What had previously been a continuous flow of cold, clean water has turned into an area of shallow, muddy puddles. Three-month-old fish the size of tiny french fries were battling to survive inside these surviving ponds outside the town of Squamish, British Columbia. Swift Creek’s moniker belies its actual status, with significant portions dried out owing to drought.
Fortunately, two members of the Squamish Streamkeepers Society rushed to the rescue. Jack Cooley set up a fine mesh net approximately two meters across at one end of a puddle barely a few millimeters deep. Patrick MacNamara, another volunteer, began at the opposite end, slapping the water to scare the fry into the net.
They were quickly picked up and placed in a bucket of clean water, complete with a battery-powered pump to keep the water aerated. He predicted that in a few weeks, with no rain forecast, this area will be entirely dry. Cooley used to be an ardent recreational salmon fisherman, but now he devotes his time to preserving wild fish in streams like this one.
The dearth of rain in the Vancouver area since mid-June has broken records, resulting in progressively dropping water levels in several regions of the province. Spawning salmon are also in danger because warm water combined with low stream flows can stress the fish, resulting in significant mortality at a time when few salmon are expected to return to British Columbia’s rivers.
According to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Fraser River, the province’s main salmon river, is warmer than usual and has 27% less water than typical.