Tunstall Beach project aims to revive creek for salmon spawning

On the weekend of May 3, public access to Tunstall Bay beach will be blocked off so that the Bowen Island Fish and Wildlife Club can complete a project that aims to restore Explosives Creek as a salmon spawning habitat. The creek runs onto the beach but was disrupted years ago when a small roadway was constructed from the parking lot to the community centre.
Fish and Wildlife Club President Tim Pardee said that he was not able to substantiate rumours that the creek was once a prime spawning ground for Coho until he met Dave Bristow walking on Tunstall beach recently.
“It was about 18 years ago we were down on the beach with our kids, who were just little at the time and we saw some activity in the stream and so we went to get a closer look,” says Bristow. “And so we saw coho, you could tell by the colour, they swam up the creek and into the culverts. I don’t know where they went after that, but that’s what I saw.”
As such sightings have not been reported in recent years and it is assumed that the original salmon population that spawned in that river faced a barrier that they could not overcome. Unable to get to their spawning grounds, they are now extinct.
The Fish and Wildlife Club has tried numerous times to re-populate the stream with young chum and coho fry from the Bowen Island Hatchery. Back in 2010, the Club also built climbing pools to help young coho released into the stream hop into the culverts to spawning grounds further up Explosives Creek, should they return. So far, this anticipated return has not happened. Pardee says this might be because erosion from winter rains leaves gravel blocking mouth of the stream, and potential spawners cannot cross it.
So for this next phase of work on Explosives Creek, volunteers with the Fish and Wildlife Club will be shoveling gravel out of the existing climbing pools to ensure they are deep enough for the salmon, repair erosion on the stream banks and hillside from the beach parking lot and reinforce the existing stream channel to the shore so that it is open during the spring and fall.
 “There are never any guarantees,” says Pardee. “But we will keep trying to release young fry in the hopes that they return. Also, we’ve had such abundant runs of pink salmon in the past few years and it seems like they are looking for new spawning grounds, maybe Explosives Creek could be one of them.”
Pardee and Rob Bell-Irving (from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans) presented information about the Fish and Wildlife Clubs stream rehabilitation efforts and their hopes for Explosives Creek to the Tunstall Bay Community Association’s AGM in 2013.
“We supported the first phase of this construction, so we’re thrilled to see that the job will be completed,” says Ian Thomson, former President of the Tunstall Bay Community Association.
Thomson says that the Fish and Wildlife Club’s work on Explosives Creek is also providing the impetus to general improvements to Tunstall Bay beach.
The Municipality will be doing additional work on the beach on Monday May 5th to stabilize areas that are eroding, particularly access points.

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