There’s some good news on Shelly Creek, says Faye Smith, with an impressive number of coho salmon returning to spawn.
The news came after volunteers with the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES) conducted a smolt counting exercise on the local creek, which is a small tributary that enters the Englishman River just upstream of the orange bridge in Parksville.
The numbers they came up with, she said, were impressive.
“Last year, by May 31, everyone involved in the smolt counting was thrilled to see that they had recorded nearly 3,000 fish in the six weeks of monitoring,” she said. “This year, in less than two weeks, they have recorded 3,119 fish.”
These fish face a struggle — the water quality is poor, the coho habitat is very limited and the invasive American bullfrog is taking its toll on them. When they reach the estuary where they expect to fatten up and get used to the salt water, the Canada goose has destroyed almost all of the estuary grasses that provide feeding channels, cover and shade.
Despite the challenges, Smith said she’s very much encouraged.
“Is this a miracle or not, that so many juvenile coho, as well as Rainbow and Cutthroat trout and other species, fight the odds in these small urban streams and live out their life cycle?” she said. “So let’s put an end to the idea that ditches are not important enough to protect as fish habitat. Shelly Creek has been ditched, culverted and pretty much twisted like a pretzel from its headwaters in Errington to its confluence with the Englishman and look how it is producing. This is a good news story.”