water is limited, as the lake cannot be lowered beyond a set level. Last year, there was a critical period late last summer when extreme low river flow and lake levels coincided. This year, the same potential to not be able to maintain water in the river is present.
The Tsolum River Restoration Society (TRRS) and the various streamkeeper groups up and down our island, attempt to rescue these fish and move them to safer water. Some fry just need a deeper pool to grow in until the rains come or others, like our Coho smolts, need channel access because they are on their way to the sea and need access to the estuary.
Due to concerted community efforts that include a number of volunteer organizations and many hours of work, river habitat is improving in our rivers and these salvaged fish are increasingly important in repopulating the new niches made available to them.
A huge community effort has gone toward recovering good water quality in the river. Hundreds of juvenile fish have been salvaged to date. The TRRS recognizes and offers many thanks to those who have joined our efforts so far this season. We have had fun and learned things; a day on the river is always a good day. Now that we have wildlife returning in and around the watershed, can we move forward together on the emerging bigger picture concerns; water supply and restoration of ecological function?
Despite the efforts to date, this work – fry and smolt salvage – requires still more volunteers. If you are interested, please contact the TRRS or your local streamkeepers group. Volunteering may be as simple as keeping an eye on a pool or stretch of steam, and letting us (TRRS) know when water levels drop. Better yet, we need people to take responsibility for an area and move fish as necessary – a kind of an Adopt-a-river-reach program (a reach is a section of river). Ideally, our goal is to have eyes on every stretch of water in the watershed. The TRRS can provide the knowledge and equipment necessary to trap, identify and move fish to a safer location.
Additionally, anyone can help by conserving water and reducing water use during these dry periods, or anytime. Residential, agricultural and industrial users within municipalities and regional districts are encouraged to observe local water restrictions and conservation bylaws. Well owners are encouraged to conserve water by using less and relying on stored water.
River and lake water users are encouraged to ensure that water intakes are screened to prevent fish from being pulled into water systems as water levels drop. Further reductions in stream, lake and aquifer levels could lead to water shortages and affect people, agriculture, industry and fish stocks.
Please contact us if you see or would like to salvage trapped fish in your neighbourhood, or you want to be part of the community stewardship of this Tsolum River. http://tsolumriver.org/ or: Dave Morwood at firstname.lastname@example.org 250 338 1168 (home) or 250 702 4670 (cell) or Angela Spooner at email@example.com 250 897 4670.
-Tsolum River Restoration Society