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VIDEO: Oak Bay fry emerge, swim to Salish Sea in bid to bring salmon back to Bowker Creek

After hunkering down in Bowker Creek a while, fry emerge April 18

Luck struck twice for the Oak Bay woman taking temperature and water level readings on an environmentally crucial section of Bowker Creek.

Val Aloian, working with the Friends of Bowker Creek salmon recovery project, spotted a small school of chum fry April 18.

“The sun was out and I came to the edge here and looked over and there was some movement,” Aloian said.

She moved around to her usual position and discovered a small school of chum fry.

“I just hunkered down over here watching and taking some pictures and video.”

She noticed they were responsive to movement and would scatter if she shifted a branch, then 30 seconds later reform in a small school.

RELATED: Volunteers pack 36K chum salmon eggs into Oak Bay creek

It’s the second consecutive year she’s been lucky enough to witness the fry pooling in schools before heading down stream to the Salish Sea.

“I feel pretty lucky to see them two years in row. I think they’ve dispersed now … even just an hour later,” she said.

Both years the society planted tens of thousands of eggs in late winter in a campaign bring salmon back to the creek that meanders through and under Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay.

Maturation occurs when eggs hit the appropriate accumulated thermal units – more about temperature than time. The rough estimate was they would hatch sometime between Feb. 13 and 19 barring unusual weather. After hatching, the alevin bury themselves into the gravel and live off their egg sacs until they are ready to forage when they emerge as fry.

“We don’t know how much of the hatch came out today. It’s a thing that probably happens over several days. There’s kind of a two-week period,” society chair Gerald Harris said.

He figures this particular group came out last night, hung around a little and are filtering out to sea in small groups.

“We won’t see them again until they’re adults – if they’re lucky and we’re lucky,” Harris said.

With the first batch, a rough winter 2021 was blamed for a 20-per-cent mortality rate. They hope for lower this year.

“After giving them a few weeks, we will pull out the three incubation boxes and we’ll see how many eggs died in the box without hatching,” Harris said.

Survivors of the eggs that hatched spring 2022 would return in 2024.

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Val Aloian discovers fry swimming in Bowker Creek where the society dedicated to bringing fish back to the Oak Bay waterway planted 36,000 chum eggs earlier this year. (Courtesy Friends of Bowker Creek)

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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