Can Christmas Trees Create Fish Habitat?

The Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association, together with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, used Christmas trees in an innovative habitat enhancement project in the Puntledge River headpond.

The pilot project explored whether Christmas trees placed in the water could potentially reduce summer Chinook fry entrainment at the hydro facility. The woody debris from the trees provides a safer and more complex corridor for migration away from the penstock intakes. The trees also enhanced rearing habitat, by allowing fry to remain in the headpond longer, growing larger before migrating past the hydro facility.

The use of Christmas trees as small woody debris was assessed during five snorkel surveys in spring 2016. The surveys looked at use by wild Chinook fry. In addition, a release of marked fry and minnow trapping was conducted to assess fry distribution and longevity of use.

The results show that sites treated with Christmas trees had slightly higher densities of Chinook fry compared to untreated sites. The total number of fry observed during surveys was relatively low. The results from marked fry releases and minnow trapping were inconclusive Read the full report.

The project objectives address ‘Research and Information Acquisition’ and ‘Habitat’ based priority actions in the FWCP’s Puntledge River Salmonid Action Plan.


Photo caption: Volunteers from the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association prepare small woody debris piles – recycled Christmas trees – alongside the Puntledge River headpond.