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VIDEO: Willows students gently launch 100 fish fry into Oak Bay creek

Devastatingly low fall return means only student-raised fry will head to sea locally in 2024

Tiny fish carefully reared from eggs by Cathy Ireton’s Grade 3 class at Willows elementary are working their way to the sea.

Bob and George were the top names as kids took tiny cups, with even tinier silver chum fry in them, and carefully sent them on their way into Bowker Creek on Wednesday, April 17.

In the outdoor classroom adjacent to the waterway behind Oak Bay High, Joscilyn Cliff of Stream to Sea suggested the students name the fledgling fish before bidding adieu. She explained how the fish would forge their way out to sea. Some succumb to humans, bears and other predators while others mingle with their peers from around the world before returning to Bowker in about two years’ time.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay fry emerge, swim to Salish Sea in bid to bring salmon back to Bowker Creek

The Oak Bay students are among many classes rearing fish and returning them to the system this spring. For Bowker Creek, it’s a blessing as the group that usually tucks something in the range of 30,000 eggs into a gravel bed near the Monteith Allotment Gardens were among those who didn’t get stock this year.

Friends of Bowker Creek and other stream keepers on Vancouver Island suffered from the lowest chum salmon return on record in Goldstream River in fall 2023. Hatchery volunteers expected 22,000-23,000 to return and about 3,000 showed up to spawn.

READ ALSO: Low Goldstream chum return a ‘disaster’ for hatchery programs, ecosystem

Usually, the Goldstream Hatchery team harvests and fertilizes eggs to support community salmon return initiatives in waterways such as Bowker Creek.

In 2021 and 2022, the Friends of Bowker Creek salmon recovery project received more than 30,000 eggs to place in its streamed incubator as part of its salmon recovery project. This year there were none.

Despite the low chum return, some will make their way into streams up and down the Island, as the Goldstream Hatchery team did harvest and fertilize enough chum eggs to support its massive classroom program. The hatchery provides small batches of eggs to about 100 classroom incubators for students to learn while hatching their fry.

With the help of the federal Stream to Sea and local Peninsula Streams, students subsequently release surviving fry into local waterways each spring.

For Bowker Creek, Lansdowne Middle School was slated to release fish later in the day on April 17 while Glenlyon Norfolk students will set fry free in mid-May.

READ ALSO: Greater Victoria water stewards tackle tire toxins in Bowker Creek

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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