Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fin Clipping

We are among the newest, and are quite likely the greenest 'stream keepers' on the west coast! On Wednesday we joined and had our first morning volunteering with the Fanny Bay Salmonid Enhancement Society. They are a great group of volunteers who operate a small hatchery and look after more than 20 streams that drain into Baynes Sound. They put us to work very quickly because they needed hands to clip the adipose fins of many thousand salmon smelts. Here's what we now know about this process..... it is done so that fishers recognize that these fish are from a hatchery, and so that they are recognizable when they return to these streams. These little guys have been fed since the fall and are getting ready for release - they are just a bit longer than the palm of one's hand, and after a dose of clove oil calmed them down it was possible to pick them up, quickly clip that little fin behind the dorsal, and put them back into running water that sent them back into their tank. The fish counters told us at the end of the morning that we'd clipped precisely 5001 fish.

The streams that these folks (us too, now) look after are the most likely to be affected by the proposed Raven Coal Mine. It is hard to believe, but both levels of government are (well, were, when there was a functioning prov. government) apparently encouraging several new proposals to remove coal from the bench just a few kms. above the Sound. There is a long and dangerous history of coal mines here, all of which have been closed for years. But it seems that it's now possible to seriously propose a new underground mine, with the coal to be transported by road to Port Alberni and then by ship to Japan. It's hard to keep track of the number of things that are wrong with this plan. We're wearing NO COAL MINE buttons and have gotten involved with Coal Watch and the Comox Valley Sierra Club. And have just had intimate interactions with several hundred salmon. There is a huge amount to learn and do, but this was a good place to start.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The January 8 Picnic

We decided that this last Saturday & Sunday (Jan 8 & 9) would be the right moment to get on the ferry to see Bob & Laura Johnson and their daughter Krista who live on the beach about 15k south of Powell River. Environment Canada predicted a couple of clear days, so we took B & L up on their invitation to meet us at the ferry and then stay for an overnight. We'd visited several years ago when their new house was weather tight but still under construction ... Dad had helped Bob install their kitchen cupboards. They'd not moved in yet, although Laura was beginning to feed big groups of us in the house.

So we needed to see the fully finished version.

And it's pretty wonderful. Bob and Laura planned and built every square inch of it, so it is completely "theirs". And it showed itself off to us at it's best - the weather was spectacular. When we arrived Krista was on the beach tending a big fire, and Laura said "Hotdogs on the beach". Years ago they'd built very protected seating just above the beach logs, so that's where we had lunch. So there we all were, January 8, warm enough to sit out, sunning ourselves on the beach (in this pic you can see Laura, Krista, Dad & Cori, with Bob way in the background roasting wieners on the fire).

This is what we were looking at - that's the Sunshine coast on the left, and Texada Island on the right - and what they look at every day. They have a remarkably long view down the Malaspina Strait -it's pretty wild, with almost no lights at night. There are sea lions on rocks to the left, and a constant parade of birds, seals, boats, barges and logs that keep Bob endlessly busy. Each storm blows in new treasures and/or challenges - they heat the house with drift wood that Bob hauls up from the beach and splits. He also tries to keep a path clear onto the beach so they can launch boats in the summer. This beach can take the full-on brunt of a storm, several of which have happened this season. We were lucky with these couple of days, and enjoyed them to the full.

What an amazing thing to be able to do - drop the car at some ferry terminal close to home, hop on, hang out on the water for a bit, watch the mountains from new perspectives, be hosted by wonderful friends and then be accompanied home by a spectacular sunset. Thanks Bob, Laura & Krista.