By the time this post is published over 13,000 people will have watched my shaky handheld VIDEO of 8 dying Chum salmon spawning in what used to be one of the most polluted streams in the Lower Mainland.
To me, this outpouring of excitement and wonderment about the return of salmon to Still Creek speaks to how important it is for us to be able to witness wildness in the city. It suggests that it is essential for us, as a sometimes-wild species ourselves, to stay connected with the other creatures that sustain us, inspire us, and give us hope.
On Sunday my husband and I watched the silvery, battered beauties for over an hour while they spawned, fought, drifted downstream, and then muscled their way back to the little patch of gravel that they’d staked out by the Canadian Tire in East Vancouver. We talked to strangers from all walks of life, and it was amazing to see every person’s face light up as they realized what was happening in the unassuming little creek right next to us.
As a follow-up to the story that was SHARED here on Monday, I’ve made a MAP OF THE AMAZINGLY IMPROBABLE JOURNEY that these 8+ starving salmon have made. Their journey is made all the more incredible by the fact that they’ve travelled through hundreds of meters of pipe to get to their patch of gravel. They’ve also had to swim through plumes of untreated urban runoff. Many people don’t realize it, but that soapy water that runs off your freshly washed car -- and everything else that drains into the storm sewer – flows directly into waterways like Still Creek, where it can harm fish and other aquatic life.
Thanks to the amazing work by several agencies and non-profits, though, sections of the buried creek are slowly being unearthed and given new life. A new fish ladder at the Cariboo Dam has also played a role in helping the salmon get upstream.Some of the many groups involved in restoration efforts include Still Moon Arts Society, Mark Angelo and the BCIT Rivers Institute, Evergreen BC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Salmonid Enhancement Program, City of Vancouver, City of Burnaby, Metro Vancouver, the BC Government, and many groups downstream of Burnaby lake who work on the Brunette River portion of the salmon route.
Despite nature’s amazing resilience, the fate of these salmon’s offspring still very much depends on our stewardship of the creek and its urban watershed. I hope that the collective excitement about the salmon’s return inspires people to support more daylighting and restoration work in Still Creek, and to work on bringing more of our buried urban streams back to life.
On that note, I’m happy to introduce myself as a new contributor to Vancouver Is Awesome, helping connect readers with awesome stories about nature in the city. I’m an ecologist and landscape architect, and I’m passionate about discovering, protecting, and enhancing wildness in the city. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you in future posts, and in the meantime you can also find me on twitter at @Nature_City.