June 02, 2014

SEHAB Meeting in Parksville, BC–Photos

The Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board met in Parksville, BC, over the last weekend. We had a Friday Night Forum at which nearly 60 local stewards heard a presentation on the new DFO Fisheries Protection Program. The SEHAB board then met for a full day of working meetings on Saturday, and a half-day on Sunday. I am board Secretary and Chair of the Communication Committee, and I love these opportunities for intensive sharing of knowledge and information about salmon-related stewardship activities from across British Columbia. It's also great to get out of the lower mainland and learn about stewardship projects in other places, and meet the volunteers and local champions who get things done.

Here's some photos of the trip:


Leaving Horseshoe Bay


The beautiful BC coast


Volunteer representatives from across BC hard at work


A post-dinner walk on the seashore





Photo: Zo Ann Morten

As the communication guy, I point out that "You are here!" Um, somewhere in
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park.

Posted by Paul at 02:14 PM

May 28, 2014

Sockeye to ‘Overwhelm’ Fraser River? Yeah, right… NOT

Whenever I see headlines like "Projected Sockeye Run Could Overwhelm Fraser River" I shudder and shake my head. Ain't no such thing. This is the "human management mind" in action.

Damn, we may not be able to freeze, can, smoke them all.

What crap.

Why the hell should we freeze, can, smoke them all?

Were sockeye runs "overwhelming" the Fraser River 100 years ago? No. 200 years ago? No. For the last century, or more, it's been humans overwhelming the sockeye, and other salmon runs.

Let's celebrate massive returns of sockeye. Let's fish them for First Nations, let's fish them commercially, let's allow sport fishers at them, too.

But we also have to let them spawn and die. Let's allow their decaying carcasses to enrich our rivers and streams, and feed wildlife other than our selfish human selves, and enrich forests, and meadows, and marshes.. 

Posted by Paul at 09:36 PM

May 24, 2014

Katzie Slough Tour in Pitt Meadows, BC

Took part in an interesting tour of Katzie Slough in Pitt Meadows, BC, today. Some history, some watershed lore, some personal recollections, and fighting the good fight to preserve and enhance urban biodiversity. Thanks to Watershed Watch Salmon Society organizer Lina Azeez and tour leader Scott Magri.

I have an album of tour photos on Flickr available here.

Posted by Paul at 09:32 PM

May 20, 2014

Young Mallards Eat Dead ‘First-Flush’ Coho Smolts on Byrne Creek

Unfortunately we had yet another "first-flush" kill of juvenile coho smolts on the creek in SE Burnaby, BC, over the last day. Whenever we release hatchery coho smolts, we're always on edge, hoping there is no rain for a week or so following. That's because the first rain after release that washes all the crap off our roads and into the creek tends to kills a significant proportion of the newly released fish. Indigenous coho and trout appear to survive just fine, so it seems to be an acclimatization issue with a certain proportion of the hatchery fish. Today I counted 40 dead smolts following yesterday's shower. That's not bad -- in previous years we've enumerated as many as 400-500 morts. This year's batch had six days to acclimatize and start moving downstream before the first flush of accumulated pollutants such as gas, oil, antifreeze, brake-lining dust, pesticides, and whatever other toxins that make it onto our urban streets.

I should point out that I also saw lots of live fish ranging from fry to smolts, so they are likely coho and cutthroat trout that hatch and and are resident in the creek.

byrne_creek_coho_smolt_first_flush_kill_1 _20140520

On happier note, in contrast to the dead "first-flush" coho juveniles, I was pleased to see that the mom mallard and ducklings that have been hanging around the Byrne Creek habitat seem to be doing well. She still has six ducklings, and they're getting to be of a size where predation is gradually becoming less of a worry. I dunno about the little ones, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mom hasn't scarfed a good feeding of dead coho smolts. Yes, I've seen mallards eat dead smolts before.



And then, as I was going through my photos, I noticed something dangling from a duckling's mouth. I did a massive crop on the photo, and yep, even the ducklings are scarfing the dead coho yearlings!


Posted by Paul at 02:32 PM

May 18, 2014

Tiny Fry Spotted in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek

Yumi and I saw two distinct size groupings of fry in Byrne Creek on a walk today. There were dozens in the 5 - 7 cm range, and then there were a few smaller ones in the 3 - 4 cm range. I would guess that the larger ones are salmon, likely coho by appearance, and the smaller ones may be cutthroat trout, since the salmon spawn Oct - Dec and the trout spawn Feb - May. Incubation time for trout is 6 - 7 weeks, so that would be about right if they spawned a couple of months ago.

Here's a shot of one of the smaller ones:


Posted by Paul at 06:26 PM

May 15, 2014

Touring Students on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

I led three tours of art students from Byrne Creek Secondary in SE Burnaby today over to Byrne Creek. We didn't have oodles of time per tour, but we spent time at Griffiths Pond looking at the fish ladder and talking about streamkeeper activities, and then went over to the old homestead and talked invasive plants, etc. It was a great day, almost verging toward too warm. But I got my exercise walking back and forth three times : -).


Talking about the Stream of Dreams installation on the Skytrain pedestrian overpass near
Edmonds Station.


Scrambling down to Griffiths Pond to view the fish ladder and talk streamkeeping.


Posing for photos near the old homestead. Kids click everything and everywhere
these days!

Posted by Paul at 03:34 PM

May 12, 2014

DFO ‘Wins’ Code of Silence Award from Canadian Journalists

Let me preface the following by saying that for many years I've volunteered with many excellent DFO staff, and it saddens me that they are so hamstrung by Harper's minders in Ottawa. Here's yet another ludicrous example:

VANCOUVER, May 11, 2014 /CNW/ - Who would have thought a routine question on the salmon fishery on Vancouver Island would require navigating the hoops and weirs of the federal government?

Yet when a journalist working in Port Alberni asked, "How many Chinook salmon do you require for your annual egg take?" the answer would take four days and the assistance (sic) of a communications staffer over 4,500 kilometres away in Ottawa. To show how ridiculous this obstructive delay was, this is information Robertson Creek Hatchery's manager and interpretive staff members routinely share with visitors from local schools and youth groups.

The lockdown on that elusive number was implemented when the answer was prefaced by the journalist identifying himself and that he worked for a media outlet. It's symptomatic of the situation journalists working across Canada face whenever they attempt to interact with government staffers working in their local communities. For this reason, the CAJ awards its annual Code of Silence to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. . .

Read the entire press release here.

This obsessive centralized control is not only silly and anti-democratic, it's also a massive waste of taxpayer dollars. Can you imagine how many staff hours were devoted to this insane exercise?

For an example of how to do it right, simply look to our neighbours to the south.

Here are media guidelines for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) staff:

Fundamental Research Communications

  • DAO 219-1 explicitly allows researchers to publicly discuss the results of basic or applied research in science or engineering - termed "Fundamental Research Communications" -- without prior approval from NOAA's Office of Communications. This includes media interviews.
  • In these discussions or interviews, you may draw scientific conclusions from your research. If your conclusion could be misunderstood as an official NOAA position when it is not, you should say that it is your individual conclusion and not the view of the Department or NOAA.
  • You are encouraged, but not required, to use your public affairs specialist to facilitate interviews. If a member of the media requests an interview on a Fundamental Research Communication through public affairs, and you agree, the Communications Office will facilitate the interview.

Media Interviews

  • You are no longer required to submit anticipated questions and answers prior to media interviews unless requested to do so by public affairs.

The Canadian federal government's stance is akin to that of a totalitarian system.

Posted by Paul at 10:32 AM

May 07, 2014

South Burnaby Photo Ramble

I took a walk down Byrne Creek Ravine in SE Burnaby this afternoon to enjoy the sunshine. I didn't feel like lugging my DSLR gear, but ended up taking lots of shots with my pocketable Canon Elph 520HS.






Salmon fry - possibly chum released last week with schoolkids






A tree-climbing snail. At certain times of the year you see lots of snails climbing
trees in Byrne Creek Ravine Park.

Posted by Paul at 04:37 PM

Fisheries Protection Program Presentation in Parksville, BC, May 30

The Salmon Enhancement & Habitat Advisory Board will host a Friday Night Forum in Parksville, BC, on May 30, on the new Fisheries Protection Program.

Please plan to attend a presentation on the Fisheries Protection Program being held in Parksville on May 30th 2014 at 7:00 pm. We are very pleased that DFO's Adam Silverstein is able to come out to present at this focused meeting.  The Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board (SEHAB) is hosting this evening event as a part of our ongoing Friday Night Forums series.


We are hoping you and members of your organization can make it out to hear Adam, in an informal setting. Adam has been firmly engaged in SEP over the years and is well versed in your efforts. He is supportive of community, salmon and salmon habitat and will be providing an overview of the changes to the act, the policy and the program.

Fisheries Protection Program Presentation

Friday May 30th, 2014
7:00 - 10:00 pm

Light refreshments will be served

Parksville Civic & Technology Centre

132 E Jensen,
Parksville, BC

If you can please RSVP to info@SEHAB.org so we can plan the refreshments, chairs etc. BUT if you find yourself able to attend last minute please come even if you hadn't sent an RSVP. This is an important topic and DFO staff is stretched as you can imagine.

Posted by Paul at 11:55 AM

May 06, 2014

Nature Inspiration Awards from the Canadian Museum of Nature

The Nature Inspiration Awards will honour Canadian-resident youth, adults, not-for-profit organizations and corporations for their exceptional initiatives in helping to build a brighter, sustainable future. This year's deadline for nominations is May 16.

  • a Grand Prize of $5000 will be awarded in each category to a project of the recipient's choice
  • national recognition through various channels
  • travel and accommodations for the award ceremony in Ottawa, in early November
  • a membership in the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Check out the website for more information and nomination forms.

Posted by Paul at 12:02 PM

April 24, 2014

Wild Salmon Appear to Come Last in DFO Mission Statement

Hmm, was reading the Department of Fisheries and Oceans "Mission, Vision and Values" webpage today and found that

The Department:

supports strong economic growth in our marine and fisheries sectors by supporting exports and advancing safe maritime trade;

supports innovation through research in expanding sectors such as aquaculture and biotechnology; and

contributes to a clean and healthy environment and sustainable aquatic ecosystems through habitat protection, oceans management, and ecosystems research

So where would wild Pacific salmon fit on that list, which I presume is prioritized? Wild fish appear to come dead, no pun intended, last. . .

Posted by Paul at 01:10 PM

April 21, 2014

Power Washing Away the Holiday

So in my wife's religion, holidays were created for men to do chores around the house. Today was about four hours of power washing -- the deck, the driveway, the concrete paths fronting our townhouse. . . Power washing is numbingly boring, while being an excellent activity to strain one's lower back.

(But power washing with plain water is much more environmentally friendly than using some caustic chemical to remove mold -- remember all the draining water, and anything in it, is going into drains that go directly into our local creeks.)

Alas, though boring, power washing is not something to be done mindlessly. When you've got somewhere around 900 - 1,000 psi coming out of that wand, there's a fine line between removing dirt, stains, and mold, and doing damage.

Toward the end of the project, the instigator decided she wanted to try, so while she finished the walkway, I went to buy a well-deserved six-pack of beer. When I got back, she was "done," and I put the gear away and rolled up the hoses. Only to look out an upstairs window as I was getting ready to shower, and saw that a certain portion of the walk looked like a zebra that had been rolling in mud. : -)

Hmm. Methinks I'll have to do some touchup tomorrow, and she's fine with that. It takes at least a time or two to learn anything new, eh?

Posted by Paul at 07:19 PM

April 14, 2014

Byrne Creek Fish Trapping Results Best Ever

Volunteers with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers in SE Burnaby trap fish twice a year to see what's living in the creek. Please note that this trapping is done with the permission of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and all fish are released unharmed.

The trapping this year was done over the April 12 - 13 weekend. Streamkeepers were happy to enumerate a record number of fish in 12 traps: 87 juvenile fish in total, with 82 cutthroat trout and 5 coho. All traps in the 12 locations had fish.

This is great news, for Byrne Creek has seen many fish kills over the years from pollutants entering storm drains. Fortunately, we haven't had a kill for several years now, knock on wood, and these results bear that out.

Posted by Paul at 06:40 PM

March 27, 2014

DFO Study Shows Habitat Compensation is Lagging Badly

The link below leads to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans report (PDF) that basically says that habitat compensation is not working as it should. According to the abstract:

  • No net loss of habitat isn't working
  • Critical and important habitats are affected the most
  • DFO needs to better address "proponent non-compliance"
  • DFO needs to "incorporate science-based monitoring"

And this was published in 2012, before the watering down of the Fisheries Act and accompanying regulations. Before the shutting of habitat offices and decimation of science staff.

Thanks to a fellow SEHAB board member for this lead.

Posted by Paul at 05:01 PM | TrackBack

Welcoming Edmonds Town Centre Redevelopment in Burnaby

I don't know how often watershed stewards welcome development, but as a volunteer streamkeeper I'm looking forward to some major redevelopment in the upper Edmonds area of Burnaby that impacts Byrne Creek.

Why am I excited? Because two huge areas -- the former Safeway distribution/warehousing site, and the present Value Village site -- are presently nearly 100% impervious. They are basically asphalt or concrete from corner to corner. Impervious areas are bad for urban creeks and watersheds because any rain that falls on them shoots directly into drains and into the creek. These massive flows cause erosion, and carry pollutants into the waterways.

Urban watersheds are much healthier when rain is allowed to percolate into the ground, where it is naturally filtered and passes slowly into creeks as ground water.

So I figure that with 2010s standards and best management practices, as opposed to 100% impervious 1950s and 60s standards, things can only improve.

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society has been appearing at development open houses and forums, and we've made great contacts with the developers, not to mention our long-standing ongoing relationships with the City of Burnaby Planning and Engineering Departments. With everyone working together, I think we will see some fantastic, creek-friendly amenities happening along with the planned developments.

I'm excited about the opportunities that may include "daylighting" or opening up some of the upper creek where it was piped decades ago, and other potential benefits such as rain gardens, roadside swales, infiltration ponds and galleries, etc. These would not only be beneficial to the health of the creek, they would also provide beautification that would positively impact property values. Win - win, eh?

Posted by Paul at 03:59 PM

March 22, 2014

Evergreen Urban Watersheds Forum

Enjoyed the Evergreen Urban Watersheds Forum and Field Trip the last two days.

Day one was in downtown Vancouver. There were short, inspirational presentations from several stewardship groups, lots of organized activities ranging from strengths/weaknesses analyses to brainstorming on how urban watersheds could look 50 years from now and what would it take to get there. Also great networking. I had a great time chatting with folks from many stewardship groups.

Today there was a field trip to visit a couple of sites on the North Shore:

Dr. Ken Ashley from BCIT presenting estuary restoration work being done in McKay Creek in City of NorthVan http://t.co/6khKyQ81EX

Forum field trip today at Creekway Park with biologist Nick Page from Van Park Board http://t.co/YOYslrdhpJ

Note: the above two links and photos courtesy of the Evergreen BC Twitter feed.

Some info on the program and list of participants here:


Posted by Paul at 04:38 PM | TrackBack

February 26, 2014

Regulations Establishing Conditions for Making Regulations

After trying to read a document on making regulations under Canada's new Fisheries Act, I have come to the following conclusion:

We need Plain English Regulations to Establish Standards to Regulate Regulations Establishing Conditions for Making Regulations.

And yes, the title of this post is the title of the document that I was attempting to read.

Posted by Paul at 10:17 PM

February 06, 2014

Run of River Studies

I recently ran across a press release by the Wilderness Committee highlighting that the State of California has excluded British Columbia run-of-river (ROR) hydro projects as qualifying under its environmental standards:

"On January 15th, 2014, the California Energy Commission adopted a final report that excludes private run-of-river hydro projects in BC from the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Basically, the report confirms what we have known all along: that BC river diversion projects don’t meet California’s environmental standards when it comes to producing electricity, because of British Columbia’s lax environmental laws and the significant impacts the projects have on our rivers, streams and fish."


There have also been a couple of other ROR reports released recently.

A review done by the Pacific Salmon Foundation (download PDF).

And a review by Watershed Watch Salmon Society (download PDF).

Trying to sort it all out, but my gut tells me ROR is death by a thousand cuts.

Posted by Paul at 02:13 PM

December 26, 2013

Gulls Chow Down on Salmon at Tenderfoot Hatchery

Yumi and I celebrated Boxing Day by driving up to Squamish BC to look for eagles and spawning salmon. Saw only a couple of eagles, but there were hordes of gulls chowing down on expired salmon that had returned to spawn near the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery.

On our way back home we stopped and explored some of the Squamish estuary.

Posted by Paul at 06:25 PM

December 08, 2013

Icy Byrne Creek

Ice forms amazing patterns in flowing water. A few shots taken in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby as I was checking for spawning salmon.

Posted by Paul at 12:36 PM

December 05, 2013

Nightingale Urges Scientists to Engage, Amaze, Inspire

I attended the public lecture tonight at SFU's Wosk Centre for Dialogue presented by the Vancouver Aquarium's President and CEO John Nightingale.

The topic was "Collaboration and Communication: Two Keys to Our Ocean's Future."

My favourite quotation of the evening?

(Scientists must) "engage, amaze and inspire" to get the public interested and onside, and make governments sit up and listen.

I think


are superb words/actions to live by for all stewardship groups.

As Nightingale also pointed out, folks respond to the positive and ignore the negative. Good to be reminded of this, too.

Posted by Paul at 10:01 PM

November 30, 2013

My Heart Goes Out to DFO Staff

As more and more bad news about Canada's politically hamstrung Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and new implementation of the recently gutted Fisheries Act and its new regs comes my way, I just want to say that I really feel for the fine, upstanding, hardworking DFO staff that I know and work with as a volunteer, on the ground, and in the community. I wish them well as they struggle to protect the fish, wildlife and habitat that I know they love, under the present uncaring political regime.

I guess that sentiment may put me on Harper's "terrorist environmentalist" list. So be it. I've probably been on it for years already anyway, just for volunteering as a streamkeeper, and caring about biodiversity in my community.

Posted by Paul at 10:38 PM

November 21, 2013

MP 'Stunned' as Canadian Govt Ignores Own Research, Yet Again

I normally don't post letters written by MPs of any party on my blog, but this one by Nathan Cullen hit too close to home. As a longtime volunteer streamkeeper, I certainly understand his frustration. I've highlighted one paragraph in particular to start off this post:

"It is particularly stunning given that the report, submitted to the panel last week, was authored by a federal government agency, and yet the federal government is now saying it refuses to take into account its own information when ruling on this project. It begs the question of why we even have a federal government agency devoted to ensuring the health and viability of our fisheries and our waters when the research and recommendations they produce are ignored by the very same federal government."

[note that Joe Oliver is the Minister of Natural Resources and Gail Shea is the acting Minister of Fisheries and Oceans]

Open letter to Joe Oliver and Gail Shea regarding humpback whale protection

21 November 2013

Dear Ministers,

This is an open letter regarding the 21 October 2013 report, entitled Recovery Strategy for the North Pacific Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Canada, from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on a recovery strategy for humpback whales in Canada. As you are likely aware, it is part of the DFO’s mandate to help this species recover from a century of whaling that nearly drove the species into extinction. The report identified four areas of “critical habitat” for humpbacks, one of which is at the mouth of the Douglas Channel, the gateway from Kitimat to the Pacific Ocean. The report also identified vessel traffic and toxic spills as two of the greatest threats to the recovery of this species.

Thus, it was with shock and dismay I recently learned of the decision by the federal joint review panel for the Northern Gateway project to ignore the report as evidence in its ruling, as though vessel traffic and the potential for toxic spills were not two of the primary environmental concerns surrounding this proposal.

It is particularly stunning given that the report, submitted to the panel last week, was authored by a federal government agency, and yet the federal government is now saying it refuses to take into account its own information when ruling on this project. It begs the question of why we even have a federal government agency devoted to ensuring the health and viability of our fisheries and our waters when the research and recommendations they produce are ignored by the very same federal government.

The purpose of the joint review panel hearings is to weigh the available scientific evidence in determining whether this project will negatively impact habitat and endangered species. The purpose of the work of the DFO is to ensure that information is considered when the government is weighing projects which will impact habitat and endangered species. The decision by the JRP to ignore the DFO report is not only wasteful indifference; it’s a double-play failure and abrogation of the duty of both of your departments to protect endangered species and our natural environment.

I wish I could feign some measure of surprise on this matter. But like many Canadians, I have come to see this kind of negligence as not only a passing tendency of the Conservative government but as a very intentional aspect of the government’s resource and environmental policy.

When the government of Canada ignores its own science on endangered species protection, it’s no wonder why Canada has lost all credibility on environmental stewardship among both its own citizens and the international community.

Nathan Cullen
MP Skeena—Bulkley Valley

Posted by Paul at 02:50 PM

City of Burnaby Presentation on Proposed Pipeline Expansion

The City of Burnaby's Environmental Sustainability Strategy Steering Committee was briefed by City planning staff a week or two ago on the ramifications of the Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline proposal.

Mayor and Council have directed that the presentation be delivered to all City committees, and I saw an updated version last night before an Environment Committee meeting.

Mayor and Council basically oppose the proposed KM TMP expansion, for several reasons. I'll try to recall some of the highlights of the presentation:

1) From an original plan to approximately double TMP capacity, the latest proposal is to triple it.

2) The terminus in Burnaby would triple Aframax tanker berths from 1 to 3.

3) The original proposal called for nearly all, if not all, new capacity to be built on the original right of way (ROW). The latest proposal calls for significant sections to be built in new ROWs, and it appears that parts of all of the proposed routes within Burnaby would run through residential and park/conservation areas.

4) The tank farm in Burnaby would expand dramatically in capacity. If I recall correctly, the capacity would be the highest of any tank farm along the entire route from, and including, Edmonton.

5) The added pipeline now appears to be designated nearly all for heavy crude, whereas previously a mix of products was proposed.

6) Nearly all, if not all, of the additional capacity is designated for export, and there are not even guarantees that the present Chevron refinery in Burnaby would get product (my understanding is that it has resorted to getting some product by rail shipment to keep itself at an efficient level of operation).

7) When you add up all the various levels of spills insurance provided by various organizations, they total $1.3 billion, and just one even partial Aframax tanker spill could be well over that amount. Any cleanup/compensation that exceeds $1.3 billion means that taxpayers pick up the tab.

8) The KM proposal calls for the City of Burnaby Fire Department to be first responders to any spill, fire, etc. The FD is saying they don't have the capacity, and that they are not told ahead of time what product is moving through the pipe at any particular time.

9) Burnaby already has experience with a significant KM spill (pipeline penetrated by backhoe) that was ruled as the fault of KM and a contractor, and was basically due to human error in conjunction with poor maps.


Posted by Paul at 12:14 PM

September 10, 2013

City of Burnaby Enviro Strategy Planning Rocks!

I'm on the City of Burnaby Environmental Sustainability Strategy Steering Committee, and as the ESS moves into its next stage, I will join the Ecosystems sub-committee.

The Ecosystems sub-com includes biodiversity, ecosystem protection & restoration, ecosystem stewardship, parks and open space planning and management, urban forests, stream protection and enhancement, water quality, rainwater management, marine and estuary shorelines, etc. Lots of other interesting sub-committees will look at land use & development, transportation, buildings & energy, climate change & air quality, food systems, etc.

I love volunteering with such a great group of citizens!

Posted by Paul at 08:51 PM

September 03, 2013

Stand up for Science Rally–Vancouver

Monday, September 16, 2013

11:00am until 1:00pm

Vancouver Art Gallery - North plaza on Georgia Street

Fed up with the erosion of science in Canada? Want our government to support science in the public interest? Think that decisions should be based on evidence and facts instead of ideology? Join us on September 16th to Stand up for Science!

It's time to stand up for science in the public interest in Canada. In recent years we have seen cuts to many important scientific institutions, science funding has shifted focus towards the commercialization of research, and government scientists have lost the ability to communicate their research to the public.

Science matters to Canadians. Good science, when coupled with good decision-making, keeps our water and air clean, keeps us healthy, keeps our food safe and prepares Canada for the future. Science in the public interest is crucial for our well-being and long-term prosperity.

To make the public aware of this, and to call on the Federal government to make a strong commitment to science in the public interest, Stand up for Science Vancouver will take place along with rallies across the country on September 16th 2013.

It's your future - make it your science.
Confirmed Speakers:
Dr. David Suzuki, Author, geneticist, environmentalist and award winning broadcaster.
Tzeporah Berman, Author, former co-director of Greenpeace International's Global Climate and Energy Program, Director Forest Ethics Advocacy
Alexandra Morton, Scientist, Researcher, activist
Fin Donnelly, River's advocate, Member of Parliament, Federal Critic for Fisheries
Joe Foy, National Campaign Director, Wilderness Committee
Dr. Sarah Otto, Department of Zoology, population genetics and evolutionary biology UBC
Dr. Craig Orr, Scientist, researcher, Executive Director Watershed Watch Salmon Society
Dr. Thomas Kerr - Co-director Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative, UBC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
Dr. Bob Evans, internationally recognized health economist
Everyone who cares about the future of science in Canada!

Posted by Paul at 10:00 PM

August 20, 2013

My YouTube Rant about People Dumping Green Waste in Burnaby Parks

Posted by Paul at 09:12 PM

August 07, 2013

Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby Runs Milky Blue

I noticed on a walk of Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby that it was running a milky blue color late this afternoon. I called it in to City of Burnaby environment staff, but haven’t heard if they traced the source. Apparently another streamkeeper had reported similar colour in the creek earlier in the day, and thought it came from a construction site. Suspended clay silt?

Nothing but rain is supposed to go down street drains!

A view from the fish ladder just downstream of Griffiths Drive.


Posted by Paul at 08:27 PM

July 26, 2013

Drinking Wasps, Blackberry Bees near Byrne Creek

Lots of insect life along Byrne Creek on a walk over lunchtime today. Saw lots of wasps drinking from the creek. They'd land on a stone, and edge down toward the water and then their tails would twitch as they drank. Also lots of bees on blackberry blossoms.





And some cool-looking algae

Posted by Paul at 08:20 PM

June 11, 2013

Inflate Your Life Rafts in South Burnaby!?

I ran across some interesting signs on my Byrne Creek walk in southeast Burnaby over lunch today. The Byrne Creek Ravine trail was "closed" with signs saying "Flooding Danger: This Trail Closed Due to Fraser River High Water."

Uh-huh. And it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and lo, the Fraser River rose and turned Burnaby into an ocean.

Couldn't they find signs that simply said "Trail Closed Due to Construction"? (What's actually happening is that they are repairing the stairs into the ravine.)

