‘I was wishing it away’: Cowichan River swimmer discovers dead fry mystery

'I was wishing it away': Cowichan River swimmer discovers dead fry mystery
Photo courtesy Christopher Crowther
Christopher Crowther was swimming in the Cowichan River on July 10 when he came across a number of dead fry.

Christopher Crowther regularly swims in the Cowichan River, but has never seen anything like what he came across early this week.

Crowther has noticed low water levels occurring year after year. Although this concern is a result of lower snow packs creating less flow along the river, he was not prepared to see what he saw on his last visit to the river.

Crowther was swimming along the river recently in an area known as Horsehoe Bend when he spotted over 50 dead fry at the bottom of the river.

“I was wishing it away I was hoping I wasn’t seeing what I was seeing,” said Crowther.

This caused Crowther to be concerned and reached out to several authorities and businesses including the Cowichan Tribe, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Catalyst Paper.

In an interview with CHEK News, Catalyst’s environment manager Brian Houle says that the company and other members of the Cowichan Watershed Board are not certain what could have caused these fish fry to die.

Catalyst withdraws water from the river for its operations, but its point of withdrawal is lower down the river than where the fry were found.

“There is an impact that we [Catalyst] do have on that last run of the river. The issue we are dealing with is halfway down the river, well above our withdrawal point. This is not about Catalyst withdrawal of water, this is something unusual going on the river that we don’t understand,” said Houle.

Both Crowther and Catalyst did confirm that DFO is planning to take water samples at Horseshoe Bend in order to attempt to determine what could have cause the fry to die off.

Cowichan Tribes did do their own sample work earlier in the week with the same goal in mind.

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