Cleaning up spawning beds

Community groups are important to provide work on a number for former spawning salmon beds.

In time, each and every angler comes to know that when you are casting to fish in a river or stream, you look for that glimmer of silver in the water that tells you there is a bright, shiny fish moving through the nearby water. That momentary glimmer is also, in some ways, also a glimmer of hope, a chance that the fish might just take your offering and the age-old fight between predator and prey will be on.

The problem is that salmon stocks in this province, especially sockeye salmon, are in trouble and opportunities for catching a salmon are becoming increasingly reduced.

There are, however, still a few glimmers of hope out there – especially when individuals and/or groups take things upon themselves.

On July 21, members of the Salmon Arm Fish and Game Club, staff from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and a crew from Streamside Environmental, an Ohio based company that provides restoration service (using their patented Sand Wand technology) for cleaning the earth’s water resources, got together to initiate work on a number of former salmon spawning beds along the Salmon River and Canoe Creek. The areas chosen were once productive spawning beds which had become silted over and impacted with sand, rendering them no longer suitable.

Funding for the project ($20,000) was provided by the Pacific Salmon Foundation with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada providing technical expertise and the fish and game club providing labour and co-ordination of the project. Streamside Environmental was brought in, on a contract basis, so that Fisheries and Oceans Canada could get a firsthand look at their technology at work. An estimated 15,000 square feet of streambeds along the Salmon River and Canoe Creek were treated with some 550 cubic feet of silt and Salmon Arm Fish and Game Club volunteers have also erected fencing along specific stretches of Canoe Creek and Blurton Creek to prevent cattle from walking along the streambanks of both creeks and destroying riparian habitat. Members of the Lower Shuswap Stewardship Society spent considerable time planting native trees and shrubs along Blurton Creek to stabilize the banks, as well as, putting rocks in place to prevent erosion. Their efforts have already paid off as sockeye salmon have been spotted spawning in Blurton Creek for several years now.

While these are by no means the kinds of large environmental projects that draw national attention, they are, nonetheless, the kinds of efforts that have a cumulative impact and may, when all is said and done, prove to make the difference between something, albeit small, getting done and nothing getting done because a study had to be done before an assessment of past studies, and the criteria for future studies, could be completed in order to assess the results of all past and present studies concerning the possible proposal of any and all future studies, which should be completed in order to assess the previous study and its potential bearing on the next study – or something like that.

If we support local conservation, environmental and outdoor groups who give of their time, labour and yes, sometimes even knowledge and expertise, we just might be able to keep whatever glimmer of hope there is for our endangered socket salmon stocks alive.

My hat goes off to groups like the Salmon Arm Fish and Game Club as well as all the other conservation, environmental and naturalist groups whose members are willing to simply do what needs to be done. Of course while the bureaucrats are busy doing their studies, they are out of the way so the ground-level volunteers can get things done – or something like that.