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

The Oak Bay woman had luck twice when she took temperature and water level readings in an environmentally critical part of Bowker Creek.

Val Aloian, working with the Friends of the Bowker Creek Salmon Recovery Project, discovered a small population of fry on April 18.

“The sun came out and I went to the edge of here and looked and there was some movement,” Aloan said.

She walked to her usual location and spotted a small school of fry.

“I’m just squatting here watching and taking some photos and videos.”

She noticed that they responded to movement, that if she moved a branch, they would scatter and then reform in a small school 30 seconds later.

It was the second year in a row that she had the privilege of witnessing fry congregate at the school before heading downriver to the Salish Sea.

“I was lucky enough to see them two years in a row. I think they’re broken up now…even if it’s just an hour later,” she said.

For two years, the association has planted tens of thousands of eggs in late winter, bringing salmon back to the creeks that meander through Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay.

Eggs are ripe when they reach the proper cumulative heat units – more of a temperature than time. As a rough estimate, they will hatch sometime between February 13th and 19th, barring unusual weather conditions. After hatching, the turtles bury themselves in the gravel and live off the egg sacs until they are ready to forage when they emerge as fry.

“We don’t know how many have hatched today. It could happen in a matter of days. There’s a sort of two-week period,” said Gerald Harris, the association’s president.

He reckoned this particular group came out last night, lingered a bit, then filtered out to sea in small groups.

“We won’t see them again until they’re adults — if they’re lucky with us,” Harris said.

For the first batch, the harsh winter of 2021 is believed to be responsible for a 20% mortality rate. They hope it will be lower this year.

“After giving them a few weeks, we’re going to take out three hatchers and see how many eggs die in the boxes without hatching,” Harris said.

Survivors of eggs hatched in the spring of 2022 will return in 2024.

Environment Oak Bay Salmon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *