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Archive for the ‘Biology’ Category

Smallmouth Bass in Cultus Lake

Published on Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

A couple of months ago, we published an alert notice on the presence of smallmouth bass in Cultus Lake when the northern pikeminnow capture crew encountered a couple during the program in the spring. There was surprisingly fair amount of skepticism of this news even though the notice came from BC’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

This morning, I accompanied Region 2 biologist Colin Schwindt, and Martina Beck from Ministry’s invasive fauna unit head who spent the day sampling the lake for specimens. Several smallmouth bass were captured, including both juveniles (1 year old) and adults (3 ~ 5 year old). Their stomach samples were collected and their age will be determined at the lab.

Smallmouth bass in Cultus Lake

How smallmouth bass will impact native species in Cultus Lake including endangered sockeye salmon is unknown at this point, because there simply isn’t enough information to determine that.

Colin has asked anglers who fish the lake to retain smallmouth bass if you encounter them (the current daily quota is 20), and bring them to DFO’s Cultus Lake Salmon Research Lab (4222 Columbia Valley Highway).

More information can be found on this page.

The Unnecessary Demise of an Iconic Species

Published on Monday, November 20th, 2017

Steelhead

By now if you do some kind of recreational fishing in British Columbia, you must have heard about the predicted return numbers for this year’s Interior Fraser River steelhead, which are pretty dismal. The expected number of steelhead returning to the Thompson River is 145 fish, while Chilcotin River’s return is expected to be 45 fish. The number of fish spawning in the spring will most likely be even lower than that once overwintering mortality is taken into account.

The Thompson River returns, just one decade ago, were still in the thousands. Lets pause for a minute and think about the rate of this decline. If an iconic species of animal in British Columbia, take grizzly bear, or bald eagle for example, had a 50%+ decrease after one breeding cycle, imagine what the public outrage would be.

The trouble with fish is that, they are in the water. You can’t see them and you don’t know how they’re doing. Once a fish species loses its commercial value, it no longer is a public interest. A handful of lucky steelhead anglers who have had the privilege to shake hands with these fish, have a sentimental connection with them and will be their advocates, but their voices are not enough to bring these populations back to what they used to be. The recovery of a species requires the support of ALL British Columbians, and this is where you come in.

Now, I can’t sit here and tell you what a magnificent sportfish the Thompson River steelhead is or that we are saving them so future generations can enjoy catching them. Firstly, I’ve never fished for them so I wouldn’t know, and this is not about fishing anymore. The loss of a species is tragic, especially when it is preventable. The goal is no longer to save an iconic fish so some fishermen can feel the tug again. This is about saving genetically distinct populations of fish which cannot be replaced once they are gone.

The Interior Fraser River steelhead’s endemic range is huge. From the streams where they hatch to the Pacific Ocean, too many things can go wrong in tens of thousands squared kilometres. On top of natural challenges such as predation and unfavourable oceanic conditions, their survival is impacted by plenty of human activities. Some of these human-caused problems take time to resolve, while others can be eliminated immediately.

The commercial chum salmon gill net fishery in the Lower Fraser River, which takes place during these steelhead’s returns, is one of them. When there are only 200 fish returning, it is absurd to suggest some of them can be considered as incidental by-catches so a fishery can be allowed. With a post-release mortality at over 60%, you can see how fast the population can be pushed to extinction. The trouble with saving a species, is the race against time. The rate of decline accelerates as the species approaches extinction. Ten years ago, losing 20 fish meant a 1% loss of the population. Today, it becomes 10%. Time is running out.

Our immediate action should be to pressure this government to end a commercial fishery that puts money in a few pockets at the expense of a species’ survival. You can do so by signing this current petition that has been circulating. By signing this petition, it does not guarantee the recovery of the Interior Fraser River steelhead populations, far from it. This recovery will most likely take decades so your ongoing action and support are required. Sign, share and inform others who are still unaware.

Chilliwack River Juvenile Steelhead Release

Published on Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Last week, Fraser Valley Trout Hatchery and Chilliwack Salmon Hatchery teamed up for the annual juvenile steelhead release in the Chilliwack/Vedder River system. Each year, approximately 125,000 juvenile steelhead which have been raised at the hatchery are released into the river. These fish will spend the next few years in the ocean and return as adult steelhead in the winter months.

For more information about the program, please watch this video.

Collecting Eggs and Milt

Published on Monday, October 29th, 2012

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be part of a rather fun, or dirty, project on the Alouette River. Students from BCIT were learning the process of collecting chum salmon eggs and milt for the Seymour Salmon Hatchery, and I was invited to document it.

As mentioned in an earlier article, 2012’s Fraser River chum salmon run has been better than average so far. 3 to 3.5 million fish are estimated to make their way into the system by the end of the year. Just the Alouette River alone can see up to 250,000 spawning fish returning. I was blown away by the amount of fish that have reached the counting fence at the hatchery.

Each year, Seymour Salmon Hatchery collects eggs and milt from the Alouette River to boost Seymour River’s chum salmon stock. The run has been poor for many usual reasons, including the existing dam, urbanization and poaching. By transplanting more fish, the hope is to rebuild this run to possibly what it once was.

Here are some photographs. Stay tuned for the video feature!

Big School of Spawning Chum Salmon

Collecting Chum Salmon Broods

Dead Chum Salmon

Return of Salmon at Kanaka Creek

Published on Monday, October 22nd, 2012

This past weekend, we decided to put our fishing rods down and attended a very worthy local event in Maple Ridge. On Sunday, at Kanaka Creek, volunteers from Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society (K.E.E.P.S.) displayed salmon that are currently returning to this system at the fish counting fence.

K.E.E.P.S. volunteer Ross Davies showcasing a spawned out chum salmon

K.E.E.P.S. volunteer Ross Davies showcasing a chum salmon

Kanaka Creek is a small river system. Unlike larger systems such as the Chilliwack River, it only sees the return of several hundreds to thousands of salmon each year. Meanders through a rapidly developing part of Metro Vancouver, it faces many challenges, including pollution, river discharge fluctuation and poaching. Collectively, these challenges can impact the fragile salmon population if actions are not taken.

K.E.E.P.S. volunteer Ross Davies showcasing a chum salmon

K.E.E.P.S. is an active stewardship group that ensures the survival of this stream and its inhabitants. By ongoing work at the Bell-Irving Hatchery, habitat enhancement, river patrol and various outreach programs, it has been responsible for the return of these fish each year.

Chum salmon eggs

While we were at the event, visitors also received an extra treat when a black bear decided to make a surprising appearance. I managed to capture the last portion of its visit on video.

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