On a sunny Saturday in late January, volunteers with the Friends of Bowker Creek Society carry load after load of rocks down to the water — preparing a part of the creek in Oak Bay for thousands of salmon eggs.
“Bowker Creek has been a salmon stream for probably 6,000 years, with the exception of the last 100 years,” explains Gerald Harris, a volunteer director for the Friends of Bowker Creek Society and the leader of its Stream Keepers Group. “We’re hoping that’s just a blip in the creek’s history.”
Harris has spearheaded the ambitious salmon restoration project.
Close to 30,000 chum salmon eggs are being deposited in the urban creek, with had been degraded by development.
“What we’ve essentially done is established a trajectory towards recovery,” says Peninsula Streams Society restoration coordinator Kyle Armstrong. “There’s been acts and acts of disrespect to this aquatic system and this watershed historically.”
With the help of the Peninsula Streams Society, the eggs are being placed in gravel to incubate.
“The Department of Fisheries has found that if you put the eggs into the gravel for a few weeks before they hatch, and then they can come naturally from the gravel, those fish have a better sense of how to get back,” Harris says. “They’re more imprinted on the stream and so you get a better hatch rate with adults.”
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It wouldn’t be possible without dozens of volunteers — not just on this day, but the hundreds of people over the years who’ve helped restore the creek to get it to this point.
“What I’m interested in is feeling close to the actual surroundings I live in and trying to fix some of the things, some of the harms that we’ve done,” says volunteer, Eldan Goldenberg.
Goldenberg only moved to Victoria in 2020, but was eager to get involved and give back.
“It’s kind of extra important as a newcomer,” Goldenberg explains. “I came here knowing nobody and without the deep connection to the place but I’m living here, I’m using the same resources as everyone else, and I want to find a way to connect to that and help make the place where I live as good as it can be.”
Excitement builds as volunteers get ready to put the eggs in the water.
There are just over 2,000 eggs in each small tube and Harris does the honours.
“Little salmon eggs, we just wish you the very, very best!” he says as the crowd gathered claps and cheers. “It makes me feel very good! It’s a hopeful thing. We’re by no means assured of this working but it’s helping us go in the right direction.”