For those who know, it looks ridiculous. For those who don't, I'd hate to give them the impression that the Fraser can back up Byrne Creek all the way up the ravine!


The above shot is near the intersection of Southridge Dr. and Marine Dr.
It's about 1.5 km from the Fraser River, and at an elevation of about 10-12 m
above sea level.


This shot is near the top of the trail close to Brynlor Dr. It's over 2 km
from the Fraser River, and at an elevation of around 70 m above sea level.

Posted by Paul at 09:03 PM

June 02, 2013

Commemorative Pavers for Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Founders

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society purchased commemorative pavers in the courtyard of Burnaby City Hall awhile back to honour our four founding "elders." Yumi and I checked them out today when we met at City Hall to go on a birding tour around Deer Lake.



BTW, the spelling on the third paver is LLOYD, not LLYOD.
We did submit the proper spelling on the form, so we'll ask for
a free correction.

Posted by Paul at 05:20 PM

May 29, 2013

Tracing Erosion of Stairs in Byrne Creek Ravine Park

I've been noticing active erosion along the stairs that go from Brynlor Drive into Byrne Creek Ravine Park the last several times that it has rained. Today I saw that the stairs are being undermined and eroded away in places, though just  a few days ago it appeared some repair work had been done to previous recent washouts on, and near, the stairs.

This has happened before, where (I think) Burnaby Parks repairs the stairs, but doesn't seem to locate and fix the source of the problem. I think that may be because pipes are Burnaby Engineering : -).

So today I backtracked the unusual flow to an area near where a storm-drain pipe had cracked a few years ago and had caused similar problems. This time I found water upwelling from a manhole cover on a storm-drain pipe in the same vicinity as the origin of the problem in the previous event. Water upwelling could mean various issues, but that's civic employee pay grade, not for a volunteer to guess at : - ). That upwelling was cutting a new channel down the steep ravine slope, hitting the stairs, and thereby channelling the flow along, and, under, the stairs.

I called the source of the flow in to Burnaby Dispatch, and within an hour they were on the scene and following up. Great response!

But I wonder why the initial problem was not detected before the first repair on the stairs. I hate to see my property tax dollars going to fix the same problem over again within days, without tracking or tackling the source. And, like I said, this happened before a few years ago, in almost the exact same way, with the source in almost the exact same place.


Upwelling manhole


Erosion where the unusual flow meets the stairs into the ravine


Another view of the erosion


A close-up shot of the steps being eroded

Posted by Paul at 10:22 PM

May 28, 2013

Double the Fun in SE Burnaby

So what happens when two community associations in the same neighbourhood have meetings on the same night? The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society sends board members to both: Edmonds Business & Community Association (EBCA) at the Tommy Douglas Library at 6:00 p.m., and Edmonds People in Community (EPIC) at Edmonds Community School at 6:30 p.m.

Posted by Paul at 11:40 AM

May 25, 2013

‘Development Study’ Far From Actual Development

Friends of ours going through their files ran across a "Development Study" dating back some 20 years or so for the townhouse complex that we live in. It was built years before we bought a unit and moved in, and it was eye-opening to see major differences between what was initially envisioned, and what was actually built. It was also educational, because as streamkeepers, we keep an eye on new developments in our watershed. Here are a few shots from the scanned document:


No such open waterway exists in the complex, nor did the complex ever have such a forested appearance.


There is no such "community building" overlooking a "conservation area" with an open waterway. None of those features exist. And no such trees exist, either.

Other features from other panels, such as a common open treed area in the middle of the complex never saw the light of day either.

Posted by Paul at 07:30 PM

May 24, 2013

Lush Spring Colours Paint Byrne Creek

A photo ramble along Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby this afternoon. . .















We are so fortunate to have Byrne Creek in our "back yard."
When working and volunteering gets crazy, and I'm feeling overwhelmed,
there's nothing like a photo ramble to exercise the body and mind.

A 3-hour photo hike is like 3 hours of Tai Chi:
up, down, stretch, squat, balance on rocks and slopes. . .

And, er, focusing on photography engages a whole 'nother part of my mind.
It's refreshingly exhausting!

Posted by Paul at 10:49 PM

May 16, 2013

Holly Arntzen & Kevin Wright Share Their Music

Holly Arntzen & Kevin Wright have this amazing ART program.

ART = Artist Response Team. They go into schools with an environmental/music program that's incredibly uplifting. The combination of their powerful voices and playing, backed up by professional, world-class musicians (the accompanying Dream Band is made up of session musicians who've played on many a gold album), and schools of children, has sent shivers down my spine on more than one occasion.

Years ago I had the wonderful opportunity as a Stream of Dreams board member to be there when some collaboration was arranged between the two groups that resulted in several magical performances.

So I'm (volunteer) working on a couple of streamkeeper/environmental slide shows to present at free community events over the next few weeks. They're all about watersheds, salmon, streamkeeping, and so forth. And it hit me that Holly and Kevin's music would be fantastic to play at such events to engage folks as they gathered, and to rev them up as I started my show.

So I asked ART if I could use a few of their tracks in that context.

Holly's response was wonderfully giving:

For sure Paul, we'd love you to include our music. Please credit Holly Arntzen & Kevin Wright as performers/songwriters. If you have the space, could you include our website: www.ArtistResponseTeam.com.

If I wasn't away on the Skeena tour at that time, I'd come and sing in person for you.

Now, that's dedication. . . and sharing.

Thank you Holly and Kevin.

Posted by Paul at 09:54 PM

Tiny Doses of Some Insecticides Fatal for Bees, Aquatic Insects

"May 15, 2013 - Neonicotinoid insecticides have adverse effects not only on bees but also on freshwater invertebrates. Exposure to low but constant concentrations of these substances -- which are highly soluble in water -- has lethal effects on these aquatic organisms."


One of the insecticides this article addresses is imidacloprid, the active ingredient in Merit. I fought a losing battle several years ago against using Merit in our townhouse complex (less than 20m from Byrne Creek) to combat chaffer beetles (and we had not even had an outbreak!).

Even Bayer's fact sheet for Merit states it is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates, and says it should not be applied to water, or where surface water is present. It also says it can contaminate groundwater.

I contacted Environment Canada back then with the argument that the application ban should also extend to any ground that drains into a storm drain. They didn't buy it.

Posted by Paul at 01:14 PM

May 14, 2013

‘Beautiful Byrne Creek’ Presentation at Burnaby’s Tommy Douglas Library

To help mark the City of Burnaby's Environment Week celebrations, the Tommy Douglas Library is generously hosting a presentation by the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society on June 6 at 7:00 p.m.

This year's Environment Week theme is  "Nature in the City" so it's a great partnership.

I'll be putting together a snappy PowerPoint of some of our best photos, videos, and maps, to help cover the following points, and more:

  • Overview of Burnaby's waterways
  • Byrne Creek -- an oasis in the city
  • Fish and wildlife in Byrne Creek Ravine Park
  • Streamkeepers -- what do they do?
  • How can my family and I help keep our creeks healthy?

We'll also have posters, maps, and a display of streamkeeper gear.


Hope to see you there!

Posted by Paul at 04:24 PM

May 04, 2013

Streamkeepers Fill Dumpster at Edmonds Community Clean Sweep

It was a gorgeous sunny morning for a Clean Sweep in SE Burnaby! Byrne Creek Streamkeepers filled one entire dumpster heaping full, with a tire, shopping cart, rebar and other assorted large items leaning against it. Streamkeeper volunteers worked the area around Edmonds Skytrain Station, on both sides of the tracks, nearby streets, and the ravine park. Thanks to all the volunteers!



MLA Raj Chouhan (2nd from left) came by to thank volunteers.






No, we didn't dump the wheelbarrow! It had been filled with lot of
broken glass which we tipped in.


A full dumpster = a job well done!


Volunteers get drinks and hot dogs served up by the Burnaby Firefighters
Charitable Society in the parking lot of Gordon Presbyterian on Edmonds
Street where the community association had its signup area.

Posted by Paul at 02:57 PM

May 02, 2013

Streamkeepers to Participate in Edmonds Clean Sweep, Sat., May 4

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers are taking part in the Edmonds Clean Sweep this coming Saturday morning, May 4. As in past years, we'll have a satellite registration site at the Edmonds Skytrain Station.

Meet in the Edmonds Skytrain Station parking lot at 9:45 a.m. Depending on how many volunteers we have, we'll send a few groups out in the neighbourhood and along the ravine park.

We'll have extra garbage bags and gloves, but if you want to bring a bag and work gloves, that would be great.

If you want to take part in the refreshments at the end of the event, please be at the parking lot of Gordon Presbyterian Church on Edmonds St. (next to the new community centre that's under construction) by 11:45 a.m.

Note that the main registration site is at the church parking lot, if that is more convenient for you.

Posted by Paul at 07:27 AM

May 01, 2013

Presenting on Social Media, PR, Traditional Media at Streamkeeper Workshop

I recently received a "speaker information form" from the organizers of SEP Community Workshop 2013, the 12th workshop for British Columbia's streamkeeper/stewardship community since the first one back in 1991. The biennial workshop will also celebrate the 35th Anniversary in 2012 of the Salmonid Enhancement Program run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, so it should be a great event. It will be held the May long weekend (May 17-19, 2013) on Bowen Island.

Since I'm speaking on public relations, media relations, and social media, how can I not toot my horn on my own blog? : -)

Here's the presentation description and bio that I wrote up for the information form.

Presentation title: Media and Public Relations 101

Presentation description and outcomes:

Get your story out through social media plus traditional newspapers, radio and TV. Get an overview of how Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and other tools work, how to tailor your message to each medium, and how to develop relationships with journalists. Paul will share examples of how he's helped gain online, print, radio and TV coverage for a local streamkeeper group. Participants will come away with ideas on how to promote their stewardship efforts, educate the public, and influence media, and political policy, through PR, social media, and traditional media.

Please provide us with a brief introduction of yourself:

Paul has degrees in journalism and communication. He has over 25 years of experience writing and editing. He has a unique perspective that combines work at major media corporations with extensive board and executive experience volunteering with business organizations, community groups and environmental NGOs. Paul has volunteered with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers in Burnaby for over ten years, is a member of the Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board, is a citizen representative on the City of Burnaby Environment Committee, and is active on the Burnaby Board of Trade Environmental Sustainability Committee. Paul was named "News Source of the Year" in 2012 by Burnaby Now reporter Jennifer Moreau.

Posted by Paul at 03:28 PM

April 18, 2013

‘Southgate’ Development Concept for SE Burnaby

The City of Burnaby and Ledingham McAllister are working on concepts for redeveloping the former Safeway warehouse lands in SE Burnaby - an area of nearly 50 acres. You can check out the Southgate Neighbourhood Concept online and contribute your comments.

I attended the Community Open House on April 18, and was impressed with some of the progressive ideas being put forth. I have volunteered with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers for over ten years, and we've been keeping a close eye on any potential development in the upper watershed. We've attended open houses on area development plans and parks proposals for years, and have submitted lengthy written responses to the City in the past.

Streamkeepers would like to see the creek "daylighted" or brought back up from pipes in which it was buried in that area over 50 years ago. Byrne Creek originally ran from near Kingsway and 10th, and passed through what used to be a thriving wetland in what is now Ernie Winch Park.

Several streamkeepers attended the initial open house, and chatted with the developer, and staff from Burnaby's Planning, Engineering and Parks departments. I was reassured that there definitely will be water features, but there is still some question as to how "hard" or natural they will be. "Hard" means things like concrete pools and channels rather than living, natural ones. . .

There is also some question as to how Ernie Winch Park will be added to. Years ago it appeared that there were plans to expand the park itself substantially once the Safeway lands changed hands, but now other options are in play as well, such as spreading smaller pockets of green space throughout the upcoming development. I haven't made up my mind which way I'd prefer. Need to see more plans.

The proposed development interests me not only from a streamkeeper perspective. I also have a passion for sustainability, particularly when it comes to the environment and urban planning. I sit on Burnaby's Environment Committee as a citizen representative, on the Burnaby Board of Trade's Environmental Sustainability Committee, and was recently named to the Steering Committee for Burnaby's in-progress Environmental Sustainability Strategy. Along with streams and urban biodiversity, we also need communities that promote walking, cycling and taking transit, and initial ideas regarding Southgate take such concepts into full consideration.

I think that Southgate, done well to its fullest potential, could become another UniverCity - the multiple award-winning green development near Simon Fraser University on Burnaby Mountain.

Now wouldn't that be something all Burnabarians could be proud of!

Posted by Paul at 10:03 PM

April 11, 2013

Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver AGM and Spring Forum 2013

The ISCMV AGM and Spring Forum 2013 was an informative event with great networking held on April 11 at the Richmond Oval. There were lots of stimulating speakers and it was wonderful to see lots of capable folks elected to the board. It was also my first time to visit the Richmond Olympic Oval, and it's a very impressive facility.

I first became acquainted with invasive species through streamkeeping, as volunteers have their hands full with battling invasive plants that wipe out swaths of native vegetation along local creeks and streams, creating monocultures that have a huge negative impact on local ecosystems.

The ISCMV events provide up-to-date methodologies and case studies on various ways to manage invasive plants, and are also a great place to meet folks from municipalities, regional governments, senior levels of government, and volunteer groups. It's always interesting and educational to learn what approaches people are taking in different places, and hearing about their successes, and tips to avoid exacerbating problems.

Posted by Paul at 09:07 PM

April 05, 2013

Interviewed by Burnaby Now on Fisheries Budget Cuts, Downloading on Volunteers

I was interviewed recently by Jennifer Moreau of the Burnaby Now in regard to more budget cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and how that's having a negative impact on habitat protection while downloading work to volunteers that the government should be doing.

Huge budget cuts worry local streamkeeper

Posted by Paul at 09:09 AM

March 17, 2013

Chum Fry Identified on Sunny Spring Stroll Along Byrne Ck.

Yumi and I took advantage of this sunny day to look for fry - salmon babies - in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby where we volunteer as streamkeepers. Pina, another volunteer, had seen fry nearly a week ago, so we knew they were popping out of the gravel where they'd been laid as eggs by spawning salmon last fall.

Please note that it is illegal to net fry, and streamkeepers do so for ID purposes only with permission from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Here are few shots of the chum fry we saw today, and the burgeoning spring colours.


My heart soars to see the creek running clear and bright.


A sighting of the blue-earmuffed, red-gloved, rubber-booted
Japanese-Canadian streamkeeper!


And there they are, a school of chum fry. Whew! This is so rewarding
to streamkeeper volunteers to see the salmon life-cycle perpetuated
in a troubled urban creek.






Posted by Paul at 09:39 PM

March 15, 2013

BC Streamkeeper Workshop 2013 Registration Open

The biennial SEP Community Workshop is back for 2013. It'll be on Bowen Island from May 17-19. I've attended at least three of these over the years and they're always a great combination of learning and fun. In a first for me, I'll be speaking at this year's event on the topic of social media, public relations, and media relations for non-profit groups.

You can find out lots more, and download registration forms here.

Posted by Paul at 12:00 PM

March 07, 2013

Mason Bee Condo Presentation at Cameron Rec Centre in Burnaby

I received an invite from City of Burnaby Parks to attend a presentation on adopting mason bee condos installed in parks, and I snapped up the opportunity to learn more. There were two presenters from the Pollinator's Paradise program run by the Environmental Youth Alliance.

A few of their key points were that bees are in trouble due to development, pesticides, etc., yet through their pollination services, it's estimated that they contribute to 1/3 of the food we eat. Yes, a third!

The Blue Orchard Mason Bees used in the program are very docile and since the monitors do not work with them in their active stages, as honeybee keepers do, there is next to zero risk of stings. Basically monitors just keep an eye on the condos to see if they are being utilized, and at the end of the season they collect the nests and protect them in a cool, dark place, until setting them back out in the spring.

If I remember the figure, the economic value of pollinators is considered to be around $1 billion annually in Canada.

The City of Burnaby's mason bee program installs "bee condos" in parks, as long as folks step up to monitor and care for them. I was happy to see Burnaby City Councillor Anne Kang at the presentation, and she was excited to share that Taylor Park Elementary School was taking part in the program.

My wife and I are interested in joining the program, and perhaps getting other volunteers from the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers involved as well.

Posted by Paul at 08:34 PM

February 24, 2013

Streamkeepers Collect Trash near Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

Nine volunteer streamkeepers showed up in the cold, steady rain this morning to pick up trash along Southridge Drive in SE Burnaby on a steep slope just above the salmon habitat.  We filled the hatch of a Subaru Outback full with bags of garbage.

The City of Burnaby long ago installed a lovely bin with trash, paper, and recyclable glass and plastic compartments at the bus stop there, but evidently lots of uncaring folks are still tossing their trash down the slope. A rough on-the-fly analysis shows that many of these uncaring folks are customers of McDonald's and Tim Horton's, just down the hill.


Posted by Paul at 08:07 PM

February 19, 2013

Waterborne Paint

I learned something new today. There is such a thing as "waterborne" paint. If you Google it, you get nearly 1.3 million results. It appears the usage is well established, yet I had images of paint being borne by water down a street drain and into our local creek. . .

Waterborne paint is actually much more environmentally friendly than solventborne paint (solventborne - another word new to me).

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary has this to say about waterborne: "1 (of goods etc.) conveyed by or travelling on water. 2 (of a disease) communicated or propagated by contaminated water."

Neither of those fits my image of what I thought was "water-based" paint.

Whoops! I was just interrupted by one of those canned phone calls: "Congratulations! You've been selected for a free cruise to the Bahamas!"

I hung up before I became waterborne.

Posted by Paul at 02:22 PM

February 18, 2013

Final Salmon Spawning Results for 2012 for Burnaby’s Byrne Creek

I have finally compiled all of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers' spawner patrol reports for the 2012 season. Salmon typically spawn in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby from mid-October to mid-December. Unfortunately, numbers have been on a downward trend for many years, and after a small uptick in 2011, last year saw another disappointing drop. Here's the report:

Final spawner numbers for Byrne Creek for 2012:

Female spawned        0
Female unspawned    0
Male spawned        5   (with four of these being jacks )
Male unspawned        2
Total of 7 coho

Female spawned        7
Female unspawned    0
Male spawned        11
Male unspawned        1
Total of 19 chum

Grand total of 26 spawners (down from 36 "processed" in 2011)

Noted several distinct redds over the season, 2 near the bridges, 3 in spawning channel, 2 in lower ravine

Final spawner numbers for Byrne Creek for 2011:

Female spawned        9
Female unspawned    4
Male spawned        5
Male unspawned        3
Total of 21 coho

Female spawned        2
Female unspawned    1
Male spawned        5
Male unspawned        7
Total of 15 chum

Grand total of 36 spawners

Noted 14 large redds spread between the artificial spawning channel and the lower part of the ravine.

Previous years for comparison:
2010: 5 chum/8 coho total 13
2009: 6 chum/4 coho total 10
2008: 25 chum/8 coho total 33
2007: 15 chum/7 coho total 22
2006: 27 chum/8 coho total 35
2005: 17 chum/26 coho total 43
2004: 67 chum/24 coho total 91

1) We patrolled the creek 26 times between mid-October to the end of December, compared to 22 times in 2011.

2) Fish arrived "on time" this year, with chum spotted from Oct. 15, while they were "late" in 2011, first observed on Oct. 24.

3) As you can see, we while we had several spawned coho males, we did not "process" any coho females. We did see at least one coho "couple" exhibiting spawning behaviour, so obviously a few morts were eaten or washed away. We realize it can be difficult to determine if male fish have spawned or not, but if sacs are empty, or loose, we call them spawned. If firm and full, not spawned. We will see if we can spot any coho fry this spring.

4) Chum were a bit bigger on average this year than last year, when they were on the small side. Interesting that 4 of the 7 coho males appeared to be jacks.

5) While of course we miss a few fish to predation and heavy flows, our methodology is consistent from year to year. We patrol the spawning stretch from Byrne Bridge up to the bottom of the stairs in the ravine at least twice a week, and "process" every carcass that we find. Processing entails determining species, measuring length, and cutting open to confirm sex and spawned/unspawned status.

6) Streamkeepers have training from the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, and permission from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conduct spawner patrols on the creek. Please note that it is illegal to harass or harm spawning salmon. Dogs? Please keep your owners out of the creek from mid-October through April when the eggs laid by salmon in the creek will have hatched.

Posted by Paul at 02:37 PM

February 13, 2013

Byrne Creek Observations in Upper Watershed Feb. 13, 2013

I took a wander around the upper part of the watershed of Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today. It's an area I don't get to that often, as streamkeepers tend to focus on the lower, larger ravine park. There was a major slide on the bank of the creek on 18th some time ago, so I checked out the remediation work. They've done a major retaining wall, but the slope itself is still in progress. The matting is temporary and will eventually be replaced with planted native vegetation. I was surprised at the new stony "beach" though. Dunno if that's permanent to help prevent further erosion. . .


The retaining wall along the street, looking toward Edmonds Skytrain Station.


The matting and the "beach".


Another view of the matting and beach.


A rain garden near the corner of Edmonds and Griffiths. What's with the plastic?
I sure hope the whole thing isn't lined with it, that defeats the purpose. . .

UPDATE: City staff say the plastic is just along the edge.

Posted by Paul at 09:09 PM

February 08, 2013

Wild Salmon, Sport Fishing Trump Fish Farms, Commercial Catch in Economic/Jobs Contribution to BC

According to this item in the Victoria Times Colonist based on BC Statistics' latest numbers, wild salmon and the sport fishery are way ahead of fish farms and the commercial catch in terms of economic value and jobs benefit to British Columbia.

So where is the Government of Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada on the wild salmon file? Why are habitat protections being gutted and habitat offices being slashed? Why is it taking so long to implement the Wild Salmon Policy? Why has there been no response to the Cohen Commission, that recommended major and immediate changes, with deadlines - several already passed unfulfilled - to realize the WSP?

Our present federal and provincial governments appear to base all of their decisions on purely short-term economic benefits.

Well, here you go. The preservation of wild salmon is a huge economic benefit in the short term, and as a protected renewable resource, in the long term.

And as this article points out, preserving and enhancing wild salmon and the habitat that they rely on would also boost the languishing commercial fishery, eh?

Posted by Paul at 10:27 PM

January 25, 2013

Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

A few folks have asked me why there's nothing on my blog about receiving a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Shy? Um, not usually : -).

So here goes. I was honoured to receive a medal yesterday, and was pleased to have the presentation along with 23 other Burnabarians at Burnaby City Hall in an event hosted by Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian and Burnaby-Edmonds MLA Raj Chouhan. Thank you, Peter and Raj!

There were a lot of familiar faces there - folks I've volunteered with, or met through volunteer work, with various local organizations. Congratulations to all, and I'm proud to have been recognized along with you.

The medal was for my volunteer work with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society. I must thank all the great people in that group who mentored me over the years, and who connected me to the wider Burnaby community.

When we moved to Burnaby in 1999, life was pretty quiet for a year or two until my wife Yumi and I encountered the streamkeepers. Joining their volunteer efforts completely changed my life, as eventually I became what I like to call "an accidental environmentalist."

Streamkeeping led to joining other community groups, and I soon found myself on the board of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, where I served about seven years as president; the board of the Edmonds Business and Community Association, where I put in a couple of years as president; a citizen representative on the City of Burnaby Environment Committee, a member of the Burnaby Board of Trade Environmental Sustainability Committee, and a board member of the Salmon Enhancement & Habitat Advisory Board to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, where I am currently secretary and chair of the communications committee.

So I'd also like to thank all the City of Burnaby staff that I've worked with, BBOT members and staff, SDMS board members and staff, fellow SEHAB volunteer board members, and DFO staff.

It's been a crazy decade or more, and while I may grumble now and then at my ratio of volunteer-to-billable hours, I have to say it's been a super experience working with so many passionate, dedicated, hard-working citizens, from whom I've learned so much.


MLA Raj Chouhan, me, MP Peter Julian


Me with RCMP Staff Sergeant Major John Buis. I worked with John
when he was NCO in charge of our local Donald N. Brown Community Police Office
in SE Burnaby. John has been at Burnaby HQ for several years now, and we
still miss him in our neighbourhood.

Above photos by Yumi


Photo by Brian Pound

And, of course, my lovely wife Yumi. This is really her medal, too, for I couldn't
have done it without her. Thank you for your love, and support, and patience.
And your volunteer hours with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers!

Thank you, Dad and Mom, for being community leaders and instilling in me from childhood
the ethic of citizenship as community service. I still miss you both. And Dad? Kinda cool
that you were a recipient of the Queen's 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee Medal.

Posted by Paul at 08:59 PM

December 29, 2012

Cool Whidbey Island Conservation District Advert

Just noticed this in a brochure we picked up while camping in Washington State earlier this year. Wow, this is so great! I'm not aware of anything quite like this in BC, and why not?


image from Whidbey Island Farm Tour 2012 Brochure

WICD Mission Statement

The Whidbey Island Conservation District serves the residents of Whidbey Island by providing voluntary, incentive-based options for conserving natural resources through educational outreach as well as technical and financial assistance to provide a healthy environment for present and future generations.

WICD priorities and goals include:

  • Protection and improvement of surface and groundwater quality
  • Assisting good stewardship of Farm & Forest land
  • Watershed planning and implementation
  • Riparian restoration and enhancement
  • Fish and wildlife habitat enhancement
  • Conservation education

Posted by Paul at 08:36 PM

December 21, 2012

‘Deep Fish’ Revealed!

I was pleasantly surprised to be "revealed" as one of a local reporter's "favourite sources."

Every year, NOW reporters get a modest gift from the company to give to our best sources. While there were many this year, and it's difficult to choose, I've decided to give my present to Paul Cipywnyk of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

Paul is always available for a phone interview, and he has posed countless times over the past year (and in previous years) for photos related to all the salmon stories we've done. He's kept us abreast of the latest developments within the stream-keeping community, and he was the one who forwarded us the email from Otto Langer regarding the leaked documents about the Conservative changes to the Fisheries Act. That was a national story, and we got it online before any other news outlet, but we wouldn't have done so if it weren't for him.

So thank you, Paul. Your efforts have made my job easier, and it's been a pleasure reporting on all the hard work the volunteer streamkeepers have done to make our waterways a healthy habitat for salmon.

Thank you, Jennifer Moreau! I've enjoyed working with you.

Posted by Paul at 12:57 PM

November 26, 2012

Ordered New Byrne Creek Streamkeepers ‘Business Cards’

A few years ago volunteers with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society in Burnaby, BC, thought it would be useful to make up a "business card" that would be easy to carry and hand out to the public when we're out and about on our activities in the park and along the creek. The cards proved to be handy, so we're printing another batch at Rosewood Printers on Edmonds St. in SE Burnaby - supporting local businesses.

