Shawnigan Creek Coho, A Salmon Enhancement Success Story Now in Crisis:
In the late 1970’s the Goldstream river fish stocks were at an all-time low. In 1979 a group of anglers who would be later be known as the Mill Bay and District Conservation Society had an idea. The idea was to simply transplant Goldstream River salmon fry into Shawnigan Creek, and create a run of Coho salmon into the watershed. The big challenge with Shawnigan Creek is it has several impassable falls. To get around this the group devised trap system where the fish could be held on return. Fish were held in an open pen, netted, sorted through, and placed in special transportation tanks. These tanks were driven to various locations along the creek, so that maturing fish could spawn in the system.
Shawnigan creek is not only important to Shawnigan Lake and its ecosystem, but it is vital to the Goldstream River. In times of low returns on the Goldstream River, the Shawnigan project has supplied broodstock Coho many times over the years.
In 2012 Shawnigan Creek had an unexpected surprise with 5,000 mature Coho, which is an extremely incredible achievement. This return had surpassed the Goldstream River, and many other streams/rivers within the Greater Victoria region. This story is incredible for just a small unpaid group of volunteers who created a run in a stream that never had one.
Now in 2015 with another successful return of over 2300 Coho this creek is in crisis, and this fairytale may now be coming to a close.
In August 21, 2013 the Ministry of Environment (MOE) granted South Island Aggregates Ltd. (SIA)/ Cobble Hill Holdings (CHH) a 50-year permit to receive up to 100,000 tons of contaminated soil annually (a total of five million tons). The location of the site is very close to upper Shawnigan Creek and is a threat to vital spawning and rearing habitat for the Coho. Despite calls from concerned citizens of Shawnigan Lake of the project to DFO, MOE and other ministries to stop this contaminated soil facility it has fallen on deaf ears. The drinking water in Shawnigan Lake is an issue for thousands of residents, but our salmon once again have taken the backseat as a risk to this project. If even a small amount highly toxic contaminates enter the creek it could wipe out what has taken 36 years to achieve, and also threaten our Goldstream River Coho stocks.
There is no place for any dumping of contaminated materials if it jeopardizes our Pacific salmon bearing creeks, and our fish must be protected as part of the Fisheries Act of Canada. The Shawnigan Residents Association (SRA) and Cowichan Regional District (CVRD) are already in Supreme Court in BC to try to get the BC MOE permit stopped in respects to drinking water and land permit use of this site. We all have a duty to protect wild Pacific salmon, and for South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition this issue strikes very close to home.
For more information please visit:
• Shawnigan Resident Association (SRA) Background http://www.thesra.ca/
• Andrew Weaver MLA blog on (SIA) Project http://www.andrewweavermla.ca/?s=shawnigan
• 2012 Article on Mill Bay and District Society Project in Sidney Anglers Association Newsletter http://www.sidneyanglers.ca/sites/default/files/09GM%20Minutes%20October%202013.pdf