Return of chum salmon to Bowker Creek after a century

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For the first time in over a century, salmon have returned to an urban creek in Greater Victoria.

” It was passionate. It was really exciting,” said Val Aloian, Oak Bay resident and Bowker Creek “creek keeper”.

While taking the daily water temperature on March 30, a small school of fish surprised Aloian.

“I looked at the hatching box and saw movement, then I realized it was a small fish,” Aloian said.

Not just any fish: chum salmon fry. In fact, the first salmon this creek has seen in a century.

“We are happy and we are relieved,” said Gerald Harris, director of the Friends of Bowker Creek.

Harris says the last chum salmon was documented around the Royal Jubilee Hospital in 1914, and the roughly 100 fry are a beacon of hope for the once dying urban waterway.

“The creek had become a storm sewer for 1,000 acres of urban area,” Harris said. “It’s been polluted, abused, and there’s still a long way to go.”

Harris says the creek, which flows from UVIC to the Salish Sea in Oak Bay, had been largely neglected since the 1900s. Bowker Creek restoration work has only been underway for 20 years.

“We have a little cleaner creek. We were able to restore the banks and the riparian riparian area. We have good, dense native plantings on the shore that create more cover in the creek,” Harris said.

The creek had recovered so well that Fisheries and Oceans Canada approved a plan to place nearly 30,000 chum eggs in the creek last January.

“I don’t think it’s over yet. I think it’s possible we have other cohorts,” Aloian said. “There was an early band and a later band, so I’m hoping to see more.”

A glimmer of hope for this once forgotten habitat that could be the start of the salmon run.

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