"We wanted to focus on a project that is close to the community, so what better place than the Nunns creek that runs right through our community?" asks Kelsey Campbell, Fisheries Biologist with the A-Tlegay Fisheries Society and a member of the Campbell River Band.
"I’ve known that this creek is culturally important through stories told by my mom and relatives of catching salmon and swimming in the community swimming hole as children," continues Kelsey. "Since starting this project, I have had the opportunity to learn so much more about the cultural importance of the creek and surrounding habitat prior to its current state while walking the creek with band members Peter Drake and Karl Smith. A key component of the project is to collect Traditional Ecological Knowledge from community members."
Surveying Nunns Creek:
Kelsey is describing a project under way over the winter of 2015—2016 to assess Nunns Creek, which runs through the community and into the Campbell River Estuary, and answer biological questions about anadromous fish and Nunns Creek habitat. The project will include mapping of the creek and habitat, logging water temperatures and levels, and observing and assessing fish in the creek.
"The stream is inhabited by a variety of fish species including coho, chum, pink, cutthroat, and stickleback," says Kelsey. "We are gathering information on the current state of the creek including an inventory of salmon utilizing the creek, and sensitive areas for adult and juvenile salmon, with the end result being a collection of this information in a report with recommendations for future stewardship initiatives for We Wai Kum."
A Challenging Task:
The work isn’t easy, especially in the winter, although Kelsey shrugs off the wet weather: "It’s a refreshing time of year to be working in the creek if you don’t mind a little rain… or a lot of rain!" she chuckles. She does admit: "For a small creek, the terrain was surprisingly challenging. The creek is subject to high amounts of urban runoff resulting in a buildup of sedimentation, which makes for a muddy, sinking substrate in areas. We had one technician sink to his waste in mud! The banks on the reserve portion are also unstable with hidden drop-offs in overhanging areas."
A creek cleanup will be conducted during the assessment as a goal towards restoring the creek as favorable fish habitat. "We will be looking for volunteers in the spring to participate in a creek garbage removal," adds Kelsey (anyone who wants to help can contact Curtis Wilson at the Campbell River Band office).
The Importance of Partners:
Help from other organizations has been greatly appreciated by We Wai Kum, says Kelsey: "We have a great relationship with the A-Tlegay Fisheries Society, which works on fisheries management with five Nations including ours. They are providing administrative and technical support on the grounds as well as providing field gear for the project. Nanwakolas Council provided support in project development and aided in securing addition funding for the project. We will also be reaching out to other known stewards of the Nunns Creek in hopes to share information and work towards future collaborative improvements for the creek and fish habitat."
In the meantime, concludes Kelsey, all the hard work is already proving worthwhile. "There has been a lot of great work done by stewardship groups and volunteers in Nunns Park, including building and maintaining walking trails and bridges. We were also extremely excited to see a pair of coho and a few chum salmon back to spawn in November!"