The Squamish Streamkeepers Society operates on the unceded Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation’s), Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam Traditional Lands and Territories. We are a charitable non-profit that was founded in 2000 by Edith Tobe, Wendy Mitchell and Caroline Melville. Society governance was passed onto Dr. Jonn Matsen and Jack Cooley in 2006 who have co-chaired the organization since that time.

The initial focus of the society was to help monitor and restore wild salmon populations and their habitat in the Squamish River Watershed. Streamkeeper’s conduct annual salmon spawner counts on more than 40 streams and channels, ensuring safe passage and access for adult spawners, monitor rearing habitat, and rescue juvenile salmon from drying streams. Streamkeepers also fund and assist habitat restoration projects. The Squamish Streamkeepers are partially funded by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)

Pacific Herring a Great Success

A great success transpired in February of 2009 when Squamish Streamkeepers focused on Pacific Herring and another dimension to their volunteer work began in order to support the Squamish River watershed salmon populations. Herring in the Squamish River Estuary were spawning on creosote pilings under the East dock at the Squamish Terminals. Creosote is toxic and once spawned on the herring eggs die. The streamkeeper’s began touring the estuary to see if there was a way to improve herring spawning habitat. 

Dr. Matsen, Jack Cooley, Scott Renyard and other volunteers decided to wrap the creosote pilings to protect the eggs. Over several seasons with the permission of management at the Squamish Terminals and DFO’s approval, the streamkeeper’s experimented with a number of materials, that eventually resulted in a huge increase in spawning and survival of herring eggs on the pilings. The pilings at the East dock have since burnt down in a fire, however the work continues in Vancouver.

Squamish Terminals Creosote Wrapped Pilings
Squamish Terminals Creosote Wrapped Pilings. Image by Scott Renyard.

In November of 2011 this technique was brought to Vancouver’s False Creek Harbour where the work was approved by the Fisherman’s Wharf management. Dr. Matsen and Douglas Swanston began testing the effectiveness of HDPE wraps in False Creek. And just like the Squamish estuary, native spawning substrate called eelgrass had been dredged away to increase the depth of navigation channels, anchorages, or berthing areas to ensure the safe passage and moorage of boats and ships. Streamkeeper and Marine Biologist Douglas Swanston had hand-crafted the first mesh spawning panel that kept the eggs under the surface with the tide. This unique technique of habitat restoration helped restore the local herring spawning and rearing habitat, assisting the depleted herring stocks in the Howe Sound, Burrard Inlet and False Creek. 

 

Pacific Herring in False Creek, Vancouver, 2020. Photo: Leon Yang & Denise Wang, UBC Herring Project
Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Permit

In early 2021 the Streamkeeper’s recieved permission from DFO and The City of Vancouver to relocate herring eggs to Coal Harbour, where herring historically used to spawn and eelgrass beds still exist. Streamkeepers are currently drafting a management and monitoring plan for this project.

Generating Awareness For Herring Restoration Efforts

This work has increased awareness up and down British Columbia’s coast, where the Government, local residents and streamkeeper groups are working together on herring enhancement and conservation initiatives to ensure a better future for fish, wildlife, and local fisheries. With the return of herring it is our hope that ecological, cultural, and economic aspects all relating to the seasonal herring harvest, will be reconciled and revived in a sustainable way for future generations to come.