Here's the proof for our latest double-sided card:


We leave a space for volunteers to write in their own name or email address. Works well!

Posted by Paul at 09:16 PM

November 14, 2012

DFO is MIA in Celebrating Success

We are having an amazing chum salmon year in Burnaby and neighbouring cities. People are reporting spawners in creeks where they haven't been seen in 50+ years. Newspapers and TV newscasts are featuring enchanted kids with sparkling eyes marvelling at seeing salmon in their neighbourhoods.

Chum have moved up the Brunette River, up the new Metro Vancouver fish ladder at Caribou Dam, through the dredged Burnaby Lake (a City of Burnaby initiative that I initially had qualms about, but am now reassessing), and up Still Creek beyond the Burnaby border and well into Vancouver. Some reports say it's been 80 years since salmon have spawned that high up Still Creek, which for decades wasn't much more than an open sewer.

As of last weekend I understand Stoney Creek in NE Burnaby, the most productive stream in the city, had counted over 750 chum back.

And not a peep from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on how much of this is due to decades of local streamkeeper volunteers and the DFO's Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP), of hard-working DFO staff on the ground, of DFO Community Advisors and volunteers at hatcheries, of doggedly rehabilitating and stocking urban and suburban creeks and streams year after year after year, of collaborations between stewards, the City of Burnaby, Metro Vancouver and DFO in making culverts more fish friendly, of tackling pollution issues and sanitary/storm cross-connects...

Why can't DFO publicly promote such success? Hard-earned success and cooperation from volunteers and all levels of government? It's a shame that nothing can be officially said by DFO Pacific without approval from Ottawa.

SEP is likely one of the most popular and cost-effective government programs in history, leveraging contributions by tens of thousands of volunteers in BC. It should be seen as something to celebrate and emulate.

I should include the "full disclosure"  bit: I am a volunteer streamkeeper and president of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society, a member of the Salmon Enhancement & Habitat Advisory Board to DFO, and a citizen representative on the City of Burnaby's Environment Committee.

UPDATE: (Nov. 23, 2012) Happy to see that DFO has published some positive PR on the SEP website. Let's keep it up! Chum salmon make stronger-than-usual return in 2012.

Posted by Paul at 07:33 PM

November 08, 2012

Oily Road Wash Enters Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

I was down near the corner of Meadow Ave. and Byrne Rd. in SE Burnaby the other day, looking for spawning salmon, when I came across a clogged storm drain on the street. The pooling water was quite oily, and when I cleared the drain, the visual effect of the oily flow down the drain and into the creek was gut-wrenching. Our urban creek are subjected to this again and again.

There are solutions, or at least ways to ameliorate this. Lobby your local governments to dump curbs in favour of roadside swales and rain gardens!

Posted by Paul at 08:31 PM

November 02, 2012

Wild Salmon Policy Receives Boost From Cohen Commission

I am very pleased that the recently released Cohen Commission Report sets out strong, specific, deadline-driven recommendations for Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans in regard to the long-languishing Wild Salmon Policy. Created with extensive stewardship-community input, the WSP has had no funding and no one driving it within DFO. Yet it is clear that if you do not assess and classify salmon stocks, and do not protect their habitat, we will continue to see wild salmon in decline.

Justice Cohen came out with two basic recommendations regarding the WSP:

1) Cohen recommends the appointment of a "new associate regional director general" responsible for implementing the WSP, and,

2) that "The Government of Canada should establish dedicated Wild Salmon Policy funding sufficient to carry out the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' implementation plan and to cover ongoing operational costs."

If that's not clear enough to DFO's political masters, here's the entire WSP recommendation section from the Cohen report, and I suggest that the federal government would ignore these recommendations at its peril. Tens of thousands of volunteer stewards, First Nations, commercial and sport fishers, and tourism operators representing annual economic value in the hundreds of millions of dollars are watching very closely how the government will respond.

Cohen Recommendations in Regard to WSP

New position of associate regional director general

4  The Department of Fisheries and Oceans should immediately create a new position in the Pacific Region at the associate regional director general level with responsibility for developing and implementing the Wild Salmon Policy implementation plan recommended under Recommendation 5; and supervising the expenditure of funds provided under Recommendation 6 for implementation of the policy.

Wild Salmon Policy implementation plan

5  The new associate regional director general should, by March 31, 2013, publish a detailed plan for implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy, stipulating

what tasks are required;
how they will be performed and by whom;
when they will be completed;
and how much implementation will cost, as set out in a detailed itemization of costs.

Wild Salmon Policy funding

6  The Government of Canada should establish dedicated Wild Salmon Policy funding sufficient to carry out the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' implementation plan and to cover ongoing operational costs.

Annual report on progress in Wild Salmon

Policy implementation

7  The new associate regional director general responsible for implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy should, by March 31, 2014, and each anniversary thereafter during implementation, report in writing on progress in implementation of the policy, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should publish

that report on its website. Each annual report should invite responses from First Nations and stakeholders, and all responses should be promptly published on the DFO website

Wild Salmon Policy: strategies 2 and 3

8  By January 31, 2013, the new associate regional director general should decide whether the Habitat Management Program (Ecosystem Management Branch)* or the Science Branch should take the lead role in implementing strategies 2 and 3 and what support should be provided by the other branch. The new associate regional director general should also identify who is responsible for, and set deadlines respecting, the

following activities:

preparing habitat status reports;
monitoring and assessing habitat using the habitat indicators and benchmarks developed by Stalberg et al.;? and
finalizing habitat indicators and benchmarks where possible.

The new associate regional director general should coordinate with the Habitat Management Program to ensure consistency in implementing both this Recommendation and Recommendation 41.

Wild Salmon Policy: Strategy 4

9  In order to begin integrated strategic planning under Strategy 4 in relation to Fraser River sockeye without further delay, these key deliverables should be completed according to the following schedule:

By March 31, 2013, identification of red zone Conservation Units under Strategy 1, based on the Grant Draft Paper 2011.?

By September 30, 2013, preparation of overview reports for the Fraser River watershed and marine areas relevant to Fraser River sockeye salmon, based on the best available information at that time. Knowledge gaps of concern to the drafters should be identified in the overview reports and a plan developed to address those knowledge gaps.

By December 31, 2013, development of habitat indicators and benchmarks for assessment for the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait, Johnstone Strait, and Queen Charlotte Sound.

10  As part of the implementation of Strategy 4 in relation to Fraser River sockeye, these key deliverables should be completed according to the following schedule:

By March 31, 2013, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should complete a socioeconomic framework for decision making in the integrated strategic planning process; it should also integrate meaningful socioeconomic input into fisheries management decision making, beginning with planning for the 2014 fishing season.

By January 31, 2014, integrated strategic planning processes should begin for Fraser River sockeye salmon using the best currently available information and following the procedure outlined in Appendix 2 (A structured five-step planning procedure) of the Wild Salmon Policy.

By March 31, 2013, response teams should be formed for all Conservation Units in the red zone and for those that could significantly limit fishing and other activities.

By December 31, 2014, response teams should complete plans for the protection and restoration of priority Conservation Units, and in developing such plans, they should give full consideration to approaches beyond curtailing fisheries.

Posted by Paul at 08:18 PM

October 30, 2012

Girls From Byrne Creek Secondary Rock on Spawner Tour of Byrne Creek

I was impressed with the good cheer and fortitude of half a dozen girls from Byrne Creek Secondary who went on a spawner patrol on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby in the steady rain this afternoon. Thanks to Louise from Stream of Dreams for arranging the tour.

Lu suggested meeting at the footbridge in the lower ravine at 3:00 p.m. so I got there about an hour early to scout the creek for fish for the students to see.

We watched a pair of chum spawning near Tag 517 in the lower ravine, and then watched another pair about 10m upstream of the weir in the lower ravine. A lone female chum was still beneath the log in the pool between 517/518.

The girls and their teacher were enthralled and peppered us with questions.

Then the piece de resistance: I'd found a dead coho in the spawning habitat earlier, and we walked over and processed it together.  It was a male, unspawned, 46cm, between Tags 511/512, likely a jack as it had no spawning colouration and was on the small side. We inspected its internals together to the best of my ability (I'm not a biologist!).

It was missing its adipose, so we took its head for delivery to a Sport Head Recovery Depot:

I was impressed by the girls' enthusiasm, even during the bloody bits.

As we were processing the coho we saw a spawner zoom up the overflow and jump into the sediment pond! Way cool! I cannot believe how cooperative the fish are being in getting ooos and aaahhs from the crowd this year!

I look forward to participating in more of the Stream of Dreams project at Byrne Creek Secondary.

NOTE: It is illegal to interfere with spawning salmon. Please observe from a distance. Streamkeepers have training, and authorization from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to process dead spawners to collect species, size, and spawning data.

Posted by Paul at 06:36 PM

2012 BC Water Sustainability Grant Award to Stream of Dreams for Byrne Creek Project

Great news! Post from Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia:

The 2012 BC Water Sustainability Endowment Fund grant is awarded to Stream of Dreams Murals Society for "Mapping Where We Live," a project they are undertaking in collaboration with Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and Byrne Creek Secondary students in southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek watershed.

Check out the cool video.

Posted by Paul at 08:23 AM

October 26, 2012

Invasive Plant Presentation, Nov. 17 in SE Burnaby

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers will host a presentation on invasive plant species by the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver, Saturday, Nov. 17, starting at 10:00 a.m. at the Tommy Douglas Library near the corner of Kingsway and Edmonds in SE Burnaby. The length and depth of the presentation may vary by audience experience, and will likely run around 2 hours. If there is time and interest, we may follow up with a walk along part of Byrne Creek Ravine Park to view sites where streamkeepers have been battling invasive plants for years. This event is free, and open beyond BCSS membership, but please RSVP to the Invasive Plants Team, so we know how many people to expect, and in case we need to limit numbers.

Posted by Paul at 09:31 PM

October 19, 2012

Interviewed by Burnaby Now on Salmon Returning to Burnaby Creeks

Interviewed by Burnaby Now on salmon returning to spawn in urban creeks in Burnaby: 'Struggling against incredible odds'.

Posted by Paul at 06:37 PM

October 18, 2012

Video of Chum Salmon Spawning in Byrne Creek

I shot this video on Oct. 16 of the two chum spawning in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby in the lower ravine area.

Posted by Paul at 04:35 PM

October 16, 2012

Byrne Creek Oct. 16 Spawner Patrol Turns Up 6 Chum Salmon

When the sun popped out today, I had to drop everything and head out on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby to check on spawners. I'd spotted two chum on Oct. 15, so I knew they were moving upstream from the Fraser River.

I saw a total of six chum today, and four of them were paired off in two "couples". One pair were working on a redd (nest) in the lower ravine, and the other pair were courting in the sediment pond.

It's a glorious time of year to be out, and the fish make it especially exciting.


The pair in the lower ravine. The female was slowly digging a depression into
the gravel and cobble with her tail, while the male stayed close by to protect his mate.


This is what happens when you inadvertently nearly step on  a salmon.

I knew there was a chum male hiding just above the culvert at the lower end of the ravine,
because I'd seen him pass under the footbridge earlier and then retreat back downstream.
As I inched along the bank I spooked him before I saw him. I instinctively pointed my camera
in the fish's direction as it exploded downstream, and hit the shutter release several times without
even trying to frame the action. This was the best of a bunch of blurry shots!


Here's the above fish about half an hour earlier, swimming under the footbridge.

Posted by Paul at 08:31 PM

Autumn Colors Make For Gorgeous Salmon Patrols

We're lucky that the salmon run in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby from mid-October, when the autumn colours are still vibrant. A few non-fishy shots from my spawner patrol today.


Now isn't that a nice path to amble along?






Posted by Paul at 07:50 PM

October 12, 2012

The Rain is Whispering ‘The Salmon are Coming’

As I sit here this evening listening to the rain outside my home-office window, I feel a little thrill of excitement. Because after a long dry spell, the rain means salmon will start moving upstream to spawn, including in the creek beyond our back fence -- Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby.

We have two species of salmon in our urban creek, chum and coho, and if there is rain, they return from the Pacific  Ocean and start their final journey like clockwork, arriving in our creek within a few days of mid-October each fall, and continue as late as mid-December.

It's a bittersweet time of year -- sweet because the salmon bring with them seeds for new life, and bitter for it means their own deaths.

As streamkeepers, we'll start patrolling the spawning reaches of the creek, getting out at least three times a week, to enumerate the numbers of spawners, and their species, sex, and size. After they die, we measure them, cut them open to check on spawning success, and then cut them in half (so we don't double-count any) and return their carcasses to the waters, for they bear in their flesh nutrients from the ocean that help sustain a multifaceted food web.

The salmon in Byrne Creek are also an affirmation that we, humans, can turn things around and undo some of the environmental damage we've done. Decades ago Byrne Creek was dead. Cut off from the Fraser River, it was devoid of fish. Then the City of Burnaby cut a new channel in the lower reach and installed gates that move with the tides. Volunteers and Fisheries and Oceans Canada began re-stocking the creek with chum and then coho, and cutthroat trout also repopulated the waterway.

It's an ongoing struggle with numerous pollution events poisoning the creek over the years through street drains, but given clean water, the salmon do come back, they do spawn successfully, and their progeny do hatch in the spring. This cycle of life is a sight to behold in our urban area.

Some of the fish that will be arriving soon were hatchery raised and released by schoolchildren a few years ago. Some were born in the creek, and are coming home. All will do their best to plant the eggs and seed for a new generation, and then die.

Welcome back.

Posted by Paul at 07:50 PM

September 13, 2012

Volunteer Organization of the Year Awarded to Byrne Creek Streamkeepers

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society in Burnaby, BC, was pleasantly surprized to receive a Volunteer Organization of the Year award from the Washington-British Columbia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

Dr. John Morgan of Vancouver Island University, President-Elect of the WA-BC chapter wrote: "At our recent annual general meeting in Victoria, the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers were selected for the Volunteer Organization of the Year, awarded to volunteers in the BC-Washington region who have made exemplary contributions to fisheries conservation, education and science. Congratulations!"

According to its website, the American Fisheries Society is "the oldest, largest, and most influential association of fisheries professionals in the world", and its "mission is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals."

The streamkeeper group was honoured to receive such recognition after thousands of hours of volunteer work over many years, working with partners including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the City of Burnaby, and the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation that provides training in streamkeeping modules.

As a streamkeeper, it is particularly gratifying to be recognized by a professional association for efforts as citizen scientists. The Byrne Creek group has over a decade of data collected on salmon spawner returns, aquatic invertebrate counts, resident fish trapping, invasive plant species mapping, etc.

Stephanie Avery-Gomm, a graduate student at UBC, and WA-BC chapter student representative, presented the award at a BCSS monthly meeting on Sept. 13, 2012.



Posted by Paul at 10:11 PM

September 03, 2012

Person Damaging Sensitive Areas of Byrne Creek Alarms Streamkeepers

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society in conjunction with the City of Burnaby Parks Dept. sent out the following press release on Aug. 31:

Repeated damage near the banks of Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby has dismayed streamkeepers who help protect and restore this urban oasis, and monitor its salmon and other wildlife.

"We're seeing trails cut, branches torn off, trees cut down, salmonberry bushes and ferns torn out--it's distressing," said Paul Cipywnyk, president of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society. "Our members put in hundreds of volunteer hours every year and we've planted some of those trees with City permission. It's so sad to see someone thoughtlessly cutting them down."

Cipywnyk said streamkeepers have been reporting damage to City staff, and are documenting it with photos. "City staff are also appalled and are very supportive," said Cipywnyk. "We're working together to quickly come up with ways to educate folks that such behaviour is unacceptable."

Burnaby Parks sees similar damage--usually created unintentionally by park users who go off trails to create a short-cut route or to explore new areas, or by dog owners who allow their pets to roam off-leash. Departing from designated trails, park users destroy plants and wildlife habitat. The City reminds all park users to respect the environment and stay on trails and keep their pets leashed at all times.

Unfortunately, the damage this time seems much more deliberate and there is not much that can be done unless someone reports the person in the act.

Burnaby RCMP say citizens should not personally intervene if they witness such acts, and ask them to call police.

Cipywnyk notes that members of the public are coming forward with sightings and descriptions of at least one person observed doing such damage. "We thank everyone who has contacted our group, and we encourage the public to pass any tips on to Burnaby RCMP."

"We hope the person or persons involved will read this and stop their destructive behaviour," Cipywnyk said. "We don't aim to be punitive, we just want the damage to end. We're hoping this is not malicious and that perhaps someone simply doesn't understand the negative impact of such actions. We are very fortunate to have jewels like Byrne Creek Ravine Park in our midst, and we should treat such green havens with respect."

-- 30 --

We received plenty of coverage in the local papers and on Global TV. As of two weeks later, it seem that fresh damage is diminishing, so we hope the message got through.

Burnaby Now: Burnaby streamkeepers upset over creekside damage

Global TV: New trails being cut out in Byrnaby's Byrne Creek by a mysterious stranger

Burnaby Newsleader: Damage near Byrne Creek alarms streamkeepers, city

Posted by Paul at 09:21 PM

July 28, 2012

Byrne Creek Crayfish, Ladybugs, Invasive Plants

Yumi and I tackled some invasive Policeman's Helmet along Byrne Creek this morning. Over about four summers, streamkeepers have managed to battle the plant to near victory in one stretch in the lower watershed. We've focussed on this stretch because the prolific plant would literally suck the creek dry around here. This summer we found just a few plants, and bagged them before they could spread their thousands of seeds. After completing that volunteer task, we checked out some other parts of the creek and were gratified to see hundreds of gradually growing salmonid fry - and a crayfish.


Yumi is about 5 1/2 feet tall, so those Policeman's Helmets
behind her must be pushing 8 to 9 feet, or well over 2 meters


There were hundreds of ladybugs near where we were working.
Some were just out of the larval stage, with husks around. Many
of the ladybugs were hanging out on stinging nettle - obviously
it doesn't affect them like it does us!


Here's the crayfish. It was a good size and very active.


And a cool green bug

Posted by Paul at 01:31 PM

July 16, 2012

Policeman’s Helmet Blooming in BC’s Lower Mainland

My wife and I had a great afternoon exploring the trails in Delta's Burns Bog Nature Reserve the other day. However, we were taken aback to see invasive Policeman's Helmet already in bloom along the creek. That made us wonder what the lower reaches of Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby were looking like, where streamkeepers have been battling Policeman's Helmet for years . . . Time to go down and assess the situation!

Posted by Paul at 09:57 PM

July 02, 2012

First Annual Celebration of Safety & Culture on the Fraser River

I couldn't find a link to this event online, so I have taken the liberty of scanning the PDF and reproducing it, along with some of its information converted to text. Sounds like an interesting, educational, and community  building event.

The First Annual "Celebration of Safety and Culture on the Fraser River" will take place on Saturday, August 11, 2012, from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. at Island 22 Regional Park in Chilliwack. This Celebration is a family event hosted by the Fraser Valley Regional District in cooperation with the Fraser River Peacemakers and Fraser Valley First Nations' organizations.

The "Celebration of Safety and Culture on the Fraser River" is intended to promote safe river practices and highlight the many groups who use and are connected to the Fraser River. The event will feature displays, activities and demonstrations from a variety of river user groups and relevant organizations. Groups that will be on site at this event will include:

Please mark this event on your calendar to make sure that you don't miss this great opportunity to learn more about safety and culture on the Fraser River. Admission to this event is free, and food and drinks will be available.
If you have any questions regarding this event, please email parks@fvrd.bc.ca.

(Note: the hyperlinks tagged for the above  groups were researched and added by me, so any landing errors are mine. I could not find web pages for the two FN listings.)


Posted by Paul at 06:34 PM

July 01, 2012

Volunteering at Canada Day in SE Burnaby

Despite some iffy weather forecasts, it turned out to be a lovely Canada Day in Ron McLean Park in SE Burnaby today. Byrne Creek Streamkeepers had our booth up, with aquatic bugs for kids to view, and we had a steady flow of interested folks throughout the event. Kudos to City of Burnaby staff who had the event running like clockwork, as usual. Job well done.


The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers booth



Kids love the bugs!


The RCMP are always a big draw : -).


And the politicians show up in force: L-R Kathy Corrigan, MLA; Raj
Chouhan, MLA; Peter Julian, MP; Sav Dhaliwal, Councillor; Burnaby
Mayor Derek Corrigan


Cutting the cake

Posted by Paul at 07:57 PM

June 28, 2012

Slashing of Canadian Fisheries Habitat Staff So Wrong, So Sad

As the word spreads that our present government in Ottawa somehow sees fit to slash Department of Fisheries habitat staff by a third, I suspect tens of thousands of volunteer stewards across British Columbia, and the rest of Canada, are reeling.

Having volunteered for over ten years and hundreds of hours as a streamkeeper, this news is devastating.

Here is a synopsis from retired DFO biologist Otto Langer of DFO habitat staff cuts announced internally today.

Today all DFO habitat protection and management staff in Canada are receiving letters that they are now red circled ie they are being affected by Bill C 38 with it's budget and habitat legislation and program cuts (ie DFO downsizing) and many will soon not have a job. Yesterday all staff in BC - Yukon were advised of this happening in a telephone call from Pacific Regional Director General Susan Farlinger. Staff were directed to not discuss this with anyone and only DFO Ottawa was allowed to comment on the issue.

132 habitat staff across Canada will be fired (laid off) in the next few months in that many will have to compete for remaining jobs. In Pacific region they now have 92 staff and that is to be reduced to 60 staff - ie 32 will be laid off ie an approx. 33% cut in staff. Also all habitat office locations in Pacific Region are to be closed down with the exception of Whitehorse, Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Vancouver and Nanaimo. That means offices such as those in Mission, Campbell River, Prince George, Nelson, Williams Lake, Smithers, Port Hardy, etc are to be shut down. If the Enbridge and the natural gas lines go across northern BC there will be no habitat staff in Prince George or Smithers, etc and the closest offices will be Prince Rupert or Kamloops. The office in Part Hardy did look after salmon farming issues.

This puts DFO back where it was in the early 1980s ie 5 offices in BC and even less staff than they had in 1983 with many giant projects such as Enbridge, gas lines, gas liquification plants, New Prosperity Gold Mine, Site C Dam on the Peace River, Panamax tankers of jet fuel up the Fraser River, Roberts Bank Port expansion, etc. now being proposed and pushed along. Never in the pasts 50 year history of habitat protection have we seen such great cuts in staff the face of upcoming massive industrial development that can and will harm habitat and our fisheries of the future.

Finally, Ottawa has given all DFO habitat staff directions to remove their name Habitat Management Program title from their organization and from their offices etc. in that they are now to be called the Fisheries Protection Program.

In summary this puts DFO back to where they were in the late s1970s in terms of habitat staff numbers in Pacific Region but with next to no legislation to protect overall habitat and a greatly reduced presence in the field where the habitat damage takes place. Their efforts will of course be distracted over the next year or more in that staff will have to compete for the surviving 60 positions and put their minds to what do can do for a living when laid off and where do they move to to get a job to support their families etc. I am told the then very low morale of the staff was destroyed by Bill C 38 and now it received its final blow and morale and willingness and direction to do their jobs can now be measured in negative quantities. . .

Cheers Otto Langer

PS. All DFO habitat protection offices from Quebec to the BC - Alberta border ie Central and Arctic Region will also be drastically cut and all offices will be shut down except in Ottawa, Burlington, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife. It is indicated that of 63 DFO offices in Canada with habitat staff (now - fisheries protection staff) most will be closed and the number of offices having 'habitat' type program staff will be reduced to 14 for a giant geographic area - ie Canada.

This will impact volunteers, but I really feel for the Fisheries field staff on the ground and on the water -- in my experience they are wonderful, hard-working folks with huge hearts who really care about what they do. I cannot imagine the impact this is having on them and their families, much less the morale and productivity of the organization as a whole. And Pacific region was already understaffed with unfilled openings in many positions before this latest round of cuts.

Posted by Paul at 09:16 PM

June 14, 2012

Video Interview about Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers from Neilson Grove Elementary on Vimeo.

A video interview of moi, conducted by kids at Neilson Grove Elementary as part of a school Stream of Dreams project. Great fun! To see lots of other interviews of local stewards from many groups try this link:http://vimeo.com/search?q=Neilson+Grove+Elementary

Posted by Paul at 09:51 AM

June 10, 2012

Burkholders Receive City of Burnaby Enviro Award for Volunteering on Byrne Creek

I was happy that the City of Burnaby gave an Environment Award for Community Service to David and Jane Burkholder, who have both been volunteering with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society for over ten years. Well deserved! Unfortunately I was unable to attend the ceremony, but my wife Yumi got this photo:


Posted by Paul at 04:44 PM

April 02, 2012

Coho Fry Spotted in Byrne Creek

My wife Yumi spotted some coho fry in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC, on March 24. She carefully netted, photographed, and released a couple of fry. Note that streamkeepers do this with permission from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans - otherwise it is illegal to net fry.


Posted by Paul at 08:36 PM

February 29, 2012

Milky Green Substance Enters Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

When I went for my afternoon walk today, I was dismayed to see Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby running a whitish-green color. We'd had rain and snow, but the "normal" color of wash off the road following rain is brown. There was no noticeable smell, and I didn't observe any fish dead or in distress.

I called my observations in to City of Burnaby environmental staff.

I first saw the discoloration when I reached the bottom of the stairs into the ravine around 3:30 today. I checked the forebay of the rain garden on Southpoint Dr. and the water there was clear. Then I checked Griffiths Pond near the Edmonds Skytrain Station around 4:05 and the discoloration was evident there, though diminished.

I also posted the news to the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers mailing list, and another streamkeeper, Garnet, traced the greenish flow all the way upstream to where the creek now comes to light from storm pipes in the Edmonds area.


Photo I took in the ravine


Photo sent by streamkeeper Garnet where the creek daylights

Posted by Paul at 09:06 PM

February 11, 2012

Streamkeepers Collect GPS Reference Points on Byrne Creek

Volunteers from the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers were out again this weekend, collecting GPS reference points on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC. We installed reference tags along the creek over a decade ago so that we had set geographical points to relate our data collection to. Some of those tags had disappeared over the years, and some were badly faded, so last weekend we began installing fresh tags, and also taking GPS coordinates at each tag.

We have approval from the City of Burnaby to refresh the tags, since much of the creek is in a municipal park.

It's quite strenuous working one's way up the ravine as there are no trails in a good portion of it. We locate the old tags, install new ones, take GPS readings, and also take a set of photos at each tag so we can compare views over time. We want the GPS coordinates so that we can easily share our data collections online through GIS applications such as the Community Mapping Network and Google Earth.

