Chum salmon return to Bowker Creek after a century

WatchSalmon hatchlings have appeared in Bowker Creek, and with them comes a renewed sense of hope for the restoration of the habitat. Kori Sidaway reports.

For the first time in over a century, salmon have returned to an urban creek in Greater Victoria.

“It was thrilling. It was really thrilling,” said Val Aloian, Oak Bay resident and Bowker Creek’s ‘stream keeper’.

While taking the water’s daily temperature on March 30, a small school of fish caught Aloian by surprise.

“I looked over at the incubation box and saw some movement, and then I realized well it’s little fish,” said Aloian.

Not just any fish: chum salmon fry. In fact, the first salmon this stream has seen in a century.

“We’re glad and we’re relieved,” said Gerald Harris, the director of Friends of Bowker Creek.

Harris says the last chum salmon were documented around Royal Jubilee Hospital in 1914, and the roughly 100 fry are a flash of hope for the once dying urban waterway.

“The creek had become a storm sewer for 1000 hectares of urban area,” said Harris. “It was polluted, abused, and it’s still got a long way to go.”

Harris says the creek, which flows from UVIC all the way to the Salish Sea in Oak Bay, had been largely neglected since the 1900s. The work to restore Bowker Creek has only been underway for the last 20 years.

“We’ve got a slightly cleaner creek. We have been able to restore the banks and the riparian streamside area. We’ve got good dense native plantings on the shore which create more cover in the creek,” said Harris.

The creek had recovered so well, that Fisheries and Oceans Canada approved a plan to place nearly 30,000 chum eggs in the creek this past January.

“I don’t think it’s over yet. I think it’s possible we’ll have other cohorts,” said Aloian. “There was an early group and a later group so I’m hoping to see more.”

A glimmer of hope for this once forgotten habitat which may be the start of the salmon run, returning.

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Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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