It’s slimy, slippery work, but tossing dead salmon is great for this B.C. ecosystem

If you’ve ever wanted to chuck a dead salmon, an event on Vancouver Island this weekend may be your chance.

For the past 20 years, a group of conservationists have been tossing dead salmon into a creek bed in Saanich, B.C., as part of the annual Douglas Creek Salmon Transplant. This year, they are inviting the public to take part.

Volunteers will throw more than 100 salmon carcasses into Douglas Creek in PKOLS (Mt. Douglas Park) on Saturday. The PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy says salmon carcasses are tossed into the creek to mimic the natural lifecycle, improving the health of the creek by providing nutrients to the ecosystem.

The carcasses will help nourish young salmon fry that will be brought to the stream from the Howard English Fish Hatchery, as well as other animals in the park.

All Points West8:42Thawed, slimy and slippery: Dead salmon toss marks 20 years of conversation work

For the past 20 years, a group of conservationists have been chucking dead salmon into a creek bed in Saanich to help improve the ecosystem. Darrell Wick, president of the PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy, spoke with Kathryn Marlow.

The salmon carcasses also come from the hatchery, which took the fish out of the creek in November and harvested the eggs before freezing them.

Permissions are needed to transplant the salmon, according to Darrell Wick, president of the PKOLS-Mount Doug Conservancy, as regulations are in place to prevent cross-contamination. 

‘It’s a lot of fun’: president of conservancy

The public invitation to chuck dead salmon is part of the conservancy’s effort to bolster the creek’s salmon population.

The population of salmon in the creek — mostly chum with some coho — has declined substantially since the 1960s as urbanization in the Gordon Head area has increased the number of surges of storm water going into the creek. The conservancy is hoping for a comeback. 

More than 100 volunteers are expected at Saturday’s event, which was pared down in recent years due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Darrell Wick/PKOLS-Mount Douglas Conservancy)

Wick says the event is also educational, highlighting the importance of healthy watershed ecology. 

Wick notes the plan is to thaw the salmon prior to Saturday’s event and they should be “nice and slimy.”

He said those who have never tossed a salmon before will be able to get tips from volunteers. 

“I guess when they’re slimy and slippery like that, you just don’t want it to slip,” said Wick.

“It’s not hard. It’s a lot of fun. The object when you throw it is to actually get it into the creek. More than one person has missed, but that’s OK.”

What will the smell be like?

Lana Popham, the MLA for Saanich South and former minister of agriculture, says she looks forward to attending the annual event. 

“It’s a great example of community groups working to support the restoration of salmon and the broader ecosystems they support, while educating all ages about the importance of healthy creeks and forests,” Popham said. 

For those new to the event, what will the smell be like? 

“Some of us think it’s beautiful,” Wick said. 

“There’s not much smell at first but obviously there must be because last year, for example, four bald eagles were quick to find the spot and made it their home for about three or four weeks while the salmon were there … Obviously, there’s some smell.” 

The annual Douglas Creek Salmon Transplant takes place on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Those interested in attending are asked to meet at the bridge and outdoor classroom along the Douglas Trail off Ash Road.

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