Today's highlights were coming across a heron and a raccoon.


I am always amazed at how these awkward-looking birds
are so graceful and balanced when perching in trees


This raccoon came ambling along right up to our group. I don't know
if it simply didn't hear us, but it was comical when it suddenly realized
it had walked within a few meters of us, and beat a hasty retreat.


We ran into it again a hundred meters or so up the creek,
where it had taken refuge in a tree.


Yumi doing a pH sample.


Garnet GPS-referencing a photo on his iPhone.


John holding an old hub cap. Wonder if it's an antique?
People used to use ravines as convenient places to dump garbage
and get rid of unwanted appliances and vehicles. Thankfully we've
cleaned up most of it over the last decade or so, but we still run
across "archaeological middens."


Yumi collected six bags of garbage along the way.


Me taking a reading with my trusty Garmin 60Csx. Even in the depths of
the ravine with lots of tree cover, I could usually get 5-6 meter accuracy,
though occasionally that drifted to 7.


L-R: Garnet, Dave and John collecting data at a reference point.


Posted by Paul at 08:02 PM

January 15, 2012

Snow in South Burnaby, Jan. 15, 2012


Ron McLean Park



Trees are confused this year as these alders are prepared to pollinate,
only to be hit by snow


More budding plants in the snow




Heading down into the ravine


An old stump from logging many decades ago



Byrne Creek looks even more lovely, dusted with snow


Yumi checks out a pool in the creek

Posted by Paul at 09:27 PM

Trusty Taiga Gore-Tex Jacket Gets Deserved Wash

After some three months of patrolling Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby for spawning salmon, I gave my Taiga Gore-Tex jacket a thankful wash today. It was muddy, it was, um, a tish rank, but it's served me well for at least six or seven years now, if not longer.


Posted by Paul at 09:01 PM

January 12, 2012

Byrne Creek Spawning Salmon Data for 2011

Some good news!

Here are our final spawner numbers for Byrne Creek for 2011:


Female spawned         9
Female unspawned    4

Male spawned         5
Male unspawned    3

Total of 21 coho


Female spawned         2
Female unspawned    1

Male spawned          5
Male unspawned    7

Total of 15 chum

Grand total of 36 spawners

Also noted 14 large, distinct redds (nests of eggs) spread between the artificial
spawning channel and the lower part of the ravine.

For comparison:

2010: 5 chum/8 coho total 13
2009: 6 chum/4 coho total 10
2008: 25 chum/8 coho total 33
2007: 15 chum/7 coho total 22
2006: 27 chum/8 coho total 35
2005: 17 chum/26 coho total 43
2004: 67 chum/24 coho total 91


1) We patrolled the creek 22 times between mid-October to the end of
December (average of ~2.2 times/week).

2) Fish arrived late this year, and the run extended later than usual.
Spotted our first fish (coho jack) on Oct. 24, and last fish, a spawned
coho female, on Dec. 30. Usually we start seeing fish from around
October 15-17, and rarely see anything past mid-December.

3) As you can see, we don't get an even match between spawned females
and "spawned" males. We realize it can be difficult to determine if male
fish have spawned or not, but if sacs are empty, or loose, we call them
spawned. If firm and full, not spawned.

4) I haven't got this all in Excel yet, so hard to do other comparisons,
but we had the sense that fish were smaller this year, both chum and
coho. If I flip through my notes, nearly all fish (eye to base of tail)
were in the 46-54cm range, with only a couple larger with the largest at
58cm. We certainly used to get larger fish of both species.

5) While of course we miss a few fish to predation and heavy flows, our
methodology is consistent from year to year. We patrol the spawning
stretch from Byrne Bridge up to the bottom of the stairs in the ravine
at least twice a week, and "process" every mort we find.

Looking forward to fry-spotting in a few months!

Posted by Paul at 09:51 PM

January 10, 2012

Total Environment Canada ‘Enforcement’ Over 2o Years Less Than Toronto Library Fines in 1 Year

Is this for real?

I ran across this article with some astounding figures regarding [lack of] Environment Canada enforcement of the the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

In a single year, the Toronto Public Library levied more fines for overdue books ($2,685,067 in 2009) than the total amount of fines obtained by Environment Canada in more than two decades (1988-2011) of enforcing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, ostensibly this country's most important pollution law ($2,466,352).

It's a powerful read.


Posted by Paul at 02:48 PM

January 07, 2012

PM Harper Worries About $ From Democratic Ally, Ignores $ from Dictatorship-Controlled Corp.

This Vancouver Sun story focussed on the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) of US NGOs providing some funding for Canadian NGOs to oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline.

The story began thus:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday he is worried foreign cash is being used to stall the hearing process for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

and after several hundred words, ended with the following paragraph:

Enbridge has said it has 10 industry supporters for the pipeline project, each of which is putting up $10 million to back it through the regulatory process. Identified supporters include China's second-largest oil producer, Sinopec.

Isn't that what we called "burying the lead" back in journalism school?

Industry, including a company controlled by the anti-democratic Chinese dictatorship, is putting up a total of $100 million to back the proposal. And this raises no concerns for our nation's leader?

Yet he's concerned about donations by citizens of a fellow democracy that is our greatest ally.

Does Harper really fear Canadian citizens, and citizens of the US, more than a totalitarian-controlled corporation committing $10 million to influence Canadian policy?

Posted by Paul at 08:37 PM

January 06, 2012

Good News Story on Salmon Spawning in Byrne Creek in Burnaby Now

The Burnaby Now interviewed me about spawner numbers in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC. In a nutshell, this is the first salmon spawning season in several years in which streamkeepers have counted in increase in salmon. After terrible combined chum & coho numbers of just 13 in 2010 and 10 in 2009, we found 36 this year. More details in this post.

And here's the Burnaby Now story.

Posted by Paul at 02:37 PM

December 31, 2011

Salmon Spawning Season Ends on Byrne Creek?

Happy New Year everyone!
It appears the salmon spawning season on our beloved Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby may be over. I found one dead coho female yesterday (unusually late in the year), and today Yumi and I didn't see any salmon, dead or alive.
It was a good season, though. Over the course of 22 creek patrols from Oct. 15 to Dec. 31, streamkeepers tallied 36 salmon, 15 chum and 21 coho - those are fish that have been found dead (salmon die when they return to fresh water to spawn), measured, sexed, and cut open to see if they have spawned or not. That's the first upturn in several years on our battered urban creek, and nearly triple the count of only 13 last year.
There are also at least 14 redds, or nests of eggs laid by salmon in the creek, so we can look forward to seeing baby fry in the spring, assuming the water stays free of pollutants.
Thanks to all the volunteers!

Note: streamkeepers are trained to monitor spawning salmon, and collect data on live and dead fish. It is illegal to interfere with, or harm, spawning salmon.

Posted by Paul at 02:14 PM

December 30, 2011

Soap Enters Burnaby’s Byrne Creek

Here's a simple video I made when I ran across soap coming into Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby via a street drain today.

Posted by Paul at 07:07 PM

December 27, 2011

Low Eagle Counts Near Squamish

Despite the rain, Yumi and I went up to the Squamish area to look for eagles today. Glad we went for while it was pouring in the lower mainland, it was only drizzling around Brackendale.

Unfortunately, the volunteers at the eagle run pavilion said numbers were low yet again so far this year, continuing several years of declines. The eagles depend on salmon that return to spawn, and while apparently spawner forecasts are up this year, the volunteers said that hasn't been reflected on the ground, or, er, in the water, so far.

Here's a shot taken today:


Unfortunately is was overcast and raining, so not much snap, tonally or colour-wise. Also had to juice the ISO on my Nikon to 3200 to enable handheld shots at 300mm (450mm equivalent on a 35mm film camera).

Posted by Paul at 07:13 PM

December 17, 2011

Huge Shelf Fungus Found in Byrne Creek

While we were patrolling for spawning salmon on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, Yumi came across this huge shelf fungus. It had fallen off, or been washed off, some tree it had been growing on, and was on a small gravel bar in the creek. After a few moments admiring its size, we placed it in the forest to continue what was left of its life cycle, and its contributions to the environment around it. It might be "dead", but no point in taking it home as a trophy, when its own decay will contribute to the riparian zone.


Posted by Paul at 10:40 PM

November 30, 2011

Byrne Creek Spawner Patrol Nov. 30

It was a glorious morning to patrol for spawning salmon on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today. Clear and sunny, with the air crisp and clean, the water clear. When you get focused on finding fish, you almost forget you're in the middle of a city.




A huge redd, or nest of eggs, laid by spawning salmon. It may be hard
to imagine, but three older farts in their 50s & 60s stood in awe at this
beautiful sight for a couple of minutes. This represents success-to have
salmon return to the creek against incredible odds, and lay the seed for
a new generation.

Posted by Paul at 02:53 PM

November 19, 2011

Autumn Colors Lend Poignancy to Dead Salmon Spawners

Late autumn is a visually glorious time. For many runs of Pacific salmon, it's also a time of death, and laying the seeds of rebirth, in a natural cycle.

While I accept death, it upsets me when salmon make it all the way back to where they were born, yet die before they can spawn, and lay the basis for a new generation in "my" creek, the creek that I and dozens of other streamkeepers devote thousands of volunteer hours to.

Today my wife and I saw nine salmon in the creek that flows through our urban watershed--Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby. One chum, spotted with fungus and near death, stolidly guarding her redd, the nest that she'd carved out of the gravel in the creek. Several expired coho, unfortunately most not spawned before death. And five live coho attaining their magnificent spawning colours, and still full of life, though they too, will expire soon.

I've got cans of salmon in my cupboard. I've got a couple of pink salmon in my freezer that I caught while fishing this summer. But I still hold a nearly reverent sense of wonder for these lovely fish that have travelled so far to come back to this struggling, oft polluted little creek in a big city.


Leaves and remnants of snow in Ron McLean Park near the tennis courts





A striking coho male


A coho female. We knew as soon as we pulled her body out of a pool
that she had not spawned. The bulge evident in her belly indicated
she was full of eggs


The stoic chum mum, nearly dead, but still watching over her redd

As always, I NOTE that it is illegal to interfere with spawning salmon,
and that streamkeepers have training, and permission from DFO, to
monitor and collect data on spawners.

Posted by Paul at 10:13 PM

November 18, 2011

Vestiges of Autumn Leaves, Dripping Water Along Byrne Creek

As I did a patrol for spawning salmon along Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today, I kept stopping to take shots with my teeny Canon SD780Is pocket camera.









Posted by Paul at 02:14 PM

November 17, 2011

Coho Salmon Dying Before Spawning in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek - Again

The following photo shows a gorgeous male coho in full spawning coloration found in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby this morning. There was a female coho, dead and full of eggs, just a few dozen meters away. Unfortunately, yet again we're seeing coho dying before they can spawn. Can't get the timing right? Urban pollution?
NOTE: It's illegal to disturb spawning salmon - volunteer streamkeepers are trained to patrol creeks and collect data for DFO.


It's so sad to see these lovely fish unable to fulfill their natural life cycle. They have travelled from creek to ocean, and back to creek, over several years and perhaps thousands of kilometers. They have overcome incredible odds - on the order of a thousand to one - to survive from egg to alevin, from alevin to smolt. To move out into the ocean as smolts and survive predation and fishing, and grow from perhaps 10cm to 60cm or more, and  make it back to the creek where they originated.

Posted by Paul at 03:35 PM

November 06, 2011

Remembering Burnaby Streamkeeper Jennifer Atchison

There was a ceremony of remembrance, dedication of a park bench, and a potluck gathering to honour Burnaby streamkeeper extraordinaire Jennifer Atchison today. Unfortunately, I and a couple of other folks were at a SEHAB (Salmon Enhancement & Habitat Advisory Board) meeting, and arrived late, but were generously excused, for Jennifer would have understood. She was active on the SEHAB board in her time.

I posted about Jennifer's passion and passing here, just over a year ago.

Here are a couple of shots of the bench overlooking Stoney Creek, which she loved so much.




Posted by Paul at 07:13 PM

October 26, 2011

Great Presentations on Rain Gardens & Stormwater Pollution at Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

A few things that struck me today at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver:

Rain Gardens & Bioswales

The City of Delta has an agreement with its school board to build two rain gardens a year on school property, with kids doing the planting. The woman speaking from Delta said, "We're done with pilot projects. We know these things work. We want to make green infrastructure standard practice." Delta figures it spends around $15,000 per school rain garden.

Kitsap County over the border offers residents up to $500 in incentives to put rain gardens on private property, along with free technical consultations, and has a dedicated "rain garden program manager." How cool is that? She said a private homeowner can put in a rain garden starting at under $1,000. From a target of 100 private-property rain gardens this year, they've already signed up 76 homeowners. She also has a database with each rain garden in it, its location, how large an area it drains, what watershed it's in, what kind of soil it's in, GIS mapping data, estimates of how much each site can infiltrate, etc., etc. Yowza!

Various counties in Washington State are training and deploying "Rain Garden Ambassadors" and "Rain Garden Mentors" to educate citizens and encourage acceptance of rain gardens in neighborhoods.

The Puget Sound area has a target of 16,000 rain gardens by 2016: http://raingarden.wsu.edu/

PDF of a Washington State University "Low Impact Development" manual here:

Effects of Copper Pollution from Road Wash on Fish

A researcher at WSU contacted me before the conference because she found stuff on my blog and on the Byrne Creek website about coho dying unspawned in Byrne Creek. She is researching that issue, and also the impact of pollution on coho smolts, and wanted to know if we could meet while she was in Vancouver for the conference.

I went to her session today and she's discovered that even minute concentrations of copper in water from road wash (brake lining dust, etc.) can impair or even destroy salmonid sensory organs including the lateral-line sensors, and the olfactory sense. The impairment happens quickly.

Posted by Paul at 08:47 PM

October 24, 2011

Back From Japan Trip Oct. 10-24

If any of my faithful readers are wondering at my silence, I was off in Japan visiting my wife's parents and doing some sightseeing for the last couple of weeks. There simply wasn't time to blog during the trip, but I'll slowly start catching up starting this week. Then again, I'm at the 2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver for the next three days, so it may be a bit longer before this blog gets active again.

Posted by Paul at 07:42 PM

October 08, 2011

Paradise Valley Road

After spending the morning editing, I had to get out and clear my head, so I took a quick jaunt up to the Squamish area. I like checking out a few creeks and rivers up that way for spawning salmon, and sure enough, I could smell them before I could see them.


Spawner seen through the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery fence


Paradise Valley Road



Posted by Paul at 07:31 PM

October 01, 2011

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Assist in Edmonds Clean Sweep

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers participated in the biannual Edmonds Clean Sweep yet again. This event is sponsored by the Edmonds Business & Community Association in SE Burnaby the first Saturday in October, and the first Saturday in May every year. There was a bit of confusion this year as to organizational matters, but it all came together in a great event.

Thanks to Joyce Rostron, past prez of the Edmonds group, and Jim and Lindy McQueen of Gordon Presbyterian Church for pulling it together. The church did a great job of hosting the community with hot dogs, buns and condiments donated by Save-On Foods, and drinks provided by MLA Raj Chouhan.

At "our" end of the event, streamkeepers pulled in 37 volunteers! Thanks to all the Scouts Canada groups that participated.

And of course thanks to the City of Burnaby and its crews who provide this community cleanup with dumpsters and other support. Not to mention Burnaby RCMP and Community Policing volunteers who are always out in force for these events! And Translink security staff who help us out with our volunteer vehicles in the parking lot.


Signs pointing to our booth at the Edmonds Skytrain station


Filling the City of Burnaby provided dumpster to overflowing


Thanks to all the Scouts Canada volunteers!


Volunteers shoulder heavy loads to clean up the hood!


Streamkeepers and RCMP at the post-event social. No, the two
groups are not shunning each other, we get along great! Just didn't
grab a better photo. . .  The police know streamkeepers are eyes on
less-travelled parts of our wonderful parks, ravines, and creeks.
Burnaby has a great community policing program.


Edmonds Association past prez Joyce Rostron thanks sponsors and volunteers


Gordon Presbyterian Church volunteers feed the crowd


Moi center, with streameepers stalwarts Dave and Frieda

Posted by Paul at 10:51 PM

September 22, 2011

BC ‘Salmon-Safe’ Launch–PSF Invitation

I received the following from the Pacific Salmon Foundation today by email, and am reposting it here. The text and image are from PSF:

You're invited to the official launch of Salmon-Safe in British Columbia

Working with farmers to keep B.C.'s streams healthy for Pacific salmon to thrive

Wednesday | October 5 | 2011 | 3:00 - 4:30pm

At the Main Street Station Vancouver Farmers Market 1100 Block Station Street (along Thornton Park across from the VIA Rail Station and near the Main St Skytrain Station)

Complementary tasty creations generously prepared by Two Chefs and a Table, featuring seasonal produce from Salmon-Safe farms!

Salmon-Safe is a third-party certification program that recognizes farmers who adopt conservation practices that help restore Pacific salmon habitat in rivers and streams. The Pacific Salmon Foundation and Fraser Basin Council are the delivery partners for Salmon-Safe in B.C. The Salmon Safe initiative is funded in part by: Royal Bank of Canada Blue Water Project and the Living Rivers Trust Fund


Posted by Paul at 01:02 PM

September 20, 2011

Public Hearing on Condo Development & Byrne Creek Daylighting

I attended the Zoning Bylaw Amendments Public Hearing tonight at Burnaby City Hall regarding several rezoning & development proposals, including the consolidation of several single-family lots into a four-story condo development in the upper Byrne Creek watershed, including a proposal to daylight another 150 meters of the creek.

"Daylighting" means bringing a creek back to the surface from pipes it was buried in during urban development.

The plan looks good. I talked to a VP at Ledingham McAllister, the proponent, and he pointed out some creek-friendly features. A key one is that rather than having the usual concrete stormwater detention tank for a building of this size, they are proposing a wetland/rain garden between the building and the daylighted creek to slow and filter runoff. Cool!

I spoke to Mayor and Council that as streamkeepers we were pleased that the proponent and the City had come up with a progressive design that included higher density with daylighting and innovative stormwater management.

All in all it was great to come to such a hearing with praise. I think often environmental NGOs and various levels of government are viewed as being in conflict. Yes, sometimes that's true, and I will not shirk from some healthy criticism now and then, but I think it's also important to acknowledge when government and business get things right.

And I'm happy to say that this development/daylighting proposal looks right! This is all in the early stages, yet a lot of work has already been done, and kudos to all who thought about what was best for Byrne Creek during the process!

Posted by Paul at 10:36 PM

Burnaby World Rivers Day 2011

Note: the following information and images are from the Rivers Day organizers.


Sunday, September 25th, 11:00 - 3:00PM

You are invited to World Rivers Day,  a global event celebrating our planet's rivers. This year is the 6th anniversary of World Rivers Day and the 31th anniversary of Rivers Day in BC. Enjoy your time at BCIT's Burnaby Campus and learn more about Guichon Creek right here in Burnaby and the importance of our world's waterways.


Enjoy the following FREE activities (ongoing from 11:00 to 3:00 pm):

discover BCIT's latest stream improvements along Guichon Creek

help enhance the natural riparian habitat with Evergreen (and horse and buggy rides to the site!)

learn more about your local environment from a wide range of informative displays

browse tasty farmers market vendors

see live raptors with the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society

enjoy a City of Burnaby ecosculpture exhibit

experience a portable climbing wall

Where is it this year?

This year the event is located at BCIT's Burnaby campus; between Canada Way and Deer Lake Parkway near Willingdon Avenue and Wayburne Drive in Burnaby (see map).

How do I get there?

Take transit, carpool or ride your bike!

Take the #25, #123, #130 or #125 bus (www.translink.ca). It's a short walk to the event site. Or ride your bike: the event is located on Burnaby's North-South Bikeway and near Willingdon Urban Trail. (www.burnaby.ca/cycling). Or you can car-pool! Visit the Jack Bell Ride-Share program website at www.ride-share.com to find your ride-match. Vehicle parking is also available and located nearby.



Drinking water will be available on site. Plastic bottled water is being discouraged this year in support of Metro Vancouver's Tap Water Campaign. Bring your eco-friendly bottle!

For more information visit: www.burnaby.ca/worldriversday


As part of World Rivers Day in Burnaby this year, help remove invasive plant species along STONEY CREEK with the Stoney Creek Environment Committee in North-East Burnaby. Go to www.scec.ca for more information.

Posted by Paul at 12:06 PM

September 19, 2011

A Slew of Salmon-Related Articles

East coast fishermen protest #Salmon farms, want to protect sensitive lobster habitat from pollution.: http://bit.ly/n5lW2Y

DFO not getting enough $ to properly study Fraser River salmon returns - Vancouver Sun: http://bit.ly/qtRcnW

Too many seals, sea lions shot at BC fish farms, say critics - Vancouver Sun: http://bit.ly/oRo69o

Fish caught in BC show no Fukushima contamination - Vancouver Sun: http://bit.ly/nQiplz

Salmon supported as BC Official Emblem - Vancouver Sun:http://bit.ly/o2ev0o

Article on coho salmon spawner mortality in urban streams. Similar issues on Byrne Creek in #Burnaby: http://bit.ly/o7nar3

Sockeye Feel the Heat - how rising temps affect salmon - Tyee: http://bit.ly/p9hHVl

As Feds slash Enviro Canada budget, international scientists worry about impact on climate research - CBC: http://bit.ly/pD2iLT

How does climate-change research relate to salmon? Heat. Salmon become prone to disease and exhaustion when water temperatures exceed around 20C.

And a good news story! Fish return to once-toxic dead zone near Britannia in  Howe Sound: http://tinyurl.com/5v4x3lr

Posted by Paul at 08:29 PM

September 13, 2011

Gray Day Fishing at Confluence of Fraser, Sumas in BC

Cousin Stacy took me fishing yet again. The day started out overcast and gloomy, and I got a few moody shots in the low light:



A heron competing with several boats

The day eventually cleared up somewhat and Stacy limited out on pink salmon, while I managed to land two.

A few more trips, and I'll be developing into a real salmon fisherperson : - ).

Seriously, as  I mentioned in a previous post, Stacy is a great coach, and he's a CMA to boot, so he takes continual improvement seriously!

Posted by Paul at 09:07 PM

September 09, 2011

Caught My First Salmon

I've never been an avid fisherman, but it's something that's always suited the camping / canoeing / hiking portfolio of activities that I love. I did some fishing as a kid growing up in Saskatchewan, mostly for perch and pike. I've lived in BC for over ten years now, and while my wife and I have done some lake fishing from shore and from canoe, we've never caught anything.

We've both volunteered as streamkeepers for around ten years, so we know and love salmon. We do eat them, though, so I figure there's nothing wrong with catching and killing a few salmon myself, given buying the license and having the opportunity.

I've been fortunate this summer that a cousin who is a focussed, experienced fisherman, and who has a boat, has taken us fishing several times on the Sumas and Fraser Rivers. Thanks, Stacy! He's also a great coach. I caught my first salmon, a pink, yesterday, and today I threw it on a cedar plank on the BBQ. Yum!


Me with my first pink.


Stacy with one of three he caught that day.

The other factor that makes such days wonderful, is that we both love to be out of the city, and on the water.

P.S. All you folks out there who buy salmon steaks, or beheaded & gutted carcasses, I encourage you to get a whole fish and have it bleed all over your kitchen sink while you eviscerate it. You can have your own "reality" experience without turning on the TV. Very educational for any kids around, too.

Posted by Paul at 09:05 PM

September 08, 2011

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society Holds First AGM

After over a decade of protecting and enhancing Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers became a registered BC society last year to fulfill volunteer insurance requirements. Today we held our first Annual General Meeting.

Here is the new board of directors as elected last night. Thanks to Abby Schwarz and Maho Hayashi, who stepped down, and thanks to John Sneep and Yumi Kosaka for coming aboard! Also thanks to all those continuing.

Paul Cipywnyk, President
Frank Williams, Vice President
Dave Burkholder, Treasurer
Yumi Kosaka, Secretary
John Sneep, Director at large
Joan Carne, Director at large

Here's my president's report as given to the AGM:

After operating for over ten years on an informal basis, the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers became the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society on June 11, 2010. We are breaking new ground here tonight with our first Annual General Meeting.

I am very pleased to have completed a year as president of the "new" society with everyone's support. I have to thank all who have volunteered with our group, and in particular I want to thank my mentor, Joan Carne, for teaching me so much about the creek, about cooperative community activism, and how to achieve things by bringing together as many people as possible, including all levels of government.

The inaugural board of directors for our first year:

Paul Cipywnyk, President
Frank Williams, Vice President
Dave Burkholder, Treasurer
Abby Schwarz, Secretary
Maho Hayashi, Director
Joan Carne, Director and Honourary Past President

As one of its first motions, the new board appointed Bert Richardson, Bob Fuller, and Lloyd Longeway as honourary lifetime members of the society in recognition of their founding roles in restoring and enhancing Byrne Creek. Joan Carne was also recognized with a Leadership Certificate for having chaired the informal group for over a decade.

Aside from gaining official registered non-profit society status, the activities of our group have changed little. We still paint yellow storm-drain fish, we still count bugs, we monitor returning salmon spawners, we remove invasive plant species, we do educational outreach at public events including creek tours, etc.

We also advocate for the preservation and restoration of the creek with all levels of government, and appreciate our good relations with the City of Burnaby Engineering, Parks and Planning departments, not to mention the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and in particular our Community Advisor, Maurice Coulter-Boisvert. We also work closely with the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, and other NGOs.

Rather than go through a long list of our activities over the last year in an Operations Report, I would simply refer people to our Byrne Creek Watershed 2010 Status Report (5.7MB PDF file) that is available for download from the website. I also have a copy here tonight should anyone like to view it.

I thank all the volunteers, and the folks who have said they will remain on the board of directors, and those who have put their names forward to join it.

