This small salmon-bering stream with a new culvert on Arden Road is completely dry.

This small salmon-bering stream with a new culvert on Arden Road is completely dry.

Fish are plentiful, water is scarce

Climate change is creating some startling rain events

It is not uncommon to see our streams very low in terms of stream flow, but this summer has more than the usual threats to our returning salmon stocks and the little salmon that must make it through the summer to reach smolt stage for next year.

To illustrate the seriousness of the problem in Area 14 streams, the Fanny Bay Salmon Enhancement Society (FBSES) has rescued 57,000 small salmon from six feeder streams in lower Baynes Sound. In the 17 years they have been carrying out this rescue mission this is by far the largest number of pre-smolts. Fortunately they have room in their facility at Rosewall Creek to keep the various stream fish separate as they feed them through the summer until the rains come.

Pictured with this column is a picture of a small salmon-bearing stream with a new culvert on Arden Road. I have lived on the banks of this small stream for the past 31 years and it is the lowest that Elaine and I can recall. Normally there are dry places, but there are also small pools of still water that used to hold fish. This year in our stretch of the stream the little pools are dry.

The return of salmon stocks in many situations has been greater than anticipated. For example the Conuma River on the west coast of the Island has received a greater than predicted run of chinook salmon; but the river is extremely low due to the current dry season. The situation is a serious threat to the successful spawning of these fish. A small west coast river and hatchery system is running out of water to sustain this larger than normal return of chinook salmon.

The Cowichan River is currently very low and the Pacific Salmon Foundation is assisting in funding to move the stranded fish through the shallow water. Low water levels in the headwaters of Cowichan Lake are contributing to the crisis on this important salmon river.

The Puntledge River is also very low, but water levels can be helped with controls from BC Hydro as long as there is adequate water in Comox Lake. As is well remembered, the Mount Washington ski season was cut short by the low snow pack. The low snow pack, along with the extended dry season of the current summer, is making itself felt throughout the watersheds of Vancouver Island.

The ocean conditions that favour pink salmon were certainly at a maximum in many places thir year as illustrated by the huge returns of pink salmon to many Island Rivers.

The Campbell-Quinsam system has had a return of over one million of these small two-year fish. With dropping water levels and increased water temperature, the spawning results of this record return are at risk.

Climate change is creating some startling rain events. Kamloops had a thunder storm that flooded many streets and basements. If you watch the weather news you will be aware of the huge floods that are happening as rain storms drop several months rain in a matter of hours into systems that cannot handle the huge deluges.

I sometimes think we confuse nice weather with sunshine and nice times at the beach. Maybe we should reconsider what nice weather is when it holds the potential to destroy the very things that provide our food, such as water for successful gardens and rain for stable river systems that make fish populations happy.

From what I read about beautiful sunny weather in California it has the potential to greatly increase the cost of our winter fruits and vegetables because of severe drought conditions throughout most of the state.

For most of the current growing season we have been under restricted watering conditions. Yet when you hear a news broadcast much is made of the dry sunny weather, but seldom do we look at the consequences of the ongoing dry weather and its threat to fish populations and successful agriculture crops in the Valley.

Water is the ongoing source of life for fish as well as air-breathing creatures such as ourselves. Maybe we should award brown lawns with badges of reality and green ones with less noble awards.


Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.



Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cumberland Brewery is looking to expand its patio space temporarily for the summer. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland Brewery looks for temporary patio expansion

Move would allow business to spread customers outside in summer months

School District 71’s final budget for this school year showed more revenue from distance learning students but less from traditional classroom registration. Record file photo
Comox Valley Schools’ budget grant almost $5.5 million higher than planned

Increase came from a boost in distributed learning rather traditional registration

A&W on Ryan Road confirmed a positive case of COVID-19 at their restaurant and temporarily shut its doors. Google Maps photo
Courtenay restaurant temporarily closed due to COVID-19 exposure

It’s the latest business in the Valley to be affected by the virus

The CSRHD board moved closer to passing a budget with a $4.4 million cut to the tax requisition. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Strathcona hospital district moves on budget with tax cut

At $12.6 million, budget requisition represents drop of $4.4 million for current year

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton, standing at right, sits on steering committees of two organizations that are tackling the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. File photo
Courtenay councillor leads campaign to reduce building-sector GHG emissions

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton wants local governments to carry a little more… Continue reading

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

Most Read