Bernard McManus holding a smolt that is being measured for Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society counts the coho in a smolt trap on Shelly Creek off of Martindale Road. — Lauren Collins photo

VIDEO: MVIHES counting cohos in Parksville creek

Otter vandalism incidents affects coho smolt count

Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society volunteers have been busy the past two months at the smolt trap just off of Martindale Road.

A smolt (young salmon) trap is set up each year in Shelly Creek to count the number of coho coming through the creek, said MVIHES volunteer Barb Riordan. She said for each 100 coho coming through, volunteers measure the length of the first 10 fish and then start the process again until there aren’t any more fish in the trap.

“Ten out of every hundred are measured for length, and we can compare that year to year to see if there’s a difference,” she said. “Because a difference could mean different conditions; a lot of things can affect why the coho are smaller or larger year to year.”

Riordan said Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has smolt traps set up to count the coho every spring “to get an idea of what the numbers of smolts that are exiting these small creeks and going to the ocean.”

The MVIHES, said Riordan, has been counting coho for the DFO since 2011.

In the years MVIHES has been helping with the count, Riordan said the most they’ve counted out of the creek for one season was 8,000.

“It was an incredible number,” she said. “It goes up and down, depending on the conditions.”

This year, MVIHES’ count isn’t too far off that high-water mark.

As of Thursday morning (May 10), MVIHES volunteer Shelley Goertzen said the total coho count so far is at about 6,100.

Each morning around 9 a.m., Riordan said, volunteers head out to count the coho. One day in early May there were 890 smolts in one day, she said, so volunteers were making two trips per day to empty the trap.

However, the count is a little lower than expected at this point, Goertzen said.

There was a two-day period in the week of April 30 to May 4 where an otter was believed to have gotten into the trap, letting out the fish in the process.

On the days before and after the otter vandalism incident, Goertzen said, the coho count each day was in excess of 200. She said the volunteers figure they lost about 400 coho for the count.

For more information on the smolt count, visit www.mvihes.bc.ca.

Send story tips: lauren.collins@pqbnews.com

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