Posted by Paul at 10:49 PM

September 07, 2011

Development Proposal in SE Burnaby Could Extend Byrne Creek 150 Meters

I came across some potentially exciting news for the Byrne Creek watershed in SE Burnaby, BC. A development proposal in the upper watershed in the Edmonds area could see as much as 150 meters of the creek brought back to life (in a process called "daylighting") from a section where it was buried and piped nearly 50 years ago. Thanks to ZoAnn Morten of the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, who noticed the rezoning process mentioned in the Burnaby Newsleader, and who brought it to my attention. I got a copy of the report from City Hall today. It mentions ongoing efforts to restore and protect the creek by the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. Here are a few highlights:

  • Requirement for a detailed Sediment Control System during construction
  • On-site stormwater management system for the new building
  • Environmental review re daylighting the creek
  • The report states that the creek was "enclosed in a storm sewer" in that area in 1962
  • The creek would be daylighted for about an additional 150 meters from where it now exits the pipe. (That's more than I expected, but they are planning to close chunks of 17th St. and 16th Ave. and turn them into greenways, so I guess that adds more length.)
  • The zoning is being changed from RM2 to RM3 to give the developer more height in exchange for the daylighting of the creek
  • There will be "necessary riparian planting adjacent the daylighted Byrne Creek"
  • Unfortunately, to allow for the daylighting, the underground parking and the larger building, all mature trees on the site will have to be removed

There will be a public hearing on Sept. 20, 2011, at 7:00 p.m. at Burnaby City Hall. If this is as good as it sounds, it would be a wonderful enhancement to our neighbourhood! I hope all goes well, and kudos to the City of Burnaby and proponent Ledingham McAllister Communities Ltd.

And if this daylighting could be extended further. . . : -). There's the huge Safeway property nearby up for development, and the ongoing enhancement of Ernie Winch Park, where the creek used to go. . . Yowza!

Posted by Paul at 02:39 PM

August 20, 2011

Final Summer Bug Count on Byrne Creek Reveals Some Beauties

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers finished a third and final summer weekend of bug sampling this morning, with samples from the last three of nine sites that we've been sampling twice a year for at least ten years.

These bug surveys give an indication of water quality, using a standard methodology in The Streamkeepers Handbook, which can be downloaded from the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation. Unfortunately, Byrne Creek rarely rises above the "poor" level, as it receives a lot of polluted runoff from its urban environment.

Here are a few of the more rare aquatic bugs (larval stage) that we found in the creek this summer:


Crane fly


Caddis fly



Posted by Paul at 08:10 PM

July 26, 2011

Slew of Articles on Fish, Biodiversity, Environmental Assessments

I sometimes wonder why I put so much volunteer time into streamkeeping, when so much of the news is so bad so much of the time. Sigh. It's also so demoralizing when our federal government is not fulfilling its mandate when it comes to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Environment Canada.

But what else can we do but keep trying?

Cuts to environmental assessments could lead to ecological disasters in Canada - Vancouver Sun: http://bit.ly/rsMoaY

Canada's Environment Minster warned that urban sprawl is hurting biodiversity - Vancouver Sun: http://bit.ly/pJLxO6

Ocean food chain threatened by overharvesting of small fish - Vancouver Sun: http://bit.ly/oCuLUl

Feds silence scientist over West Coast salmon study and the Cohen connection: http://ow.ly/5O35F

Posted by Paul at 04:19 PM

July 19, 2011

Coyote Kits in Byrne Creek Habitat

When I was down in the Byrne Creek habitat checking the sediment flow from the broken water main on Southpoint Dr. in SE Burnaby, I ran across a family of coyotes sunning themselves. The mom took off immediately, but the kits were curious until she called them away.



I continued home back up the ravine.




Posted by Paul at 08:42 PM

Southpoint Water Main Blowout Dumps Sediment in Byrne Creek

The City of Burnaby called me this afternoon to let streamkeepers on Byrne Creek know that a water main had blown out on Southpoint Drive in SE Burnaby, and that a significant amount of sediment had entered the creek through the storm-drain system. I went to check it out, and was relieved to find no dead or distressed fish. While sediment is not good for the creek, at least it's not toxic, and fish can usually find refuge in tributary creeks. When I got there, I'd missed the main action. Crews were doing a good job of cleaning the roads and patching holes.


I presume the above was the site of the break.


While much of the road had been cleaned up,
the flow down the hill was still evident.


It must have been quite the flow, because it deposited
gravel over the curb a hundred or more meters away.


Here you can see the flow where it had hit the new rain garden
at the Southpoint cul-de-sac.


The top of the rain garden looking downhill
toward Southridge Dr.


Some of the flow bypassed the rain garden
and caused some significant erosion along the path.


You could even see where water had flowed
along Southridge Dr. toward Byrne Park Dr.


This is the sediment pond in the Byrne Creek artificial spawning
habitat. The hole at the top is where the sediment flow entered the
creek through stormwater pipes.


A reverse view from the one above. As of around 4:00 pm,
the water entering the pond was clear.

Posted by Paul at 05:04 PM

July 13, 2011

Choices Supports Streamkeeepers Again

Choices in the Park will be having a by donation BBQ this Sunday, July 17, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with proceeds going to the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. Thanks to manager Greg Goossens and all the Choices staff.

Streamkeepers will have our booth set up, with great maps of the watershed, and lots of info on how you can make a difference to water health in your neighbourhood. Come on out, have a chat, and something good to eat! It's just steps from Edmonds Station on the Skytrain, and also just steps from the creek!


Photo from Choices/Byrne Creek Earth Day event earlier this year.

Posted by Paul at 08:20 PM

July 04, 2011

Firefighting Foam Enters Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby Again

Late afternoon today I saw an email from a fellow Byrne Creek Streamkeeper that there was a car on fire near his apartment and that firefighters were responding with foam. I had just come home from a walk around the creek and had not noticed anything. I pulled out my stormdrain map of the Byrne Creek watershed and noted that the area he referred to was right on the edge of the escapement. So I ran back outside and checked Griffiths Pond near the Edmonds Skytrain station. Sure enough, there was lots of foam coming down the fish ladder, spreading over the pond, and flowing downstream.

Here's how it looked at 5:15 p.m.:


Now we streamkeepers are a bit sensitive because runoff from a house fire in the watershed back in November 201o did kill a lot of fish in the creek. That was attributed to chemicals stored at the house, as firefighting foam is said to be non-toxic.

I did not see any dead fish at 5:15, and resolved to check again later in the evening. Here's how the pond looked at 7:15 p.m.:


Much of the foam had dissipated. I checked carefully in and around the pond again, and did not find any dead fish, or any in distress. I saw one alive, swimming just fine. I worked my way slowly down the creek about 75 meters, and also did not see any dead or distressed fish, and saw several darting about alive.

I'll check again in the morning, but, knock on wood, perhaps we have escaped yet another kill in our creek.

UPDATE [July 5, 2011]: I checked the pond this morning at 7:30 a.m. and it was clear. I am pleased to report that I did not see any dead or distressed fish. I also checked the sediment pond near Meadow and Southridge in the artificial spawning habitat, and again saw no dead or distressed fish. I did see several dozen live ones, ranging in size from about 8cm to 30cm. I should also acknowledge that I did not have time to backtrack the flow of the foam, so it is an assumption on my part that it was related to the fire in the upper watershed. I am assuming it was from the fire due to the timing of the foam's appearance, and its quantity.

Posted by Paul at 09:12 PM

June 24, 2011

Water for Life Benefit Concert on Global BC TV Sat. 6/25, 7pm

Don't miss this great show that combines the passion of BC and World Rivers Day founder Mark Angelo with the uplifting music of Holly Arntzen, Kevin Wright, and the Dreamband, along with a choir of 160 kids from Burnaby schools.

My wife and I caught this show live at the Michael J Fox Theatre in SE Burnaby, and are looking forward to viewing it again on Global BC TV.

Posted by Paul at 09:05 PM

June 22, 2011

Canada Day Bash in SE Burnaby at Ron McLean Park

Burnaby celebrates Canada Day on July 1 at a couple of locations, and the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers will be part of the SE Burnaby event. This year the bash will be in Ron McLean Park because the usual location at Richmond Park is under construction with the new & improved Eastburn Community Centre and Pool.

Streamkeepers will have our booth set up at the event, and will have bugs from the creek on hand for kids to view and identify. We will also be offering an approximately 1-hour tour of the creek and ravine park starting at 1:00 p.m.

Here's a view of the official City of Burnaby poster and you can download the full-size PDF here:


Posted by Paul at 10:31 PM

June 12, 2011

Two Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Receive City of Burnaby Awards

As president of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society, I'm pleased to share that two of our members were recognized at the City of Burnaby Environment Awards today:

Louise Towell received an Environment Award for Communications for her work
as a founder of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society and spreading the word about
the importance of wetlands, creeks, rivers and oceans to the health of the world.
All Drains Lead to Fish Habitat.
Well done Lu and very deserving!


Denis Boko received an Environmental Star award for his work with Kaymar Creek,
for co-founding the Urban Forest Group, and for his work with Byrne Creek.
I'm sure we'll see more great things from Denis in the future!

In the two photos, Lu and Denis are receiving their awards from City of Burnaby
Councillor and Environment Committee chair Dan Johnston.


I'm also pleased that "fellow traveller" Alan C. James,
secretary of the Stoney Creek Environment Committee
also received an Environmental Star award.


Posted by Paul at 07:38 PM

June 11, 2011

Protocol for Reporting Dead Wild Birds in BC

I got an email from a member of the public who found me through the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers website, and who was concerned about having found 2 dead barred owls in Byrne Creek Ravine Park -- one about a month ago, and one today. So I found the following on the 'net and sent it to her, suggesting she call the number:

The British Columbia Interagency Wild Bird Mortality Investigation Protocol & the 2011 Avian Influenza and
West Nile Virus Surveys

An excerpt from this document, and link to it below:

Guidelines for reporting dead wild birds to Government Agencies

What to report to Wildlife Agencies:
1. Groups of 3 or more dead birds (any species) found in the same geographic location.
2. The following individual dead birds:
a) Species at risk (http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/species/default_e.cfm)
b) Highly susceptible species (swans, ducks)
c) Raptors (eagles, hawks, owls)
d) Water adapted bird species (waterfowl in general, shorebirds, water-associated birds).

These wild bird mortalities should be reported by calling 1-866-431-BIRD (2473). Reports will be recorded, assessed to determine if further investigation is warranted, and if so, guidance will be provided on a case by case basis.


I'm filing this away for future reference. Streamkeepers focus on fish, but are interested in any and all wildlife.

Posted by Paul at 08:37 PM

June 03, 2011

2011 Wild Salmon Music Festival

The 2011 Wild Salmon Music Festival looks like a blast! I may take in some of it, as I'll likely be up in the the Lumby area for the summer Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board meeting the same weekend.


Posted by Paul at 07:38 PM

May 19, 2011

Why are Humans Rarely Included Among ‘Predators?’

Interesting article in the Burnaby Newsleader on predators being considered as impacting sockeye salmon populations at the Cohen Commission.

Salmon have coexisted with all the mentioned predators for thousands of years. I find it odd that there was no mention of the apex predator that's increased in numbers on the BC and US west coast from the tens of thousands to the tens of millions over the last century or two -- us.

Why are humans almost never considered to be predators?

Yes, of course human impacts are being presented to the commission, but I still think it's odd that we disassociate ourselves from other predators. We're fishers and farmers and managers, eh? We don't like to see ourselves as killers and eaters of other animals.

Posted by Paul at 09:18 PM

May 17, 2011

Burnaby Celebrates Environment Week

The City of Burnaby is celebrating Environment Week from June 5 - 11 with a series of events and activities on the theme "Waste Reduction - making a difference."

Schedule of Events here.


Posted by Paul at 12:30 PM

May 12, 2011

2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

Picked this press release up somewhere, and found it very interesting:

Announcing the 2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

Set for October 25-27 at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, this not-to-be-missed event is the largest, most comprehensive research and policy conference in the region. The 2011 conference, co-hosted by Environment Canada and the Puget Sound Partnership, presents the latest scientific research on the Puget Sound Georgia Basin ecosystem.

This year's theme, "Many Voices, One Sea," provides a collaborative forum for discussing the latest environmental research and practices to protect this critical ecosystem. The conference brings together leading scientists, resource managers, government officials, business leaders, non-profit organizations, academia and other stakeholders. More than 1200 participants attended the last biennial conference in 2009. In 2011, we expect to include at least 800 participants, but hope for more.

The conference website www.salishseaconference.org, includes information on registration, sessions, the Call for Abstracts, sponsorship and exhibits. Abstracts will be considered for a range of topics, including water quality, air quality, climate change, species health, land use and restoration activities in the Salish Sea ecosystem. Abstracts are due May 27 and can be submitted online.

Sponsors will have ample opportunity to be recognized and demonstrate their commitment to a clean and healthy environment for our shared Salish Sea ecosystem.

Join us in furthering our collective understanding of Puget Sound and Georgia Basin. The program is packed with peer-to-peer interactions, field trips, cultural celebrations, knowledge transfer, and practical collaborations. Register now to secure your supersaver rate!

The SeaDoc Society will award its 2011 Salish Sea Science Prize at the conference (www.seadocsociety.org/ssp). Nominations for this award are due June 15. The $2,000 prize is given to highlight the importance of science in providing a foundation for designing a healthy Salish Sea.

We appreciate whatever you can do to help us spread the word about this important regional conference. If you have questions, feel free to contact Verney Conference Management, info@salishseaconference.org or Jennie Wang, Environment Canada, at secretariat@salishseaconference.org.

Posted by Paul at 02:35 PM

April 25, 2011

Mega Bugs, Cool Stones in Chilliwack River

The day being overcast and gloomy, I checked the weather up the valley, and it was supposedly sunny near Hope, BC, on this Easter holiday Monday. So we saddled up our Subaru and headed out. Unfortunately, we never got out of the rain, but we did have a great time looking at cool aquatic bugs and rocks with all sorts of permutations of colours at the Chilliwack River in the drizzle. When I see stones like these, I wish I'd taken a geology class or two. . .

Can you imagine what sorts of forces and processes created such patterns? Mind boggling. As I wrote to a geologist friend of mine:

It's so exciting to be out in nature and drinking in the sights. There is so much to see at every scale ranging from micro to macro... I dunno why so many folks are so oblivious and/or so uncaring! While I may feel ignorant, at least I also feel awed and intrigued, and am always eager to learn more :-).



Whenever we stop by a creek, stream or river, Yumi has to
start turning rocks over to see who is living underneath.


A caddisfly


A stonefly


Another stonefly, big and fat. We never get bugs this big
in our pollution-prone, urban Byrne Creek, where we
volunteer as streamkeepers


OK, now we get into the cool stones and rocks, which I
know nothing about!






And this was the coolest of the bunch. What looks
like water, or snow, or ice, is some kind of solid rock
"flowing" into the other rock

Posted by Paul at 09:54 PM

April 23, 2011

Sunny Earth Day BBQ with Byrne Creek Streamkeepers at Choices in the Park

Choices in the Park held another annual Earth Day by-donation BBQ, with some of the proceeds going to the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers among other community environmental groups. Thanks, Choices! It was a lovely, sunny afternoon, and we enjoyed being out with our display. We chatted with people who dropped by, and while walk-by traffic was a tad sparse, likely due to the four-day holiday weekend, a good time was had by all.

It was great to chat with Choices CEO Mark Vickars, Park location manager Greg Goossens, and all the helpful staff.


Several folks who dropped by asked about the upcoming community Clean Sweep on May 7, and said they were looking forward to participating.

Posted by Paul at 07:19 PM

April 18, 2011

2011 BC Endangered Rivers List Released

Kettle River tops BC's Most Endangered Rivers List for 2011 -

"Sacred headwaters" in second spot - list highlights issues such as the need for water policy reform and improved protection of northern rivers

The Kettle River has topped British Columbia's most endangered rivers list for 2011.

The Kettle River runs through BC's southern interior near the towns of Midway, Rock Creek and Grand Forks. This river, already suffering from excessive water withdrawals, seasonal low flows and high water temperatures, is threatened by significant new water extraction proposals near its source. The river is in dire need of a water management plan that recognizes there are clear ecological limits to the amount of water that can be withdrawn. Unless greater efforts are made to address this issue, the fate of this beautiful interior stream and its fish stocks may well foreshadow what many other streams in the region will confront in the face of ongoing climate change.

"Most importantly, the issues unfolding on the Kettle highlight the urgency of updating BC's century-old Water Act so as to ensure the needs of fish and river ecosystems are adequately considered before making decisions on water extraction for various industrial uses", said Mark Angelo, Rivers Chair of the Outdoor Recreation Council and an Order of Canada recipient. The province has just concluded seeking public input on Water Act reform, and new legislation is hoped for in the coming year. "Modernizing the Water Act creates a significant opportunity to improve the state of many waterways, including the Kettle", said Angelo.

In the second position is the area widely known to the Iskut First Nation as the "sacred headwaters" in that it nurtures the source not only of the Skeena, but also the Nass and Stikine, all great salmon-bearing rivers. Located on the southern edge of BC's Spatsizi wilderness, the sacred headwaters is home to an abundance of wildlife, including caribou, stone sheep, grizzly bears and wolves; to many, this area is the "Serengeti of Canada" said Angelo.

Yet, the sacred headwaters is also the site of a major proposal by Canada Shell to extract coal bed methane gas, a highly invasive process that would compromise the biological richness of the great rivers that flow from this area. If approved, a maze of wellheads, roads and pipelines would spread across the proponent's 400,000 hectare tenure. Given the intensity of such development, concerns include the likelihood of altered drainage patterns and increased siltation. Vast amounts of wastewater, high in salts and heavy metals, may also be generated in the extraction process. Current plans call for re-injecting this polluted water back into the ground but this is an untested method that could contaminate groundwater aquifers linked to surface flows.

While there is a temporary moratorium on coalbed methane development in the sacred headwaters, it is set to expire in 2012, at which point development could proceed. "There is widespread support for making this moratorium permanent, which would do much to protect the legacy of the great wild rivers that flow from this area", said Angelo. "The threats confronting this area highlight the need to be more proactive in protecting our great northern salmon rivers", added Angelo, who also chairs the Rivers Institute at BCIT.

Coming in at the number three position is the Peace River, currently in the midst of an environmental assessment relating to the proposed Site C dam.

In the fourth spot is the Fraser River, which for the 18th time in 19 years, finds its way into the top half of the endangered rivers list. "Of particular concern this year are the development pressures facing the 'Heart of the Fraser' between Hope and Mission, one of the most productive sections of river anywhere in the world", said Angelo.

Coming in at number 5 is the Kokish River on Vancouver Island, southeast of Port Hardy. The river's salmon and steelhead stocks are jeopardized by a controversial run of river power project.

"As one scans this year's list, the issues and problems outlined are extensive and diverse, ranging from the importance of pro-actively protecting productive salmon rivers and ensuring that adequate water management regulations are in place to the need for improved riverside habitat protection," explains Angelo. "The list also helps to create a greater awareness of the various threats that confront our waterways", he added. "These issues highlight the fact that you cannot separate the health of our fish stocks from the health of our rivers; they are completely inter-dependent".

Each year, the Outdoor Recreation Council solicits and reviews nominations for BC's Most Endangered Rivers from its member groups, which total close to 100,000 members, as well as from the general public and resource managers from across BC.

For more detailed information on the rivers listed, please see the endangered rivers backgrounder at www.orcbc.ca

BC's Most Endangered Rivers of 2010;

1. Kettle River (water extraction, development)
2. "Sacred Headwaters" of Skeena, Nass and Stikine (coalbed methane)
3. Peace River (hydro-electric dam proposal)
4. Fraser River, "Heart of the Fraser"(urbanization, industrial development, habitat loss)
5. Kokish River (IPP proposal)
6. Morice (pipeline proposal)
7. Taku River (mining development, road proposal, leachate concerns)
8. Similkameen River (cross border dam proposal)
9. Elk River (development, increasing selenium levels, wildlife migration issues)
10. Coquitlam River (excessive sedimentation, urbanization)
11. Bute Inlet Rivers (IPP proposal)
12. Atlin River (impacts of dam and Whitehorse, Yukon energy proposal)

Media only: backgrounder details on each river is found at www.orcbc.ca

For more information, please contact:

Mark Angelo - (604) 432-8270                        Robert Gunn - (604) 451-6860                  

Posted by Paul at 12:52 PM

April 16, 2011

Edmonds Clean Sweep May 7, 2011

Come one, come all to the Edmonds Clean Sweep on May 7, 2011, in SE Burnaby. Sponsored by the Edmonds Business & Community Association, this event brings people in the community together to clean up their neighbourhood.

Meet in the parking lot of the Gordon Presbyterian Church at 7457 Edmonds St.

Registration: 9:45
Clean up: 10:00 - noon
BBQ (free for volunteers): Noon

Alternative registration site with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers in the parking lot of the Edmonds Skytrain station - times the same.

See you there!


Posted by Paul at 08:29 PM

April 05, 2011

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Release 2010 Watershed Status Report

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers in SE Burnaby have released their Byrne Creek Watershed 2010 Status Report. It's a 26-page document with lots of photos, maps, graphs and charts that depict the state of the watershed through several indicators in a format easy to read and understand.

You can download a PDF (5.6MB) for free from the home page of the group's website.

The report addresses lots of topics including monitoring of salmon spawning in this urban creek, resident fish populations, invasive plant species, pollution problems, etc.


Posted by Paul at 08:29 PM

April 01, 2011

Choices Supporting Enviro Groups with Earth Day BBQs

Choices Markets has been holding by-donation BBQs for several years now, with partial proceeds going to local environment groups. I see in the April Choices Newsletter that Byrne Creek Streamkeepers are again being supported by Choices in the Park. Thanks!

Earth Day
Saturday, April 23,12:00pm-4:00pm at all locations
Looking for products that are made by companies with earth-friendly practices?
Saturday, April 23, in recognition of Earth Day, Choices Markets will be showcasing
samples of environmentally safe household items and delicious local and/or organic
foods. We'll also be hosting donation barbecues and donating the net proceeds to
five organizations that are all lending a hand to help the planet:

Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society
SOLEfood Farm
The World in a Garden
Byrne Creek Streamkeepers
Green City Acres.

Posted by Paul at 11:31 AM

March 31, 2011

Tree-Climbing Snails Appear Again near Byrne Creek

Though I've been walking the Byrne Creek trails in SE Burnaby for about ten years now, I did not notice tree-climbing snails until last year. Well, they're back at it again, with a tree-climbing slug thrown in for good measure.






All of the above were around 1.5 - 2 meters above the ground.

Posted by Paul at 10:59 AM

March 26, 2011

Trillium Crime Scene in Byrne Creek Ravine

I'm sorry to report that someone cut off one of the rare trilliums known to flower in the lower ravine. Cut it off clean and took it away, leaving just the stem.

I don't understand such selfish, inconsiderate behaviour. Even if someone didn't know that trilliums are protected in BC and are not to be removed from public or private land, wouldn't they notice that there was only ONE flower as far as the eye could see, not a whole field of them? Sheesh.

So much for the enjoyment of many who would have seen the flower go through its lovely colour stages...


The trillium starting to bloom on Tuesday, March 22

It was still there on Wednesday, March 23, when I led a tour of the creek
looking for salmon fry popping out of the gravel.


All that was left on Saturday, March 26

Posted by Paul at 01:36 PM

March 25, 2011

Video of Coho Fry in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek

Here's a rough video of coho fry born in Burnaby's Byrne Creek. The filming was done handheld at 640 X 480 with an old Canon S5IS digital camera, and edited with Windows Live Movie Maker.

Posted by Paul at 10:05 PM

March 22, 2011

Burnaby Marks 76 Trees for Removal, Trimming, Along Byrne Creek

The City of Burnaby has marked 76 trees for removal and limbing along Byrne Creek. This happens every couple of years, and is due to them being regarded as "danger trees" that could topple in a windstorm and potentially hurt people or damage property. While Byrne Creek Streamkeepers recognize the need to remove trees that are dead or dying along public trails, we also urge the City to exercise restraint. Perhaps not all the trees need to come down. Perhaps some of them could be topped, with partial trunks left standing as "habitat trees." The City has always been accommodating to our concerns, and a few years ago sent out a forester to explain why each tree had to come down. We may submit a request for another tour, since 76 trees in the riparian zone is a lot!


Posted by Paul at 10:32 AM

March 20, 2011

Yay! We Have Coho Fry in Byrne Creek!

Well, Mother Nature has snookered us again. Against all odds - a very low spawner return last autumn, no coho females found spawned, and fish kills from toxins flowing down street drains and into the creek - we have coho fry in Byrne Creek.

Yumi and I spotted and netted fry in several locations, and all were identified as coho. Please note that it is illegal to net salmon fry, and streamkeepers do so with the permission of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for ID purposes only. All fry are returned unharmed to the creek.

I feel elated. I really wasn't expecting much this spring what with the lowest spawner return since streamkeepers began keeping records some 12 years ago after the creek was reconnected to the Fraser River. Plus we had a toxic spill in November 2010 that killed hundreds of fish, but obviously some redds (nests of eggs laid by salmon) survived.


Posted by Paul at 02:50 PM

February 23, 2011

Starving Eagles ‘Fall Out of Sky’ as Salmon Runs Collapse

This is so sad. I'd heard that eagles were flocking to municipal dumps and landfills the last couple of months, trying to survive on garbage, as chum salmon runs disappeared last autumn and winter on Canada's west coast. Now apparently some eagles are so starved they are literally dropping out of the sky, according to a Globe & Mail article by Mark Hume.

This is a horrific example of what happens when nature's food chain is compromised. While we can't point a finger at any specific cause for the collapse of chum salmon runs, you can bet your bottom dollar that human interference has got at least something to do with it, be it overfishing, destruction of habitat, anthropogenic climate change, or some combination of the above.

Posted by Paul at 07:39 PM

February 22, 2011

Burnaby Museum, Shadbolt Centre ‘Fishing for Stories’

Fishing for stories ...

Have you been involved in the fishing industry? We are looking for commercial fishers, shoreworkers, fisheries workers, and people who have been involved in the preservation of streams and fish stock.

Share your stories and memories at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts on Thursday, March 3 at 1 :00 pm. The Curator from the Burnaby Village Museum and a facilitator from the urban ink theatre company will be on hand to collect your stories, and to weave some of the tales into a play about fishing that will take place at the Shadbolt Centre on Saturday, March 5 at 8:00 pm.

Collecting stories about people's experiences with the fishing industry helps to preserve information about this important British Columbia industry, and the unique ways it relates to Burnaby and the people who live here. It doesn't matter if your involvement has been in Burnaby or somewhere else...we would like to hear from you.

The conversations begin at 1:00 on Wednesday, March 3 and will likely last two or three hours, depending on the number of participants. Participants will be invited to return on Friday between 1:00 and 4:00 if they have a special object or memento they would like to contribute to an art installation about the fishing industry. They are invited to attend the performance of the "Women in Fish" play on Saturday, March 5 at 8:00 pm, free of charge.

If you would like to attend the discussion on March 3, please contact Lisa Codd, Curator at the Burnaby Village Museum by March 1. She can be reached at lisa.codd@burnaby.ca or by phone at 604-297-4542.

