Human-made salmon run in Shawnigan Creek gives fish a ‘lift’ thanks to volunteers


WATCH: It’s that time of year again when salmon return to their spawning area. But for thousands in Shawnigan Creek, it’s impossible because of waterfalls. That’s why a group of volunteers were helping them today with a human-made salmon run. Luisa Alvarez was there.

While beautiful to look at a powerful set of waterfalls on Shawnigan creek is what’s standing in the way of salmon reaching ideal spawning grounds just above.

“There is absolutely no way that any fish could get up without help,” said volunteer Steve Housser.

That is why since the early eighties dedicated volunteers have created a human-made salmon run.

“They come up the fishway its an artificial stream where they come up the ramp. Once they go up the ramp there are some fingers, they go through and the fingers come back through behind them and then they are in the trap,” said Ken Gray director with the Mill Bay and district conservation society.

Once the salmon get into the live tanks volunteers then net them and battle with the squirming fish to transfer them into a hopper which then gets pulled to the top passing the waterfall.

There, another set of volunteers grab the fish and transfer them into tanks that take the salmon a short distance upstream where they are re-released to spawn naturally.

“With our tanks and our trucks and our delivery system we can get them up to good waters to spawn in,” said Ted Brookman another volunteer.

By the end of the season, they will have moved upwards of 3,000 coho salmon.

“Over the years its turned into something just fantastic this return on here per-capita is some of the best around,” said volunteer Rick Brand.

Not only is it a spectacular thing to witness the human-made run plays a role in supplying other hatcheries when they’re low. Its helped Goldstream in the past when their coho salmon run has failed and it’s helping them again with stock to put back into their river system.

“Without fish coming here Goldstream would be out of business so it’s very important,” said Norm Evans.

Run like a well-oiled machine they continue this process each year until the end of the spawning season.

“We’ve now got young people involved instead of us old farts,” said Brookman.

Brookman adds that is important because the run is completely dependent on volunteers so getting young people interested ensures the run maintains its longevity for generations to come.

Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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