Summary of the Hope Bay Salmon Stream Project
Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Hope Bay stream is the only documented salmon stream on Pender Island. Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) records indicate chum salmon using the creek for spawning and rearing up to the mid- 1980s. There is no more recent fish enumeration data for Hope Bay stream, but streamside landowners indicate that there have been no salmon in the stream for roughly two decades. In 2009 Hope Bay stream was identified by Islands Trust consultants as representing “the best potential fish habitat” on Pender Island
· Chum lifecycle: Spawning chum salmon lay their eggs in the late fall (typically November or December), hatch from eggs as alevins then emerge from the stream gravel as fry in the early spring (typically March or April). They live briefly in freshwater, then travel to the ocean to grow before returning to their native stream to spawn. Where chum salmon differ from other salmon species is that the period of time they spend in freshwater as fry is extremely short- most salmon species spend multiple years in freshwater but chum salmon migrate to the ocean shortly after they emerge from the gravel in the early spring.
:Beginnings: In 2000, PICA members recognized the ecological value of re-introducing salmon into Hope Bay stream. In 2000/ 2001, funding from the then Ministry of Environment’s Urban Salmon Habitat Program (USHP) allowed PICA to map Hope Bay stream, including assessing salmon habitat quality and opportunities for habitat enhancement. A map of the stream, including its tributaries, was completed in 2001. In 2004, DFO Community Advisor Tom Rutherford visited Pender Island, reviewed the map and walked the stream with PICA members. He recommended that PICA members take a Stream Keepers training course, then monitor water quality and quantity in the stream for a year before determining whether chum salmon could be successfully re-introduced into the stream.
· Stream Keepers instructor Lisa Fleming taught a course in December 2005, and from December 2005 to December 2006, trained volunteers collected water quality and flow data. The data show that Hope Bay stream has good water quality year-round, and that the stream flows from October to April. From this data, as well as observations of adequate spawning habitat, Tom Rutherford concluded that Hope Bay stream has the biological ability to support a sustainable run of chum salmon (but not Coho salmon, which remain in the stream year-round).
· While this work was being completed, new Riparian Areas Regulation (RAR) was being introduced by federal, provincial and local governments. There was some uncertainty as to whether land use adjacent to the stream would be affected if salmon were re-introduced into Hope Bay stream (i.e. if Hope Bay stream became an actual fish bearing stream, as opposed to a potential fish bearing stream). It is now clear that the RAR applies to Hope Bay stream, whether or not salmon are actually present in the stream, as the regulations apply both to potential and actual fish bearing streams.
·In 2012 the first chum fry were released into the stream. In 2013, rather than transporting and releasing fry into the stream, DFO staff brought over an egg incubator from the Goldstream Hatchery and the incubator with 24,000 chum eggs was placed in the stream. In 2014 the hatchery did not have sufficient chum eggs due to problems associated with the capture of brood stock in the fall of 2013. This meant that there weren’t any eggs or fry to release into Hope Bay stream. In February 2015, 40,000 chum eggs were delivered from the Goldstream Hatchery by DFO Community Advisor, Shona Smith. The eggs were placed in a new stainless-steel incubator in the stream. Fry were observed swimming in the stream and when the incubator was opened there were no dead fry or unhatched eggs
· When the project was initiated, PICA agreed to oversee either fry release or egg incubation yearly for two cycles, or eight years, to see if adult chum would return to the stream to spawn. The first return of chum was expected in November or December 2015.
·Over the years, PICA volunteers have removed invasive species and planted native vegetation to stabilize the stream banks. Funding for the project has been obtained through grants from the Pacific Salmon Foundation.
2019 update. The Salmon Stream project team is working on improving the quality of Hope Bay stream by increasing the native vegetation on or near the banks of the stream. A trimmed back stream shore may look tidy, but a stream that has had vegetation removed from its banks is generally not a healthy stream habitat. Native plants not only help to stabilize a stream bank, they create a healthy habitat for young fish by providing shade and protection, and by increasing the number of insects and other creatures that young fish depend upon for food. Native species planted in the past did not fare well, due mostly to damage by humans and deer. In the fall of 2017, we received a donation of 20 small cedar trees with protective coverings from Judy Ackinclose, which were planted in November, but the coverings turned out to be inadequate, easily removed by deer and children attending the camp. Thus, wire and rebar were purchased to provide protection for the trees planted in 2018 and 2019.
Salmon need gravel beds of round river gravel of specific size in order to hatch. The gravel needs to be large enough to provide hiding places for the sac-fry, yet small enough for female salmon to move to make their redds (gravel nests). Gravel was placed in the stream in 2017 but was washed downstream during a particularly heavy winter rainstorm. So, in October 2018, gravel and wire mesh were purchased, small gravel weirs were built to slow down the stream flow, and fresh gravel applied to the stream bed.
In 2017, 10,000 eggs were placed in the stream. No fry were observed, but since they often move downstream at night, it is possible that they made it to the estuary without being seen.
In 2019, 40,000 eggs were placed in the stream. They appeared to have hatched safely and fry were spotted in the stream.
Since no eggs were placed in the stream in 2014, so salmon were expected on 2018. Unfortunately, no salmon have returned in any of the 4 years that we could have expected them. The reasons for this are not known, but the speculation is that the flow of the Hope Bay stream was late or inadequate due to lower than normal rainfalls in the autumn, of 2017, combined with the opening of a commercial fishery in 2019. However this does not mean that the project has not been a success, since the young salmon that headed into the estuary and the open ocean would have provided for many creatures in the marine food web.
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