Posted by Paul at 10:55 AM

February 19, 2011

Excellent Byrne Creek Field Trip with BCIT Students

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Rob, Joan, their streamkeeper mascot Toby, and I accompanied Robert Laird and a group of BCIT students from the Sustainable Resource Management (or was it Fish, Wildlife and Recreation?) program on a tour of Byrne Creek this morning. It was a lovely day to be out and about, and with our combined knowledge we had a fascinating walk. Between Joan's depth on the history of the watershed and streamkeeping efforts over the last decade, Rob's insights into geology, and Robert L's breadth of knowledge about creeks and riparian zones, biology and botany etc. it was a very educational walk. Dunno how much the students retained from the mass of information thrown at them today, but I learned a lot!


As streamkeepers, we are very appreciative of being included in such events to provide local knowledge and experience. And it's always fun to tag along and hear new perspectives on the watershed we volunteer in.

Posted by Paul at 08:40 PM

Hey, I’m ‘Blog of the Week’ at the Burnaby Now!

If you're reading this, it may well be thanks to the @BurnabyNOW_News "Blog of the Week" column written by  by Burnaby Now reporter @JenniferMoreau : http://bit.ly/hyZFAa

Thanks, Jennifer!

Posted by Paul at 08:21 PM

February 16, 2011

The Pipes of Byrne Creek

I heard the skirl of bagpipes on my ravine loop of Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby this afternoon. It was quite lovely to hear on the cool forest trail as a light rain began to fall. All that was needed was a mist and the clash of steel.

I thought it might be our friend Joe, a piper whom I've run across practicing out in the park on occasion, but it was another fellow. I introduced myself and we had a little chat. Said he was getting back into the pipes after a 30-year absence, but he sounded pretty good to me!

He noticed the "Think Salmon" button on my cap, and said he hoped he wasn't bothering the fish : -). I gave him a Byrne Creek Streamkeepers brochure. . .

Posted by Paul at 03:26 PM

February 13, 2011

Water for Life Benefit Concert in Burnaby


Join us on April 7 at 7:30 pm for the Water for Life Benefit Concert, a very special event at the Michael J Fox theatre in Burnaby, British Columbia.

A wonderful mix of inspirational stories, stunning images, film clips and music, the show features internationally renowned river conservationist, writer and speaker, Mark Angelo, who also chairs the Rivers Institute at BCIT. In addition, the program features the wonderful folk-pop music of Holly Arntzen, Kevin Wright and the Dream Band along with 160 youth singers from Brentwood Park Elementary School.

The evening will be a celebration of water, rivers and the natural world while also advocating the need to be good water stewards wherever we might live. The live show will be filmed for Global TV to be aired as a prime time special on June 25. Tickets for the live event are available through Ticketmaster at 1-855-985-5000 (charge by phone) or through the Ticketmaster website. Tickets are $35 plus fees.

Posted by Paul at 11:42 AM

February 04, 2011

Invasive Plant Workshops in Burnaby

Cut It Out
Invasive plant workshop series

Space is limited, so please register early. Cost: $5.00 per person, per workshop.
Register using WebReg at burnaby.ca/webreg
Burnaby Village Museum & Carousel | 6501 Deer Lake Avenue
Discovery Room | 10am-12noon
For more information, call 604-294-7690 or email invasiveplants@burnaby.ca

Invasive plants in Burnaby
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Presented by:
Greater Vancouver Invasive Plant Council
Learn to recognize local invaders in your garden and discover solutions to manage them using the latest tools and techniques. Barcode: 244473

Invasive plant removal and control
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Presented by: Evergreen
Learn techniques for removing and controlling invasive plants in your garden. Basic plant ecology, best timing for treatment and safety considerations are covered. Barcode: 244474

Garden without invasives
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Presented by: TLC, The Land Conservancy of BC
Learn to develop a sustainable urban garden that doesn't threaten surrounding natural areas.
Barcode: 244475


Information courtesy City of Burnaby poster

Posted by Paul at 11:23 AM

February 02, 2011

Stupid Mode = 1

Stupid Mode = 1. (1 meaning ON, 0 meaning OFF). Apparently that's a real Linux command option for an operating-system configuration file that controls communications with overly complicated modem negotiations.  Note that I am not a Linux guru, and I haven't independently verified this, but it sure sounds like the irreverent Linux approach to technology and freedom : - ).
I like it. I see endless applications in politics & life :-). New, needlessly complicated tax rules? I shall simply set Stupid Mode = 1.

Federal and provincial environment authorities fail to enforce pollution laws? Stupid Mode = 1, triggering an automatic barrage of letters to ministers, letters to MLAs, letters to MPs, letters to the editor. . . : - ).

I could go on. And on. And on. But I think I need give no additional examples of the beauty of

Stupid Mode = 1

Posted by Paul at 09:45 PM

January 30, 2011

Day 2 of SEHAB Meeting in North Vancouver Nice & Sunny

I've been attending my first meetings this weekend as a rookie alternate member of the Salmon Enhancement & Habitat Advisory Board that works with Fisheries and Oceans Canada on the west coast. The second day of meetings was sunny, cold and clear, a sharp contrast to yesterday's damp haze. I got a few more shots from Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver on my way from the SeaBus this morning.




By the time I was heading home I believe I had volunteered
for a couple of SEHAB committees!

Posted by Paul at 08:04 PM

January 29, 2011

Foggy Vancouver on Day 1 of SEHAB Meeting

I was recently named an alternate on the Salmon Enhancement & Habitat Advisory Board that works with Fisheries and Oceans Canada on the west coast. The first meetings that I attended were held this weekend, and I got a few shots from Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver on my way from the SeaBus on Saturday and Sunday morning.


The view looking south at downtown Vancouver from the quay.

My first full day of meetings proved to be educational and interesting. It's a great bunch of people and I look forward to working with them.

Posted by Paul at 07:57 PM

January 22, 2011

Salmon Hazard Sign at Walmart in Bellingham, WA

On a cross-border jaunt to Bellingham, WA, I was surprised, and heartened to see this sign in a Walmart:


I know some folks have issues with Walmart, and while I have my qualms about big boxes and rampant consumerism, I have to say that Walmart is progressive on many green & sustainability issues.

I don't know if this particular signage is a Walmart policy, or a State of Washington policy for any retailers of pesticides. Anyone know? You can reach me at paul@cipywnyk.com.

Oh, if you're having trouble reading it, it says:

Use in urban areas of pesticides containing the active ingredients 2, 4-D, carbaryl, diazinon, diuron, malathion, triclopyr BEE, or trifluralin may harm salmon or steelhead.

Help keep our water resources clean. Apply pesticides only to your lawn and sweep any product which lands in the driveway, sidewalk or street back onto your lawn. Rinse applicator over lawn or garden area only.

Posted by Paul at 10:11 PM

January 19, 2011

Stream of Dreams Starts Search for Executive Director

UPDATE, FEB. 3, 2011: Please note that the following search for an executive director is now closed. Thank you to all who responded.

The Stream of Dreams Murals Society is in the midst of major changes precipitated by the resignation of our Executive Director, and co-founder, Joan Carne. Her passion and commitment to the society for over 10 years have inspired many Canadians (over 120,000 participants!), young and old, to think about where their water comes from and how to protect it. While the board is sad to see her go, we understand her desire for change and how hard this decision was for her. We thank Joan and her family for their dedication to the organization, and wish them all the best in the future.

The Board of Directors is beginning to search for an entrepreneurial leader with a passion for the environment who would be excited about growing the organization, and perhaps expanding its programs. The position would focus on administration and fundraising, and we look forward to hearing from interested parties. If you, or someone you know, might be interested in working with this remarkable, award-winning organization, and guide its solid brand and sterling reputation into a new decade, please contact Paul Cipywnyk, President, Board of Directors at paul@cipywnyk.com

We are also looking to expand our Board of Directors. The board meets three to five times a year to discuss current SDMS activities, finances, program initiatives and future direction. Please contact Paul if you are interested in participating.

For updates on our recent projects you can find our December 2010 newsletter on the Stream of Dreams website at: http://www.streamofdreams.org/images/SDMSNewsletterDec2010web.pdf

Thank you to everyone who has supported Stream of Dreams over the years!

Posted by Paul at 09:49 PM

January 04, 2011

Elmer Rudolph Guest Speaker at Jan. 13 Byrne Creek Meeting

Elmer Rudolph will speak on the decline, cleanup and rehabilitation of the Brunette River at the Jan. 13 meeting of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers at 7:30p at Clinton Elementary School.

Elmer has worked on the river for decades, and tells a fascinating tale of how a dedicated group of volunteers were instrumental in turning it from, what in effect had become an open sewer, back into a fish-bearing waterway again, working with various levels of government.

Come out and hear this positive and inspirational environmental success story!

Map: http://www.byrnecreek.org/member.htm

Posted by Paul at 02:50 PM

December 05, 2010

Byrne Creek Spawner Patrol Finds Female Coho

I've been streamkeeping for nearly a decade now, and of course I know salmon die after spawning. I regularly patrol my local creek, Byrne Creek, in the autumn looking for spawning and dead salmon. But sometimes it's still hard when you run across one that's near the end, probably because in the last few years we've gotten so few of them in our urban creek, and we are so appreciative of the ones that do make it back.

On spawner patrol today Yumi and I found a female coho flat on its side on a bar in the creek in the ravine. We thought it was dead. As streamkeepers we "process" dead spawners - measure them, cut them open to confirm sex and whether or not they've spawned, and then cut the carcasses in half so we don't double-count fish. It's illegal to interfere with spawning salmon. Streamkeepers do spawner counts under the auspices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and we report our results to them every year. The carcasses are returned to the creek to provide food and nutrients for the rest of the food chain.

Since it wasn't stiff yet, Yumi gave it a bit of shake to make sure it was dead, and it twitched, began visibly breathing, and remained upright, albeit motionless, when Yumi released it in a small pool. Nice size fish, dark red spawning colouration, abraded white tail, so it had been digging a  nest for its eggs. 

It's an odd feeling. Yeah, it's just one fish. Yeah, it's going to die in an hour or two. Yeah, I had canned salmon with mayo and diced green-pepper sandwiches for lunch the other day. Yeah, I'm defrosting a couple of sockeye steaks for our Japanese-style breakfast and homemade bento lunches tomorrow. Yeah, I like to go fishing now and then. But this fish was born in our struggling urban creek a couple of years ago, traveled thousands of kilometers during her years in the Pacific Ocean, and then made it back to the place of her birth against nearly unimaginable odds to try to start a new generation.

She was so close to death that I admit it was tempting to tap her on the head, and get the bloody assessment over with. But somehow we felt we ought to leave her be and let nature take its course. We'll find her stiff tomorrow. . .


P.S. It's also reassuring that we found at least one spawner since the recent fish kill.

P.P.S. And yes, I'm aware that over the course of this little narrative "it" became "she." That's the way it came out from my brain to my fingers, so that's the way I'll leave it.

UPDATE [Dec. 6, 2010]: Streamkeeper Frieda and I found this fish dead this morning, perhaps 10m downstream of where Yumi and I saw it yesterday. We are happy to report that she was completely spawned! We couldn't find any obvious redd (nest of eggs) in the vicinity, or a boyfriend, so it may be that she spawned somewhere higher upstream and gradually slipped downstream as she weakened. Glad that she successfully completed her lifecycle.

Posted by Paul at 05:14 PM

November 28, 2010

Fish Die in Byrne Creek

UPDATE [Nov. 29]: Just interviewed by Burnaby Now - Burnaby Firefighters say their foam is environmentally benign, and it appears other chemicals were stored at the site of the fire. Initial Burnaby Now story here. And a more detailed story now here.


A couple of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers called me just after 9:00 this morning about foam in the creek. They were down at the wooden footbridge in the lower ravine near Southridge Dr., and asked us to check out Griffiths Pond further upstream near our home (near Choices in the Park). Yumi and I headed over and the pond had lots of foam in it, and a steady stream of foam was coming out of the fish ladder. We counted about a dozen dead smolt-size trout and coho around the edge of the pond. An environmental services officer from the City of Burnaby arrived as we were there and collected water samples and some of the dead fish.

Three other streamkeepers were out in the lower creek patrolling for spawning salmon.  They noticed "stunned-looking" small fish in the lower ravine, and eventually joined the crew at Griffiths Pond.

Three of us backtracked upstream. Bubbles were evident all the way up to where the creek daylights (first becomes visible from the storm drain system) in SE Burnaby. Even that far upstream, if you stirred the water, it foamed readily. We continued further up the streets, and saw a fire truck, so we followed it up to Kingsway and 16th, where there had been a house fire. We asked the firefighters if they'd used foam, and they said yes, a full load from one of their trucks. The drainage flow from the site of the fire into storm drains was evident.

Obviously it is unknown if it was firefighting foam or if other chemicals at the house were also involved. And streamkeepers are certainly not going to question firefighters for doing an outstanding job in ensuring the safety of the community. It's just unfortunate if this is confirmed as the source of the kill.

We headed back to Griffiths Pond, and five of us began counting dead fish. At this point we discovered there were some still barely alive, so we scrambled to get buckets and fresh water, and tried to save some of them, but most expired even in clean water.

The count between Griffiths Pond and Tag 535, a distance of about 350 meters or so, was 80 dead, so nearly 100 were tallied today. Some were beauties: we found one dead trout 36cm long and one 29cm. When factoring in the entire length of creek, there must be at least several hundred dead.

I suspect we're looking at yet another total or near-total kill of the entire creek.

As of 1:30 p.m., the fish ladder at Griffiths Pond was still foaming heavily.

And, to make things worse, we're in the middle of spawning season, when salmon are returning from the ocean, up the Fraser River, and into Byrne Creek, to lay their eggs. Last year was our worst spawner count in over a decade, and this year was shaping up just as bad, even before this incident. . .


The fish ladder and Griffiths Pond near Edmonds Skytrain station


Trying to save some fish that were still barely alive. Most expired. . .


Streamkeeper Yumi with a gorgeous 36cm trout


Closer look at the big fish


The 29cm trout


Another streamkeeper lives near the scene of the fire and was awakened
at 4:00 a.m. this morning. She got this shot of the blaze. She was 
troubled by all the stuff going down the street drains and into the creek,
but of course didn't say anything for she knew the safety of the
community was paramount. Turns out she knew at least one of the residents.
So sad.

Posted by Paul at 03:18 PM

November 26, 2010

Musqueam Creek–A Story of Hope

The Vancouver Courier recently published an excellent story on the Musqueam First Nation working to restore Musqueam Creek, a salmon-bearing urban waterway that has struggled to survive over the years. I have had the privilege of attending a few events there, as a volunteer streamkeeper, and I am happy to hear of continuing positive efforts to preserve the creek.

Posted by Paul at 11:56 AM

November 18, 2010

Amazing Stream of Dreams Feedback!

As prez of the Stream of Dreams board, my heart glows to get this sort of response:

The Stream of Dreams presentation was a hit with our Grade Eights. The speaker clearly knew her stuff and the kids drank it in. Overall, a fun experience and a great cause.


I really enjoyed having Susan, Louise, and Joan from Stream of Dreams come out to our school.  They came very prepared to engage the students with their posters, stories, and models about protecting fish habitat and watersheds. This non-profit organization is doing amazing work and I hope they can share their important environmental message with children and adults everywhere.

"All drains lead to salmon habitat!"  We got it!  Thank you for your enthusiasm and for sharing your expertise with us.  My Grade 7's thoroughly enjoyed it, and we appreciate your passion.  Thanks for bringing our community on board this project.

The habitat connection was great for our grade 4's who will be studying this further during the year.  They really enjoyed the maps of the neighborhood surrounding the school.  However, their favourite part was putting their creative genius to work in painting the fish.  Thank you for showing us how we can be wise stewards of creation.

I totally love these school-wide  events.  Aren't those just the greatest and most creative fish you've ever seen!?!?! The whole school did a fabulous job painting them and a special thanks to those parents and others who helped string the fish.  It's good to know that when you say "All drains lead to"...the children all reply..."fish or salmon habitat." It was exciting to witness how enthusiastic the students were. I was renewed by how everyone used the gifts God has given them to praise and worship Him by doing their best work when they painted their fishes.
The people were really good. They really knew their stuff, and everything was so streamlined that my class was engaged the whole time. The fish look great and so does the fence now. Good work everyone involved.

Stream of Dreams staff and volunteers do amazing work. It's a privilege to work with them, even in a minor capacity.

Posted by Paul at 11:23 PM

November 08, 2010

Heron Stalks Byrne Creek

A heron has been hanging around the lower ravine in southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek the last several days. I first surprised it while on a patrol for spawning salmon with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. It gave a Jurassic-like squawk and mightily flapped its way up into a perch in an evergreen.


The next day on another spawner patrol I saw it before it saw me, and so I hunkered down to observe it slowly Tai Chi its way along the creek, looking for lunch. It wasn't long before it struck, and swallowed a small cutthroat trout or juvenile coho salmon.

The linkages in nature never cease to amaze me. It's the season for spawning salmon to come up our creeks in the lower mainland of BC, and that attracts other animals like clockwork. The trout start gathering in expectation of stray eggs as the salmon dig their nests and spawn, various species of birds like American Dippers suddenly start frequenting the creeks also looking for stray eggs, and herons and other fishing birds come to stalk the trout who in turn are stalking the female salmon. . . Not to mention the increased number of paw prints of various sorts in the soft sandy or muddy banks: coyotes, racoons, skunks. I've seen even squirrels get excited about spawning salmon, though I've never seen them actually take an egg or feed on a carcass.

Posted by Paul at 06:31 PM

October 23, 2010

Metropolis Express Fundraising for Stream of Dreams

All aboard to save salmon!

The Stream of Dreams Murals Society is taking part in a charity event at Metropolis at Metrotown in which donations to ride the Metropolis Express train go to several charities. Today was the Stream of Dreams "challenge day" - - one day to try to raise as much $$ as possible to potentially receive a bonus donation from Metropolis.

Stream of Dreams founders Louise and Joan were out, along with a fantastic crew from the Byrne Creek Secondary Leos. Kids got to colour small foil fish that were attached to the train to create a "salmon run."

In addition, local elementary schools were encouraged to join another Stream of Dreams-sponsored competition to win blank Dreamfish to do an environmental education and community art project at their school.

Thank you Metropolis at Metrotown, and Byrne Creek Leos!











Posted by Paul at 05:25 PM

October 12, 2010

Dog Signs Go Up for Byrne Creek

Spawning salmon are expected back in SE Burnaby's Byrne Creek any day now, so Byrne Creek Streamkeepers posted several posters along the most-walked portion of the creek trail today to remind dogs to keep their owners out of the creek :-).

Salmon usually start arriving in the creek in mid-October, and spawners can show up as late as mid-December. They lay their eggs in pits they dig in the gravel, and cover them, and these redds need to remain undisturbed until April-May to ensure the eggs hatch and eventually swim free as fry.

As I was putting the posters up today, two joggers with dogs stopped to chat about the fish, with one whooping a "woo-hoo, the salmon are coming back!" It's great to get that kind of positive feedback from the community.




Credits: "Scream" and "Dog Paw" are by my wife, Yumi Kosaka, while the "Band-Aid" fish are by Maho Hayashi.

Posted by Paul at 10:02 AM

October 08, 2010

Adams River Sockeye Run – Day 1

The Adams River sockeye salmon spawning run is in a dominant year, as happens every four years. Yumi and I headed up to the Shuswap to take in a dominant run for the third time since we moved to BC. The event keeps growing and the Adams River Salmon Society's Salute to the Sockeye keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Yumi and I were glad that she had a Friday off so we could attend when the crowds were a bit thinner! :-) We drove from Burnaby up the canyon on the No. 1 to take in the autumn scenery:


Thompson River


Canadian Northern last spike


Kamploops Lake from the highway lookout


Yumi on the hill above the lookout

We arrived at Roderick Haig-Brown Park early in the afternoon
and spent hours wandering the trails. While the sockeye were not
quite "bank-to-bank" as we've seen them in other dominant years,
it was still a moving, beautiful sight to witness.


Viewing platform over the Adams River


A bridge on the loop trail


A male and female sockeye pair off


A female sockeye flips sideways to dig in the cobble with her tail


Closer view of these gorgeous fish


It's amazing to watch the sockeye congregate


Fins highlighted as the sun begins to set


This sockeye's journey is done

Posted by Paul at 04:07 PM

October 06, 2010

Byrne Creek Fall Colors

A ramble along Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC:








Posted by Paul at 05:30 PM

September 26, 2010

Burnaby Board of Trade Proclaims Support for Rivers Day

The Burnaby Board of Trade is the first chamber in Canada to proclaim its support for World Rivers Day. Chair Dick Kouwenhoven read out the proclamation at the Rivers Day event in Burnaby, BC, today, shaking hands with Rivers Day founder Mark Angelo.

This is way cool! The BBOT is one of the most progressive boards in Canada, and I am proud to sit on its Environmental Sustainability Committee.


Rivers Day founder Mark Angelo, left, and Dick Kouwenhoven, BBOT chair.


Posted by Paul at 04:27 PM

September 15, 2010

Paint in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek?

A Byrne Creek Streamkeeper noticed a paint-like discoloration in the creek at Susan's Pond at 18th Ave. just east of Griffith's Drive around 2:15 p.m. today, and left me a message. I got the message around 3:00 p.m., and zipped over and checked, and sure enough it did look like paint. I called the City of Burnaby, and they had already received a report and were looking for the source.

Remember: All Drains Lead to Fish Habitat!


I checked another pond further downstream, and as of 3:30 there was no discoloration and no fish to be seen, alive or dead. With luck the amount of pollutant was not sufficient to kill.

UPDATE: As of 6:45 p.m. Griffith's Pond (near Choices in the Park), downstream of the original pollutant site, was full of a milky white substance:


And to add to the creek's woes, I ran across another, separate inflow of some sort of oily substance coming from a drainage that leads from the townhouse complex at 6770 Rumble St.:


UPDATE 2: Checked several areas of the creek Thursday morning Sept. 16 with another streamkeeper and the substance appears to have been diluted and washed away. Fortunately we did not find any dead fish, and did see several live ones.

Posted by Paul at 03:55 PM

September 14, 2010

Dreamfish Gala to Support Stream of Dreams Murals Society

It's coming fast! Just a couple of weeks to go, so get your tickets soon! The Stream of Dreams Murals Society is hosting a Dreamfish Gala on Saturday, Sept. 25 in Burnaby, BC.


Artwork by Stream of Dreams Artistic Director Louise Towell

Fantastic live music by  Holly Arntzen, Kevin Wright and the Dream Band. Yowza!

Silent auction, "fish pond", appies, deserts, wine. . .

Don't miss it!

(Disclaimer: I'm prez of the society's board of directors : - )

Posted by Paul at 09:53 PM

September 09, 2010

Come Celebrate World Rivers Day in Burnaby, BC!

World Rivers Day in Burnaby on Sunday, Sept. 26, will be held in Fraser Foreshore Park near Byrne Creek. This fun-filled family event will run from noon to 4:00 p.m. Details here.


The above is a portion of the event poster created by the City of Burnaby

Posted by Paul at 05:52 PM

August 29, 2010

Sockeye Salmon Dying Unspawned on Harrison River & Lake

Yumi and I went as far up the  Fraser Valley as Kilby today looking for spawning salmon.

We were surprised to see lots of dead sockeye on the banks of the Harrison River -- many of them just barely starting to show their spawning colouration, and looking good enough to eat. We could also see lots of big silver fish belly up out on the water. Strange.

On our way home we stopped in at Kanaka Creek to poke around the hatchery, and talked to the manager. He said he'd heard stories of people out fishing on Harrison River & Lake who said they'd seen lots of silver floaters.

I also found a thread on the Fishing with Rod website with similar reports, and plenty of speculation as to what the cause could be -- high water temps? disease?




The above had the most advanced spawning colouration that we saw.



The beach at Kilby.

In several shots I took of the water, you can count a dozen or more dead
floaters per picture, but I've not posted any here because at this size of photo
the fish are just white dots.

Posted by Paul at 06:21 PM

August 27, 2010

Met Ripple Relay Riders at Burnaby’s Byrne Creek

I met Ripple Relay/Wild Salmon Express cyclists Michelle Nickerson and Daniel Van der Kroon today. They have been cycling the entire length of the Fraser River watershed to highlight awareness of wild salmon and promote a shift away from open-net fish farming.

We met at Burnaby's Byrne Creek, and chatted about the challenges this urban watershed faces. It was great to meet them, and wish them on their way. Their goal is near!


Photo by my wife, Yumi.

Posted by Paul at 08:10 PM

August 21, 2010

Let’s Kill More Salmon Before They Spawn ‘Too Much.’ Huh?

Now that we've got a half-decent run of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River for the first time in several years, the "let's harvest more!" crowd are out in force. Gluttony and opportunism are reviving their old, baseless, self-centred, anti-social arguments.

As a society, we have the collective attention span of a two-year-old child. And a matching lack of historical awareness.


The "over-escapement" letters to editors are starting to fly, accusing the Department of Fisheries and Oceans of not allowing more "harvest" (isn't that a nice, benign word?).

I've never understood the argument that us enlightened human managers of the world might make the apparently huge mistake of letting too many salmon reach their spawning grounds.

What?! Horrors!

The "over-escapers" say this will lead to "over-competition," disrupted redds, blah, blah.

The Fraser used to regularly, year after year, have salmon runs 3, 5, perhaps even 10 times the volume of what we have now in our best year out of five. And since there were none of us enlightened, scientific, white folks around to harvest them with vast nets and motorized vessels, or chew up their habitat with our housing and commercial buildings, or poison them with our sewage and chemicals, the bulk of those salmon got past the First Nations fishers who literally had a life-or-death dependence upon them for millennia.

So how is it that salmon managed to thrive and fill rivers from bank to bank without our scientific, commercial intervention, year after year for centuries?

And as for that "over-competition" argument, well, that's nature's way of ensuring healthy populations. The big, strong, healthy salmon get to partner, get to spawn, get to stir up and replace the redds of smaller, weaker fish.

Nature thrives on competition.

If I were a fisher truly looking forward to the future of this "resource," I'd say let *all* the sockeye through for several generations of fair natural selection until we get tens of millions of huge fish back again - - *on a regular basis*.

Instead of directing your anger at DFO for not allowing you to scoop the LAST FISH, you might focus your efforts on habitat preservation, a shift to tertiary sewage treatment. . .

It's only whining Canadian humans who demand self-centred changes to government regulations that happen to benefit and suit them in the short term. The fish have no voice, no party, no cabinet ministers. . .

UPDATE (Aug. 30): I was happy to see the Vancouver Sun's Stephen Hume tackle "over-escapement" on the front page of the Aug. 30 paper.

