Coho and Chum Using New Spawning Habitat
River main-stems are important, but the off-channel habitat (smaller tributaries that are frequently spring or groundwater-fed) is typically responsible for the river system’s ecological integrity. That is why the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition, with funding support from the FWCP, DFO and others, has been restoring this type of habitat in the Lower Stave Tidal Estuary River watershed, near Mission, for years.
They have chalked up impressive outcomes between 2015 and 2016: nearly 50,000 m2 of instream rearing, 750 m2 of spawning habitat created or restored; and more than 20,000 native plants covering an area of 4,000 m2 planted. Already, Coho and Chum salmonids are using the rearing habitat, and both species have been seen in the new spawning channels.
The new, deep side-channels have been excavated to help reduce the encroachment of invasive canary grass, and community and student volunteers have been replanting the area with two-dozen species of native sedges, trees and shrubs.
The area has an extensive history of First Nations use and the project would not be possible without their participation. Kwantlen First Nation and local archeology consultants provided advice on the location of constructing the channels, and were on site should any significant cultural artifacts be encountered.
The restoration work is vital if the Lower Stave River is to remain one of the most productive salmon habitats in the province, and home to the second largest Chum Salmon population in the Fraser River watershed.
Stave River Watershed Restoring Salmon Habitat
This project will continue creating tidally-influenced channels to support salmon habitat, replanting the freshwater estuary, and conducting water-quality and fish monitoring—including Salish Sucker recon to inform habitat use and knowledge gaps. Benefits are increased habitat for Coho, Pink, Chum, Sockeye, and Chinook, and improved estuary conditions. It aligns with the FWCP’s Salmonid Action Plan, Conservation Objective “to ensure a productive and diverse aquatic ecosystem and maintain or improve opportunities for sustainable use.” It supports inventory efforts for the Salish Sucker and aligns with the FWCP’s Riparian and Wetlands Action Plan to ensure productive and diverse wetland and riparian ecosystems.