A small beach along the Songhees Walkway is seeing a return of surf smelt fish.
Peninsula Streams Society restored the beach located near Victoria International Marina for both public and cultural use, enhancing the former Mud Bay shoreline in partnership with the City of Victoria, Songhees Nation and Esquimalt Nation.
The reconstruction project was also part of the Pacific Salmon Foundation and BC Stewardship Center’s Resilient Coast for Salmon Program.
Mud Bay, an important place within the traditional territories of the Lekwungen People, was a center for the artifact and curio trade but is now buried beneath fill and development.
“It’s been historically kind of thought as an industrial site and that is quickly changing back to its previous use as a really productive and wonderful habitat,” said Kyle Armstrong, a restoration coordinator with Peninsula Streams Society.
During phase one of the project, rock and concrete debris were removed and replaced with fish-friendly sand and gravel, providing spawning habitat for the tiny surf smelt and pacific sand lance, both important food sources for many animals living under the water and those flying above.
“It was a bit of a surprise that they (surf smelt fish) would come and use this site so quickly, it’s a really positive finding for us,” added Armstrong.
But the fish aren’t the only thing the society and the Songhees Nation hope to welcome back to their beloved shores.
Cecelia Dick, the cultural tourism supervisor for the Songhees Nation, says they hope to also use the beach as a landing spot for canoes on their harbour tours.
In the 1900s, canoes lined the shores of this area either because of the trade or competing in popular regattas in the capital.
“It’s going to be amazing next year when we do our tours with Explore Songhees and come to these beaches with our canoes. We always say this is the highway of our ancestors,” said Dick.
Phase two of the project begins in the spring of 2023 and will see the addition of a sandy backshore area and further shoreline stabilization.