UPDATE (Aug. 30): Ernie Crey of the Sto:lo First Nation also warns against overfishing in CBC article.

Posted by Paul at 08:59 PM

August 20, 2010

Jennifer Atchison, 1938-2010, Passionate Burnaby Streamkeeper, Environmental Advocate

Jennifer was always swimming upstream, leading by example, pushing and prodding, collaborating and cajoling. She was the heart of the Stoney Creek Environment Committee, and was instrumental in that group achieving so much environmental restoration in her watershed in conjunction with many partners including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the City of Burnaby.

As president of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society, I extend our condolences to Jennifer's family and our fellow streamkeepers at Stoney Creek.

I am grateful I had the opportunity to work with Jennifer at least a little over the last ten years. She was always a joy to meet at streamkeeper events and activities. I was also fortunate to be present when she received two well-deserved awards: the City of Burnaby's Environment Award for Community Stewardship in 2010, and a BC Achievement Award in 2008.


City of Burnaby Environment Award 2010
L to R: Greg Bartle, City of Burnaby Long-Range Planner - Environmental Stewardship;
Jennifer; Burnaby Councillor and Environment Committee Chair Dan Johnston


BC Achievement Award 2008
L to R: MLA Harry Bloy, Jennifer, BC Premier Gordon Campbell

As you can see by the above photos, she was physically diminutive, but she'd latch onto my arm, tilt her head up, focus on my eyes nearly two feet above her own. . . and keep me fixed in her sights until she'd imparted a key message she wanted me to hear :-).

Many of us in the streamkeeper community, and I suspect many politicians and bureaucrats as well, will miss that arm lock, that intense gaze . . .

So let's remember and honour her unwavering message of watershed restoration and protection, and the right of every human being, fish, and animal, to live in clean water and a healthy natural environment, even in urban areas.

Posted by Paul at 10:28 PM

August 17, 2010

Rainwater and Sustainable Communities

This is an excellent website for sustainable stormwater management practices. I really like the "Who are you?" links that tune the perspective toward elected officials, municipal stormwater managers, developers, and the general public.

Thanks to Waterbucket for the link!

Posted by Paul at 12:41 PM

August 14, 2010

Speaking Streamkeeping at Mesa/Burnaby Sister-City Visit

I was invited to speak to a delegation on a sister-city visit today to Burnaby BC, from Mesa, AZ. The group was visiting Burnaby's gorgeous new Tommy Douglas Library, and I was asked to talk about the significance of the Stream of Dreams mural in the children's area of the library, and how the City and the library have collaborated over the years with local volunteers from the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

I quickly recounted some of the history of Stream of Dreams, and the original Dreamfish mural on a fence surrounding the property that the library was eventually built on. I spoke about the "fishy neighbourhood" around the library and the beautiful salmon sculpture and the "stream" and its aquatic animals inlaid into the path behind the library. I explained how all drains lead to fish habitat, and how streamkeepers and the City of Burnaby work closely together on keeping urban creeks and streams as natural and healthy as is possible in a developed environment.

While I'm not sure how much of the healthy watershed message I got across in a few minutes, I thank library staff including Chief Librarian Edel Toner-Rogala and Tommy Douglas Branch Manager Roberta Summersgill for inviting me. They are both wonderful to work with!


Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan (right) presents Mesa Mayor Scott Smith with framed memento of the tour.


Viewing the Stream of Dreams installation in the children's corner.


Touring the gorgeous library.

Posted by Paul at 07:30 PM

August 10, 2010

Southpoint Rain Garden in SE Burnaby Underway!

It's so exciting to see construction underway on the Southpoint Rain Garden in SE Burnaby, BC. The rain garden is being created on a dead-end cul-de-sac, and will bridge Taylor Park and Byrne Creek Ravine Park.

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers brought the site to the attention of the City of Burnaby's planning, engineering and parks departments, and all immediately understood the site's potential. It not only links the green space of the two parks, it will provide natural filtration of rainwater that comes down Burnaby's south slope and that roars unfiltered into Byrne Creek. Streamkeepers have noted for years the oily flow off the streets that accumulated into the rain drains (storm drains) along Southpoint Drive and was visible way down below, exiting pipes into the creek whenever it rained.

The site will also be a gorgeous outdoor nature lab for elementary school students from nearby Taylor Park School. The principal, staff and students have already been involved in discussions and developments. The school has also been so kind as to hold an event with streamkeepers, and everyone appears excited about monitoring the new rain garden and how it will affect local urban biodiversity.

And last, but not least, the site is right by Adera Development's "Green" townhouse development. As part of its ethos of sustainable development and giving back to communities, Adera provided a substantial donation to the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers several years ago. We thank Adera for its patience in waiting to receive full public acknowledgement for its efforts, as the streamkeepers decided to use the funds to support the rain garden - a project that took some time to come to fruition.

I can almost feel the earth heaving a sigh of relief as the asphalt is stripped away, allowing the soil to breath and to absorb rain again!

Way to go Burnaby! I hope this project stimulates more of its kind around our beautiful city.

You're doing good, we heartily appreciate it,  let's see more! :-)



Posted by Paul at 08:42 PM

July 24, 2010

Burnaby Library Honours Original Stream of Dreams Mural

In a great collaboration, the new Tommy Douglas Public Library in southeast Burnaby has incorporated a visual legacy of the original Stream of Dreams mural that used to grace the corner of Kingsway and Edmonds.


Before the new library and adjacent commercial/residential development went up, the original watershed mural had to come down. You can read & see about it here.

The original mural commemorated the deaths of thousands of fish after a toxin was poured into a street drain in 1998, killing everything in Byrne Creek. That first Dreamfish mural stimulated amazing collaboration between streamkeepers, schools, the local community and several City of Burnaby departments. It went on to spark so much public interest, that eventually Louise Towell and Joan Carne, who had instigated that first mural, formed the Stream of Dreams Murals Society to carry out watershed education and community art.

Posted by Paul at 08:31 PM

July 23, 2010

Politicians Tour Byrne Creek

Thanks to a passel of politicians who took the time to go on a tour of the Byrne Creek watershed in southeast Burnaby today!

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society board members Joan Carne and moi led MP Peter Julian, MLAs Raj Chouhan and Kathy Corrigan, and City of Burnaby Councillors Sav Dhaliwal and Paul McDonell down the ravine trail.

The goal of today's tour was to impart the importance of environmentally-friendly development to the health of urban creeks. The City of Burnaby was a trailblazer in implementing an "open creeks" policy several decades ago, but the creeks cannot survive in a constantly urbanizing environment without progressive development policies that require rain gardens, and roadside and parking-lot swales - anything and everything that helps get rainwater into the ground where it belongs, filtering out pollutants along the way.


That's the word of the day. Our cities must be developed as SPONGES, just like the forests, fields, and bogs that they've filled in. Get that water back into the ground, and you're way ahead in the fight against pollution, against flooding, against massive storm flows off of our streets, roofs and parking lots. . .


Getting oriented to the watershed.


Distracted by potential voters on the ravine trail :-)


A group of nature-loving daycare kids exploring the lovely
creek stole our hearts.


Checking out a simple swale that absorbs run-off from a parking lot
instead of draining it into the storm system - and then the local creek.


Observing a site that streamkeepers approached the City of Burnaby
about, suggesting it could become a large rain garden. The dead-end
street will be decommissioned and turned into a lovely, water-infiltrating
garden that will also bridge Taylor Park and Byrne Creek Ravine Park.

Taylor Park Elementary School just up the hill is already excited about the potential to use the rain garden as a nature-study site. After the pavement is ripped up, and water starts to flow again, and native plants are planted - what species begin to use the habitat? And how does that change and progress over the years. What a great, ongoing science project!

Thanks again to our elected representatives! We know you are very busy, and we appreciate your time and attention. I think another concept that was related today was the fact that streamkeeper groups are 100% volunteer. None of us get any financial compensation for what we do - including today's tour. . .  In fact we take unpaid time off from our day jobs to do events like this. . .

So, now, ahem, let's see some action for our tax dollars ! ;-)

Posted by Paul at 03:30 PM

July 09, 2010

Streamkeepers of the Language

A well-crafted blog post by James Harbeck, a fellow member of the Editors' Association of Canada, that uses the theme of streamkeeping, and in particular the March 2010 Byrne Creek kill, to frame an essay on living languages and etymology.

Thanks for the links, James!

Posted by Paul at 10:54 PM

July 05, 2010

Clearing Invasive Policeman’s Helmet along Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers are tackling invasive Himalayan Balsam (aka Policeman's Helmet) in lower stretches of the urban creek, yet again. It's an endless battle. We've cleared this particular stretch of the creek three years in a row, but it still comes back.

The growth of this invasive plant can be so thick and rampant that it can literally suck sections of the creek dry if not battled back.


That's my wife, Yumi, and the pink blossoms
above her head are on one of the dreaded plants.
In a matter of several weeks it's gone from barely
noticeable to nearly 2 meters high!

And in places, pink is all that you see. . .
This is near the end of several hours of
back-breaking eradication.

Posted by Paul at 09:26 PM

July 04, 2010

Byrne Creek Bug Count Yields Baby Crayfish

Twice a year, Byrne Creek Streamkeepers count bugs - the fancy name is "aquatic invertebrate surveys" - to assess the quality of the water in the urban stream. We sample the same locations year after year so that we have comparable data. The bug counts usually run for three weekends in a row.


The crew hard at work - we are fortunate to have members
who let us use their china and dining room tables so that we
can  count in comfort after collecting the samples from the creek.


To our surprise, we found three baby crayfish in our sample.
Here's one of them next to a dime for size comparison.

Posted by Paul at 01:31 PM

July 01, 2010

Canada Day in Surrey

We decided to check out Canada Day in Surrey as part of our ongoing exploration of events on Canada's birthday. Last year we went to Canada Day in New Westminster and thoroughly enjoyed the cosy atmosphere in Queen's Park, the live music, etc. As Burnaby residents and community volunteers, we've been to many Canada Day events in Burnaby.

Our impression of the Surrey event was that it was much more corporate-sponsorship oriented than Burnaby events are. I'm not judging that as being either good or bad, but it was interesting to hear Surrey politicians lauding the corporate sponsors for enabling a "free public event." Hmm. Burnaby Canada Day events are free to the public, too, without all the banner ads, displays of cars and trucks, etc. . . Perhaps the Burnaby events are not on quite the same scale, but bigger is not necessarily better, eh?

I was impressed, however, with the strong environmental-sustainability presence at the Surrey event. Lots of displays on sustainable living, and booths on streamkeeping and preserving urban forests. Surrey actually hires university students over the summer to lead teams of hired high-school students to work on restoring urban streams, removing invasive plant species, etc. I have to admit that's way ahead of Burnaby initiatives. . .

Posted by Paul at 07:50 PM

June 30, 2010

Commercial Properties Still Using Pesticides in South Burnaby

I happened to cycle past the Ballard building on North Fraser Way down in the Glenlyon Development near Fraser Foreshore Park in south Burnaby over lunch today.

There was a guy applying something to the lawns on both sides of the street, so I asked him what it was: Weed 'n Feed. I asked him if he was aware that he was applying it right next to Sussex Creek (neither fertilizer nor pesticides are good for aquatic habitat), and he brushed me off saying it was an approved chemical.

I called the City of Burnaby, and staff confirmed that they couldn't do anything about it because it was commercial property and the City's Pesticide Bylaw does not apply to commercial properties. I also checked the Environment Canada website, and discovered that weed 'n feed (combined fertilizer/pesticide) products have been banned on a national level, effective 2012. So it seems a shame that landscapers are still applying the stuff.

It would be great if developers, property managers, and landscapers got ahead of the curve!

I've talked to people who say they've heard that landscapers are intent on using up stocks of products that face potential bans, or that have already been banned but the deadline hasn't been reached yet, and that seems morally reprehensible to me.

Perhaps chemicals manufacturers could be encouraged to take back such products with partial refunds, and governments could be encouraged to support such programs through rebates? Perhaps such programs are in place, but people don't know about them? There's a lot that could be done here!

Posted by Paul at 02:56 PM

June 28, 2010

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society Executive

The founding directors of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society met tonight for the first time. We've incorporated as a British Columbia non-profit association after more than ten years of functioning on an informal basis.

The new executive is: President, Paul Cipywnyk; Vice President, Frank Williams; Treasurer, Dave Burkholder; Secretary, Abby Schwarz; Director at Large, Maho Hayashi; Director at Large, Joan Carne.

The board passed a policy to create the position of Past President to ensure continuity. This is not an official executive position, but more an honourary one. We designated Joan Carne as the founding Past President in recognition of her 10+ years of chairing the group to this point.

The society membership fee was set at $5.00 annually. Dues will be payable from the September 2010 regular monthly meeting.

The board passed a motion to designate Bert Richardson, Bob Fuller, and Lloyd Longeway as honourary life members of the society in recognition of their founding efforts with the Vancouver Angling & Game Association to clean up Byrne Creek and initiate restocking of its fish populations.

Posted by Paul at 10:28 PM

June 18, 2010

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Incorporated as BC Society

After over 10 years of streamkeeping in which we've racked up close to 20,000 volunteer hours, the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers have incorporated as a registered British Columbia non-profit society.


While we've functioned very effectively as an unstructured "jazz band" in which different people have taken the lead on various activities and initiatives on an ad hoc basis, new volunteer insurance requirements were the final straw that pushed us to apply for society status. It'll mean more paperwork, but it also safeguards our well-respected "brand" and sets the stage for fostering a new generation of community leaders.

Born out of the volunteer efforts of several gentlemen from the Vancouver Angling & Game Association who began cleaning up the creek in southeast Burnaby around two decades ago, the streamkeeper group was formed when more people from the broader community became involved after a horrific toxic spill in 1998 that killed some 5,000 fish and other animals in the revitalized urban creek.

I must mention the leadership of Joan Carne, who has herded the group since its inception. I hope the newly established board can fill the huge gumboots she's leaving us! She's not really leaving, but is stepping down from an executive role because she's super busy with the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, which was also spawned from that 1998 kill on Byrne Creek, and has to this point taught over 100,000 kids across Canada about their local watersheds, how they function, and what every single person can do to protect clean water.

Thanks too, to the City of Burnaby, in particular Environmental Services in the Engineering Department, and the folks in Burnaby Parks who deal with environmental issues. Not to mention the Planning staff who work with community groups! Of course we also cannot do the work we do without the oversight and guidance of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and in particular Maurice Coulter-Boisvert, our DFO Community Advisor. And many of us volunteers got our streamkeeper training and ongoing support from The Pacific Streamkeepers Federation. Yay Zo Ann!

Byrne Creek has suffered several more kills over the last decade when people in ignorance have poured toxins down street drains in the watershed. But streamkeepers never give up!

Here's to the next ten years of streamkeeping!

Posted by Paul at 08:00 PM

June 12, 2010

Ugly Bug Ball 2010

DFO Community Advisors in the lower mainland of BC and the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation host a free volunteer appreciation event called the Ugly Bug Ball every two years. For the last several times, the event has been held at the A Rocha facility in South Surrey, a gorgeous old farm that's been turned into an environmental education venue.

A few photos of this year's event, with a concentration on the beautiful natural setting :-):


DFO Community Advisor Mark Johnson sets the stage


PSKF's Zo Ann Morten shows what it means to be a stakeholder :-)


Bribing volunteers with cake!


The wine/whine session where everyone gets to beef in good company!


One of the gorgeous salmon moulded at an Ugly Bug Ball several years ago.


Participants hang out in the orchard.


Looking up at the sun through the orchard trees.


The beautiful pond on the A Rocha property.


Another water feature with snails enjoying the spattering flow.


Some of the gyotaku (Japanese-style transfer images) people created.




It truly is a gorgeous property!



Posted by Paul at 10:35 PM

June 11, 2010

RBC Blue Water Day Hosts Byrne Creek, Stream of Dreams

I was happy to represent the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and the Stream of Dreams Murals Society at the Kingsway/Walker RBC branch in southeast Burnaby for a couple of hours today for the bank's Blue Water Day. Several RBC branches invited streamkeepers and Stream of Dreams to participate, and we did our best to accommodate as many of them as we could, though it's tough to find volunteers during working hours.

Thanks to Veloy and the staff at the branch!


My Byrne Creek/Stream of Dreams display

All Drains Lead to Fish Habitat!


Serving clients cake!


Veloy and I - thanks!

Info on the RBC Blue Water Project here.

And thanks to the Pacific Salmon Foundation for matching our groups up with RBC!

Sometimes I feel a bit strange displaying front-page spreads of myself from the local papers, but I've discovered it's a great way to start conversations. People trundle by, glance at me, glance at the display, stop as recognition dawns, look at me again and blurt out: "Hey, that's you!" Yup, and now I've got you hooked for at least a minute :-).

Posted by Paul at 08:29 PM

June 10, 2010

USGS: Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems

An excellent series of videos on how urbanization affects local streams. Thanks to the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation mailing list for this lead. These videos are great resources for explaining the function of urban watersheds to the public.

Posted by Paul at 02:40 PM

June 06, 2010

Burnaby Environment Awards Lunch 2010

The City of Burnaby's 2010 Environment Awards were presented at a lovely luncheon today.


Councillor Dan Johnston, chair of the Burnaby Environment Committee


The Wildlife Rescue Association of BC received the Environment Award
for Communication


Jennifer Atchison of the Stoney Creek Environment Committee
received an Environment Award for Community Stewardship


Brentwood Park Elementary School received an Environment Award
for Youth


Coro Strandberg and Phillip Legg received an Environmental Star
for Planning and Development

And Candace LeRoy of Simon Fraser University received an
Environmental Star for Business Stewardship


Group shot of the awardees

The reception is always a fun event. I've attended four or five times over the past years, first as an award recipient with my wife Yumi for our volunteer work on Byrne Creek, and now as a citizen representative on Burnaby's Environment Committee. It's always a great crowd with opportunities to catch up with old friends and make new ones. City of Burnaby staff do an excellent job on coordinating the event.

Posted by Paul at 07:27 PM

June 03, 2010

Vancouver Sun: Remote Alaskan sockeye salmon offer clues to long-term survival

An interesting read, though I find the overall conclusion to be a "Duh" moment:

The study shows the key to the health of the Bristol Bay fishery is a 'diversified portfolio' of hundreds of discrete populations of sockeye. Some of the populations like it when the surface climate is hot and dry, while others like it cold and wet. Some spend just one year in fresh water before heading to sea, others spend two years.

Researchers for the study, which appears in today's edition of the journal Nature, liken it to a diverse stock portfolio that spreads the risk around.

While this is a great explanation for the layperson, uh, haven't we long known the importance of genetic diversity?

Anyway, a key statement was: "The hope for the Fraser is that the fish can adapt to these warmer conditions and to the diseases that they've seen," says Hilborn. "We just basically have to give them time. And that basically means not harvesting them very much until they can solve the problem."

How about not harvesting Fraser sockeye at all? For several generations? Lower-Fraser First Nations have agreed to a complete sockeye moratorium and are doing only selective fishing, what about everyone else?

UPDATE: Another take on the same issue by Mark Hume in The Gl0be and Mail can be found here.

Posted by Paul at 09:53 PM

Inspiring Quotations on Water, Rivers, Fish & Sustainability

Here's a bunch of quotations that I've collected. They focus on water, rivers, fish, nature and sustainability. I've likely shared some of them here before:

From Mighty River by Richard Bocking
"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." -- Aldo Leopold

"We are a restless, dissatisfied novice species, clamoring for rulership of a planet toward which we display not even a rudimentary form of allegiance." -- Robert Harrington

"It seems clear beyond the possibility of argument that any given generation of men can have only a lease, not ownership, of the earth; and one essential term of the lease is that the earth be handed on to the next generation with unimpaired potentialities." -- Roderick Haig-Brown

"This curious world that we inhabit is more wonderful than convenient; more beautiful than it is useful; it is more to be admired and enjoyed than to be used." -- Henry David Thoreau

"It is the salmon that expresses the force of our land. Without the salmon, the land and the rivers would only survive as a corpse survives the death of the nervous system and the departure of the spirit." -- Alan Haig-Brown

"The world was not created for people only, but for purposes that transcend the human race with its limited foresight and imagination; therefore it behooves all conscious inhabitants of this superb planet to nurture it as a garden, maintaining it in health, beauty and diversity for whatever glorious future its denizens may together share." -- Stan Rowe

"The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope." -- Wendell Berry

"Unlike our ancestors, those of us alive today comprise the generations running headlong into the limits of our use of natural systems while observing permanent loss of much of our natural heritage. The bottom line is that people have the freedom to change their behavior, whereas fish do not. If we are to save wild salmon, then some people will lose money or the ability to do things they wanted to do. But we all lose if we lose the salmon." (p. 245) -- King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon by David R. Montgomery

"...if we can silence our egos for a moment and set aside our preconceptions about who we think we are, we may begin to perceive some of the lessons that the rest of nature has to teach: lessons not of personality but of relationship, not of order but of complexity, not of private property but of shared responsibility, not of rationality but of mystery, not of the ultimacy of the human enterprise but of the interdependency of all life." (p. 47) -- Cathedral of the World: Sailing Notes For A Blue Planet by Myron Arms

"... is the story we've been telling ourselves about our 'progress' as a species during the last ten thousand years really upside-down? Have we actually regressed, psychologically, from a state of harmony with our natural surroundings to a state of boredom, contentiousness, and alienation?" (p. 122). -- Cathedral of the World: Sailing Notes For A Blue Planet by Myron Arms

"... we have learned to adapt, by increments, to the humanscapes around us until we can hardly remember what a natural landscape looks like any longer.... Most dangerous of all, we convince ourselves, perhaps because of the pervasiveness of the humanscape, that we are at the center of things -- that we are the controllers, the 'managers' of the planet." -- Cathedral of the World: Sailing Notes For A Blue Planet by Myron Arms

"... while engineers can reproduce fish, they cannot replace nature. Hatcheries are technological marvels and they may be a necessity in the modern world, but they are not signs of progress; they are monuments to our failure to protect rivers." -- The Run of the River: Portraits of Eleven British Columbia Rivers by Mark Hume

"A river is water in its loveliest form, rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth through which the life blood returns to the heart." -- Roderick Haig-Brown A River Never Sleeps

Posted by Paul at 11:15 AM

June 02, 2010

BC Lower Mainland Streamkeepers: Sign up for Ugly Bug Ball!

Ugly Bug Ball IV is coming on June 12 in South Surrey. DFO Community Advisors from the Lower Mainland of BC and the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation invite streamkeepers to attend this event, network, share information about your group, etc. This fun event in a beautiful venue is free for volunteers!

Posted by Paul at 05:50 PM

June 01, 2010

‘BC Waters Clean Up Challenge’ from Pacific Western Brewing

This is a good initiative by a key member of BC's corporate sector - Pacific Western Brewing.

"Proceeds from Pacific Pilsner and PWB will be used to support the clean-up of streams, rivers or lakes in beautiful British Columbia. We will be selecting one or more community water clean-up projects with funding and other tools this summer."

Community groups can apply here.

While I laud this initiative, I must also chide PWB for its tag line "Save Water Drink Pilsner."

While it's cute, and I do like my beer, brewing and bottling is a hugely water-intensive process in which far more water is used than in simply quenching your thirst from your tap, eh?

Posted by Paul at 08:24 PM

May 26, 2010

Bev Bowler of DFO Receives ‘Salmon Hero’ Award

Bev Bowler of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans received the Salmon Hero award at the 2010 Fraser Assembly of the Fraser Salmon & Watersheds Program. Bev received the award for her dedication to the Salmonids in the Classroom program, in which schoolkids receive salmon eggs to hatch and rear in their classrooms, and then release into local creeks.


Bev is very deserving of this award. Though I rarely get to meet her in person, I've had the privilege of helping several schools release their chum fry into Byrne Creek every spring. It's a great program that thoroughly engages kids, teachers, and parents, and I love the enthusiasm and excitement.

Posted by Paul at 08:55 PM

Ernie Crey Gives 2010 Fraser Assembly Keynote

Ernie Crey, Senior Policy Advisor for the Sto:lo Tribal Council gave a moving keynote address to the Fraser Salmon & Watersheds Program 2010 Fraser Assembly this morning.  These are my rough notes, so while the gist may be correct, they cannot be attributed to Ernie Crey as direct quotations . . .

We are undergoing profound, ongoing changes. Changes in the aboriginal community signal profound changes in the entire community, institutions, and policies.

Change is the constant that we all face and we can't hide from it.

Trying to hold back change doesn't work. Change is overwhelming and inevitable.

The best we can do and hope for is to flow with the change and see if we can direct it around the values that we have. That's all that we can do.

Get engaged, run for and hold public office.

People in Ottawa make policy for all aspects of our lives: the environment, taxation, health, etc. All those decisions are made there by a small cadre of males from the dominant community. Woman are largely absent. Aboriginals are absent. Policy is mostly made by white males.

It's best that we be the shapers of public policy in Canada. I've never been a believer in sitting it out.

We've entered a difficult place in the history of this province, particularly when it comes to fisheries.

120 years ago there were 100 million and more sockeye salmon coming back to spawn up the Fraser. We now consider a good year to be 10 million fish. Fish have been going missing from the Fraser for decade upon decade.

The DFO is not the saviour of salmon or its champion. This needs to change.

If we don't drastically change our ways, the chinook will all be gone. Will we allow that to happen? Will we sit it out?

What is the right thing to do? What is the ethical thing to do? For our children and their children, and the children of the white man.

Can't we respond to change?

The aboriginals have adjusted and have begun to fish selectively.

The Cohen judicial inquiry into missing sockeye salmon. I predict the hearing will transfix British Columbians. A good part of the world knows about the disappearance of the sockeye. Some say they are AWOL at sea. Nobody knows why. People blame different sources. Some say it's a scientific question. That may be the case.

Here's my take. It may be a question of science, to improve science, in-season management. But you know it's really a question for British Columbians like you and me. Post your opinions on the inquiry website.

I think communities should hold their own hearings. All of you together. In Merritt, in Kamloops, in Vancouver. Get the ordinary citizens to come forward with their observations and opinions as if they counted.

It's important not to be exclusive as scientists, politicians, and council members. We need to be inclusive.

Working together is what it takes.

We have a shot at not only preserving but enhancing salmon runs.

"Gramps and grandma restored the environment and the rivers." That's the vision that we can, and should, embrace.

