On a sunny Saturday in late January, volunteers from the Friends of Bowker Creek Society haul load after load of rocks into the water, preparing part of Oak Bay Creek for thousands of salmon eggs.
“Bowker Creek has been a salmon stream for probably 6,000 years, with the exception of the last 100,” says Gerald Harris, volunteer director of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society and head of its Stream Keepers Group. “We hope this is just a moment in the history of the creek.”
Harris led the ambitious salmon restoration project.
Nearly 30,000 chum salmon eggs are deposited in the urban creek, which has been degraded by development.
“What we’ve basically done is set a trajectory towards recovery,” says Kyle Armstrong, restoration coordinator for the Peninsula Streams Society. “There have been acts and acts of disrespect to this aquatic system and this watershed historically.”
With the help of the Peninsula Streams Society, the eggs are placed in gravel to incubate.
“The Department of Fisheries has found that if you put the eggs in the gravel for a few weeks before they hatch, and then they can come naturally from the gravel, those fish have a better idea of how to get back,” Harris says. “They are more imprinted on the feed so you get a better hatch rate with the adults.”
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This wouldn’t be possible without dozens of volunteers – not just today, but the hundreds of people over the years who have helped restore the creek to bring it to this point.
“What interests me is to feel close to the real environment in which I live and to try to repair some of the things, some of the harms that we have caused,” explains volunteer Eldan Goldenberg.
Goldenberg only moved to Victoria in 2020 but was eager to get involved and give back.
“It’s a bit more important as a newcomer,” says Goldenberg. “I came here not knowing anyone and having no deep connection to the place, but I live here, use the same resources as everyone else, and want to find a way to connect with this and help make of where I live as well as possible.
Excitement builds as volunteers prepare to put the eggs in the water.
There are just over 2,000 eggs in each little tube and Harris does the honors.
“Little salmon eggs, we just wish you the best! he said as the crowd gathered applause and cheers. “It makes me feel good! It’s a hopeful thing. We’re by no means guaranteed that it will work, but it helps us move in the right direction.”