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Oak Bay woman tracks Bowker water, temperature levels to keep chum eggs healthy

Salmon fry projected to emerge from creekbed home April 1 at the earliest

Every day Val Aloian walks to nearby Bowker Creek and checks the levels and temperature.

It’s a nice little part of her day, walking into the woods and visiting with the occasional bush tit or tiny woodpecker. But the nature visit ties in with a hefty responsibility. The Oak Bay woman is among the many caregivers responsible for overseeing nearly 30,000 chum eggs nestled into a rock bed earlier this winter.

RELATED: Almost 30,000 salmon eggs planted in Oak Bay section of Bowker Creek

As part of creek restoration, and hopes to restore fish to the waterway that crosses Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay, the Friends of Bowker Creek Society received approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada in August 2021 to plant the eggs. They were nestled into an incubation box in January; Aloian’s job is to measure their aging process.

On a sunny Wednesday, she measures with a marker planted creekside that the waters are settled at 0.35 metres.

She gets out a notebook and marks down the depth, explaining that the rocky bed must always be submerged. If the water depth drops to 0.31 m the bed is at risk, and at 0.3 m it requires intervention. The level has dipped to 0.31 m a couple times since Jan. 22, when the eggs were placed.

RELATED: Volunteers take advantage of heavy rainfall to measure Oak Bay creek flows

Aloian’s other key task is temperature, today 6 C which helps her calculate the accumulated thermal units (ATU) – how the maturity of eggs is measured, as opposed to strictly time.

“The warmer it is, the quicker they develop,” she explained. Once they hit 800 to 1,000 ATU they’ll hatch overnight and head for the ocean.

“I don’t know if we get to see them or not. They say you usually don’t get to.”

Her rough estimate at this point, the earliest the fry will emerge is April 1.

READ ALSO: Out of the streambed gravel comes harbinger of waning pollution in Oak Bay 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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