Posted by Paul at 08:33 PM

May 16, 2010

First Fry Born in Byrne Creek Since March 4, 2010, Toxic Kill

A few days ago some Byrne Creek Streamkeepers reported seeing fry in the creek - - the first since someone poured a cleanser down a street drain on March 4, 2010, killing everything in the creek. Streamkeepers and local schoolkids have released chum salmon fry and coho salmon smolts provided by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans since the kill, but these are the first native-born fry we've seen.

They are likely cutthroat trout fry, spawned after the kill, incubated in the gravel for 7 - 8 weeks, and just starting to pop up now. It's great to see life coming back to the creek!

Posted by Paul at 07:58 PM

May 14, 2010

Exotic Fish Identified in Burnaby Pond

Several times over the last couple of years we've seen strange fish in a pond in Fraser Foreshore Park in Burnaby near Byrne Creek. I finally got some photos that were good enough to ID one of the species, though it's difficult shooting through the murky water even on a bright, sunny day.

Unfortunately, a biologist has identified them as pumkinseeds,  a species introduced to the lower mainland, likely by people who like fishing for them and eating the pan fish. Unfortunate, for several reasons: if they spread they can compete with native species, they may not have natural predators here, etc. City of Burnaby staff helped with the ID process and are aware of the problem. I have no idea how it can be resolved, but whoever is dumping alien fish in this pond, please stop! Native fish like coho and chum salmon, and cutthroat trout, have enough to contend with in our urban watersheds without having to compete with alien species.



Posted by Paul at 07:32 PM

May 13, 2010

Pond Life in Fraser Foreshore Park

I love this pond near the outlet of Byrne Creek into the Fraser River in SE Burnaby - despite its unfortunate populations of alien fish (see above entry). It's a magnet for all sorts of bugs, amphibians, reptiles and birds.








Posted by Paul at 07:44 PM

May 06, 2010

Clinton Schoolkids Release Coho in Byrne Creek

Kids from Clinton Elementary in southeast Burnaby helped streamkeepers, DFO community advisors, and City of Burnaby staff release coho smolts (yearlings) into Byrne Creek this morning. Clinton School has been involved in several Byrne Creek activities this year - - good on them!

Thank you DFO for bringing these young coho all the way from the Bell-Irving Hatchery at Kanaka Creek. All life in Byrne Creek was wiped out in March when someone unthinkingly poured a cleanser down a street drain, so we're rebuilding the creek from scratch, yet again.

Here are a few photos of today's uplifting event.


Setting the scene: the gorgeous lower reaches of the ravine park


Maurice of the DFO chats with the kids


Yep, that's how big the coho will be when they
come back to spawn in a year or two :-)
Maurice is passionate about his calling,
and we streamkeepers and kids love his style!


The kids' eyes light up as they see the fish they will release


There they go - thanks Clinton kids!


Giving a few confused laggards a gentle poke to move them on


Beautiful young smolts acclimatize to their new, temporary
home before they head out to the ocean soon.

Hope to see at least a few of you back spawning in our creek in
a year and half, when you're nearly as long as my arm!

Posted by Paul at 10:06 PM

May 05, 2010

Summit Logistics Hosts Streamkeeper Display

I had the pleasure of hanging out with staff at Summit Logistics in southeast Burnaby during a staff BBQ today, with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers display. Thanks to Rick LeBlanc for inviting us to the company's Health and Safety Week event. I chatted with people about how all storm drains lead to local creeks, and about the watershed. Summit has extensive spill-prevention and containment measures in place.


Posted by Paul at 09:57 PM

DFO Must Act Now to Save Pacific Salmon

". . .anglers who care about their sport and the stocks that sustain it are already putting their rods away. Only the greedy and the stupid squabble over who gets to kill the last fish for fun."

Good article from Stephen Hume on how several first nations are moving to stop fishing completely, while DFO still dithers on recreational and commercial fisheries.

Posted by Paul at 08:02 AM

April 23, 2010

Edmonds Clean Sweep May 1, 2010 – Come make a difference!

The Edmonds Business & Community Association will hold its regular spring neighbourhood Clean Sweep from 9:45 to noon on Saturday, May 1.

Everyone is welcome to join in -- families, individuals and community groups! Help make our neighbourhood cleaner, safer, and more attractive.

Equipment provided, along with refreshments.

Meet at the Eastburn Community Centre, 7435 Edmonds Street, Burnaby.

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers will be participating with an alternate signup site at Edmonds Sktytrain Station, and will lead a cleanup of the southwest Edmonds area, including removal of invasive plant species from Byrne Creek Ravine Park.

Edmonds logo


Posted by Paul at 11:44 AM

April 22, 2010

Clinton School Releases ‘Salmon in the Classroom’ Fry in Byrne

Clinton Elementary School kids in SE Burnaby released their "Salmonids in the Classroom" chum fry into Byrne Creek today. My wife Yumi and I accompanied them, representing the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. It was a gorgeous Earth Day!

Thank you to teacher Elaine Jaltema who had the kids very well organized. She also had a slew of additional science and observation activities lined up, so the kids were testing water temperature, pH, etc.


Getting everyone organized up near Ron McLean Park before
heading down into the ravine


Kids release the chum fry they raised in their classroom


A budding scientist records data

Posted by Paul at 02:43 PM

April 20, 2010

Chum Fry Released in Burnaby South Slope Creeks

Kids from Suncrest Elementary helped Kaymar Creek Streamkeepers, the City of Burnaby, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans release chum fry (babies) in to Kaymar Creek in southwest Burnaby this morning, followed by a release with kids from Nelson Elementary into Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby.


DFO Community Advisor Maurice Coulter-Boisvert speaks to kids


Kids release fry into Kaymar Creek


Maurice speaks to kids at Byrne Creek. These fry will
help repopulate the creek after someone poured a
cleanser down a street drain on March 4, killing all
aquatic life


Holding a bag of chum fry


DFO, City of Burnaby staff and streamkeepers fill bags of fish


Bon voyage! With luck a few of these chum will survive
their trip down Byrne Creek to the Fraser River, down
the Fraser to the Pacific Ocean, and will return to spawn
in the creek in a few years.

Posted by Paul at 03:16 PM

April 17, 2010

Starting them Young

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers had our booth set up at Choices in the Park for the store's Earth Day celebration this afternoon. There was a by-donation BBQ, with proceeds generously being donated to care for Byrne Creek. Thanks!

We offered a tour of the creek, but the only takers on the cloudy, drizzly day were half-a-dozen 4-6 year olds from a nearby daycare and their parents, so the pace was slow. But  I was amazed by the kids - over the course of 2 - 1/2 hours they trundled through the entire ravine loop with nary a complaint, asking lots of questions along the way, and it seemed that all involved really enjoyed the tour.

The daycare teacher was great -- she encouraged the kids to try climbing a low tree (one at a time with helping hands nearby), get their fingers dirty looking at rocks and plants, etc. She was determined to be raising a bunch of nature-loving future streamkeepers!




Posted by Paul at 07:47 PM

April 16, 2010

Celebrate Earth Day with Streamkeepers at Choices in the Park

Come celebrate Earth Day at Choices in the Park near the Edmonds Skytrain Station tomorrow, Saturday, April 17 from noon to 4pm. Enviro-friendly foods & products on display/sale. Streamkeepers will have a display and will offer tours of Byrne Creek at 12:30pm and at 2:00pm. BBQ by donation, with proceeds to support healthy creeks.

Posted by Paul at 02:27 PM

South Slope Releases Chum in Byrne Creek

A class from South Slope Elementary School in south Burnaby released its "Salmon in the Classroom" chum fry into Byrne Creek this morning. As far as I know, these are the only fry in the system at the moment, everything else having been killed by a toxic spill into a storm drain in early March. Thank you very much to Gary Thompson, his intern Eva, the parents who drove the kids, and of course the kids themselves!


Posted by Paul at 12:59 PM

March 15, 2010

Stream of Dreams Society Elects New Board at AGM

As president of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, I am pleased to announce our new board of directors as elected at our AGM tonight.

Paul Cipywnyk, President
Jennifer Lynton, Vice President
Rob Carne, Treasurer
Jane Burkholder, Secretary
Andrea Rozsa, director
Lynn Duncan, director

My President's Report to the AGM:

Stream of Dreams has an exciting year ahead of us in 2010 and many proud accomplishments to celebrate for 2009. Thank you to everyone for all the hard work over the last year.

We ended 2009 solidly in the black, and with many achievements to be proud of as we enter our tenth year. Unfortunately, this has also been a time of cutbacks in government grants, and a poor economy that has severely impacted several sources of revenue. The Society is being proactive in dealing with this situation, adding one staff member to focus on fundraising applications and promotion, along with handling some of the administrative work to free up some of the founders' time to focus on development.

Is 2010 the year of go big or go home? Those of you who have been with us for awhile know this has been a recurring topic over the years, due to the continually growing demand for our watershed education and community art program. We are also developing new methods of educating the public. The ongoing success of our programs, and our stable financial state to date despite economic fluctuations and the severe recent downturn, are testaments to prudent management both at the board, and operational, levels. I congratulate staff and volunteers again for their great work last year, and their efforts to ensure that 2010 will see continuing progress.

We have reached some amazing milestones: 10 years and 100,000 Dreamfish -- that are really something to celebrate! Stream of Dreams is also exploring partnerships with other artists with experience in combining art and music with environmental education.

The Stream of Dreams watershed education and community art concept grew out of a fish kill in Byrne Creek, which runs just a few dozen meters from where we are sitting here tonight. Sadly, Byrne Creek was wiped out again just ten days ago, when someone unthinkingly or unknowingly released a toxin into a drain in the upper watershed that flowed into the creek, killing well over 1,000 fish and likely other animals, in addition to impacting the entire watershed from the creek to the Fraser River, to the ocean. Our health, and the health of every living thing in the ecosystem is at stake.

It is clear that the need for education remains, that the need for our program is as important now as it ever was. I am personally saddened and angered by the loss, as I'm sure many of you are. But let us not despair, let us take this as a renewed call to action. I look forward to working with this amazingly talented and creative group for another year, and I hope some of the faces here tonight that we don't see quite as often will consider devoting a few more hours of their precious time to helping the Society's message spread far and wide.

Thank you, Paul Cipywnyk

And a big thank you to Stream of Dreams founders Louise Towell and Joan Carne, and to departing director and continuing Vancouver Island team leader Micqualyn Waldie for their passion, drive, creativity, and hard work that have grown a local community event into a multiple award-winning, cross-Canada watershed education and community art program. You are truly inspirational and it's been, and continues to be, a privilege to work with you.

Posted by Paul at 09:53 PM

March 13, 2010

Environment Canada ‘Responds’ to Streamkeepers

Here's what an Environment Canada spokesperson had to say to the Burnaby Now after yet another chemical dump into Byrne Creek that killed everything in the open watershed from top to bottom:

Raisinghani responded to recent criticism from streamkeepers that suggested Environment Canada was lax on enforcement of anti-pollution laws and failing in its job to protect fish and their habitat.

"Environment Canada takes its enforcement responsibilities very seriously," Raisinghani wrote. "If the source of contamination is found, an investigation may be launched."

WOW, Right!?

I'm sure polluters are shaking in their chemical-covered boots upon hearing that proclamation. IF. MAY.

How about WHEN. SHALL..?

Isn't action by default something that we should expect from those mandated to protect our health and our environment?

I feel for Raisinghani. He, she, is muzzled, handcuffed, and just spouting the "line" from someone higher up who doesn't have the balls to speak to the public.

What we need is swift prosecution, not purported tough talk. Hell, that ain't even tough talk. Them's bureaucratic-PR weasel words. IF. MAY.

I would like to point out that the IFs and MAYs have been spouted repeatedly in the past - and have never been addressed. That does not reassure anyone about Environment Canada's track record, eh?

There was a toxic spill on a tributary that feeds into Byrne Creek as recently as 2007  in which the "source of contamination" WAS found, and Environment Canada went into its usual "an investigation MAY be launched" mode, but ended up doing NOTHING.

So what gives us citizens, who pay Environment Canada salaries, and who trust you to protect us and our environment, any reason to believe this time will be any different?

This issue has been brought up again, and again, and again, and we don't need any more IFs and MAYs. We need ACTION.

The real sad thing about all this is that as volunteer streamkeepers we work with all levels of government: municipal, regional, provincial, and federal. We don't want to diss anyone, but . . .   We are giving up hundreds and thousand of hours of our time to volunteer. We are taking time away from our work. . . while we're paying through our taxes, for, apparently, nothing to be done by "our" government.

That's harsh..

Posted by Paul at 10:22 PM

March 10, 2010

Short Video on Fish Kill from Newsleader

Found this video on BC Daily Buzz, and am assuming that since it's got embed links, it's OK to reproduce. This was shot by Mario Bartel of the Burnaby Newsleader a couple of days ago. It's me at the pond near Edmonds Skytrain Station where the deadly spill was first noticed on March 4, 2010.

Posted by Paul at 04:37 PM

Media Interest in Byrne Creek Kill Has Legs

The strength and duration of media interest in the recent fish kill in southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek after someone illegally disposed of a chemical, likely down a drain on a street, is intriguing. The kill happened late Thursday afternoon, yet I was still receiving multiple calls for interviews and tours on Monday. Usually three- to four-day old local news is as appetizing to mainstream media as, er, rotting fish, but somehow this story had legs.

And we didn't send out a single press release or email, we didn't make a single phone call - we simply tried to keep up with the requests that poured in. We have no staff, streamkeepers are 100% volunteer. If anyone still doubts the power of Twitter, well, that's how this story started. . .

Perhaps it had something to do with public outrage. This story struck a chord. The creek is in an urban area, it is surrounded by public parks, and I think people are really getting the message that it's not only fish,  it's about the entire ecosystem and our health, too.

I've been monitoring the online versions of stories, and people have been responding with anger and disbelief that such a tragedy could happen - yet again - in a beloved creek. People have also been scathingly skeptical that anything will really be done by the federal agencies that supposedly are tasked with protecting our environment and our health.

The outrage is palpable, and I think that's what has kept this story alive.

Streamkeepers are making lemonade from the lemons handed to us by the thoughtless polluter - we've been getting calls from concerned citizens reporting suspicious substances on streets and in ditches, we may have a few new faces at our monthly meeting tomorrow (Thursday, March 11, at 7:30pm - coordinates here), we've been getting requests from businesses to come speak to employees about the watershed and how we all connect to it.

I hope interest remains high, but I understand that we have to get on with our busy lives and attention will quickly fade. Unfortunately, I've seen this cycle several times on battered Byrne Creek, and I hope that my sense that this time the response is noticeably stronger isn't just wishful thinking.

Thank you to all the media who covered the kill! And thank you to the public for expressing your feelings. If you really want change to happen, if you want to see enforcement, I urge you to write your local MLAs and MPs, and the federal and provincial environment ministers - without strong policy direction agency staff's hands are tied.

Posted by Paul at 07:50 AM

March 07, 2010

Media Covers Byrne Creek Fish Kill

Some of the media coverage of the toxic spill in SE Burnaby's Byrne Creek a few days ago:

Burnaby Now article

Burnaby Newsleader article

CBC website

The press is already getting results - a gentleman phoned me today with a report about seeing Powerhouse Creek, a tributary of Byrne Creek, running very dirty in the area of Beresford St. about a week ago. The more eyes we have on our local creeks, the better!

Update March 8, 2010

Globe & Mail article

Metro article

Update March 10, 2010

Burnaby Now on lack of enforcement

Burnaby Now on Mayor, City Council Push for Education

Update March 11, 2010

Burnaby Newsleader followup

Posted by Paul at 07:16 PM

March 05, 2010

Sample Density of Fish Killed in Byrne Creek

Sometimes it takes death to reveal how much life there is.

Would you believe that on average there was a dead fish less than every 2 meters along a sampled section of Byrne Creek the morning after someone poured a toxin down a street drain in the upper watershed on March 4, 2010? Most people never see fish in the creek - it takes patience, stealth, and knowing where to look to spot them when they are alive. My wife and I counted 231 dead trout, coho smolts (yearlings) and coho fry (this spring's babies) in an approximately 400-meter section of the creek. For those interested, here's the breakdown:

182 - Small cutthroat trout (say less than 15cm)
20  - Medium cutthroat trout (say 15-20cm)
1   - Large cutthroat trout (over 20cm)
Total 203 cutthroat trout

16 small-to-medium dead fish visible inside the culvert, too dark to ID
1 - large trout, very dark, no cutthroat markings on chin, near footbridge

8  - Coho smolts
3  - Coho fry
Total 11 coho salmon

Grand total dead fish in that stretch: 231

And that's likely lower than the actual number due to several factors: dead fish get wedged under rocks and drop deep in pools, the tiny fry are difficult to spot at all and we know that before the kill there were schools of dozens in the area sampled. In addition, opportunistic predation starts almost immediately after the toxin is quickly flushed down the creek: we found several fish partially eaten, and only strings of guts and bits of flesh too small to ID here and there.

The coho were found around T518 to T516 (lower end of the lower ravine). The coho fry were found in the vicinity of T517 where we photographed live ones a few days ago... See the entry below "Video of 2010 Salmon Fry in Byrne Creek."


The above photo shows dead fish ranging from coho fry at the bottom left,
a coho smolt a the bottom right, and an adult trout above. There was a
surprise to come, as you'll see in the next photo. . .


The big trout had a fry in its mouth. It's not hard to imagine what
happened - it spotted a little fish in distress from the chemical,
thought it an easy meal, and then before it could even finish
swallowing its target, the bigger fish also died.

Posted by Paul at 09:10 PM

Counting the Dead

Imagine walking down a street, and every few steps that you take, you come across a body.

A few more steps, a cluster of bodies. Every step, another body. Another group of bodies.

You approach an area where yesterday you saw small children playing - and you find small, inert bodies.

Small bodies, ranging from babies recently born, to midsize ones -- kids going to school. Further on, large ones, adults.

All with bulging eyes, gaping mouths.

Staring. At nothing. For they do not see any more. They do not breathe any more, for they died gasping for breath.

They choked to death.

That's what it was like today, carefully walking down Byrne Creek, counting the dead.

The dead that died when someone unthinkingly, uncaringly, or, despite decades of educational efforts, perhaps unknowingly, poured a chemical down a storm drain.

The bodies were fish. Just fish.

But we'll drink what went in that water someday, too. Or perhaps swim in it. Those toxins don't just disappear.

If we eat fish or other seafood, we will eat what went in that water someday, too.

All drains lead to fish habitat.

People habitat.

Every living thing's habitat.

I fear I'll dream tonight about counting the dead.

The bulging eyes, the gaping mouths.

The horrifying, constricting feeling of being unable to breathe.

We found fish today that in desperation had thrown themselves into the air, up onto the banks of the creek - to breathe, please let me breathe!

That would be like me throwing myself under water to escape foul, poisoned air - to breathe, please let me breathe!

Yes, I'm emotionally attached, because for days recently I eagerly patrolled Byrne Creek, looking for baby coho salmon, baby chum salmon, hoping against hope that the few salmon spawners that made it back last autumn succeeded in creating a new generation.

I saw baby fry, and I rejoiced. My heart soared. I took photos. I took videos.

I blogged, I Tweeted, I Facebooked. I did all that social media, cyberspace stuff.

But real life intervened

And now they are all dead.

And all that I can do is

Count the dead.

Posted by Paul at 09:08 PM

March 04, 2010

Fish Kill in Burnaby’s Byrne Creek March 4, 2010

A chemical entered Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby in the mid-to-late afternoon today, killing fish. Someone called Environment Canada [CORRECT: in fact the City of Burnaby received the call from the BC provincial enviro ministry after a youth called the Provincial Emergency Program], who then called the City, and streamkeepers also noticed the kill around the same time. City staff took samples and worked on tracing the source, which likely came from a storm drain, while streamkeepers took photos for documentation and sampled pH in the creek at several points. Both City staff and streamkeepers plan to follow up tomorrow. Here are some photos:


The fish ladder at the pond west of Griffiths Dr.
Water is covered with foam and slick to the touch.
There was an ammonia smell coming out of the pipe.


Dead fish on bottom of pool.


Dead cutthroat with hazy water visible. That's a size 12 boot
toe beside it for comparison.




Just a few days ago, streamkeepers were excited to see baby salmon
fry popping out of the gravel. We are concerned that they may also have
been affected.

I find it hard to believe that after decades of education efforts, such
kills still happen.

Please, folks, remember that all drains on roads and parking lots lead to fish habitat!

Posted by Paul at 10:20 PM

March 01, 2010

Re-Inventing Rainwater Management

Ran across this study today (pdf doc): Re-Inventing Rainwater Management: A Strategy to Protect Health and Restore Nature in the Capital Region by the  Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria. While I have yet to read all of it, it appears to be an excellent take on issues that streamkeepers in Burnaby and all over BC have been concerned about for years. An excerpt from the introduction to the problem:

We don't normally think of rainfall as pollution. However, over the last 150 years we have built cities in a way that transforms rainwater into an agent of considerable environmental harm: urban stormwater runoff.

Changing pristine rainwater into pollution occurs in stages. The first step is the creation of pollutants from driving and fixing cars, using chemicals on houses and yards, and commercial and industrial processes. Heavy metals, PCBs, oils, grease, antifreeze, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, paint chips, PAHs, road salt, and detergents fall to the ground across the urban landscape.

The second step involves our construction of impervious surfaces such as roofs, paved streets, sidewalks, and parking lots. As a city develops, the vegetation and natural soils that absorb and filter rainwater are replaced by impervious surfaces. When we pave over nature's absorption and filtration system, the next heavy rain sweeps across the landscape's hard surfaces picking up pollutants.

In the final step, the storm sewer system rapidly conveys all this polluted water to the nearest water body and flushes it at high speed into a sensitive aquatic ecosystem. In addition to the pollutants from the landscape, the water often contains paint and motor oil that people have dumped into the storm sewer. To make things worse, in older municipalities, this stormwater often contains sanitary sewage.

Posted by Paul at 08:32 PM

Video of 2010 Salmon Fry in Byrne Creek

I shot this video at 640 X 480 resolution with my Canon SD780 digital still camera handheld with the zoom at max. I processed the file in Windows Live Movie Maker, a free download. Not bad for such a cheap, on-the-fly setup :-).

It's always great to know that at least some of the few salmon that managed to return to this urban creek in southeast Burnaby last autumn successfully spawned, and that their eggs survived through the winter.

Posted by Paul at 05:08 PM

February 28, 2010

Learn About Salmon-Friendly Gardening

From our friends at LEPS, via the PSKF message board:

Make your neighbourhood a better place and start something healthier for you and for salmon, in your backyard!

On Saturday March 13, join Langley Environmental Partners Society from 10am-3pm at the Fraser River Presentation Theatre, 4th floor, 20338- 65 Ave Langley, for the 3rd annual Salmon Friendly Gardens Seminar.

This workshop style seminar will have speakers present practical solutions for:

  • Converting Lawn into a Vegetable Patch ~ Ward Teulon, City Farm Boy
  • Rethinking Weeds as Wild Edibles ~ David Catzel, Glorious Organics
  • Gardening for Wildlife ~ Jude Grass, Birds on the Bay
  • Pesticide Alternatives That Work ~ Martin Harcourt, Mainland Landscaping and Gardening Ltd

Event includes refreshment break. Pre-registration is required, to register email kgreenwood@tol.ca

Why grow a salmon-friendly garden?

Every Langley home is located in the middle of salmon habitat. Each of Langley's twelve watersheds collects runoff from our backyards and directs it into one of our salmon-bearing streams. The Fraser River salmon run - the largest in Canada - depends on these small tributaries for spawning and the healthy development of young fish.

The upshot is that what we put on our gardens ends up in our streams, including pesticides and fertilizers. In addition, the majority of Langley's tap water comes from aquifers, meaning that our drinking water originates directly below our feet. When you consider that 95% of pesticides used on residential yards are considered probable or possible carcinogens by the US Environmental Protection Agency, there's good reason to cut back on the chemicals we use in our gardens.

This worrying evidence doesn't mean that your garden has to go to the bugs. LEPS presents this full-day seminar on how to grow a beautiful, healthy and productive garden without chemicals.

The event also launches the Township of Langley's pilot Grow Healthy ~ Grow Smart Program.

Salmon Saturdays are supported by the Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program.

Posted by Paul at 09:44 PM

February 25, 2010

Dirty Discharge Passes Through Byrne Creek

At 4:00 p.m. today I noticed that the pond near Choices in the Park just west of the Edmonds Skytrain Station in SE Burnaby was a murky grey-green colour. Not good. Something likely had been dumped in the creek through a drain on a street or in a parking lot. I phoned it in to Environmental Services at the City, and was told it had already been reported and that staff were checking the situation.


This is the pond at 4:00 p.m.


And here it is at 5:00 p.m. The creek flow had cleared
out the "slug" of dirty water.

Didn't have time to check downstream for the possible
impact on fish. Hope to do a creek walk tomorrow.

The concrete structure at the bottom of the photos is a fish ladder to enable fish to get up to the culvert that was put in when the trail was built across the creek.

Posted by Paul at 10:10 PM

February 17, 2010

New Fry in Byrne Creek, Signs of Spring

Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby, BC, is sporting new babies! I spotted two salmon fry in pools in the creek today - not many, but it's a start. There were also lots of other signs of spring.


Hard to ID for sure, but it may be a coho, judging by
orange-ish colour.


This backlit strider was making explosive flashes of light
on the water with every step.





Posted by Paul at 07:26 PM

February 03, 2010

Warmest January on Record in Vancouver, Eh?

Well, look what I found outside our door today:


I also did a quick patrol for salmon fry in Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby. Didn't see any yet, but back in 2005 we spotted fry on Feb. 8, so with this year's warm winter they ought to be popping out of the gravel soon!

Posted by Paul at 02:44 PM

January 18, 2010

Wrestling Yellow Fish at Edmonds Skytrain

Several years ago, Byrne Creek Streamkeepers marked rain drains (aka storm drains) around Edmonds Skytrain Station (among other areas) in southeast Burnaby with yellow fish to remind the public that nothing other than rain should go down these drains because they lead directly to fish habitat.

The other day I met my wife at the station and took some shots of an apparent, ahem, pissing match. Excuse my language, but it really reminds me of territorial scent marking by canines and other beasties :-).


You can clearly see the cute original fish painted over by, to my eye, the rather blimp-like, mean-looking latecomer. From Translink? Why mark already marked drains?

Posted by Paul at 07:26 PM

January 05, 2010

Collapse of Soviet Union Put Danube, Dnieper Rivers on Diverging Courses

A sobering article in the Washington Post. While many countries have come together to clean up and revitalize the Danube, there has been little progress on the environmental devastation to Ukraine's Dnieper perpetrated under the communist regime.

Posted by Paul at 07:46 PM

December 02, 2009

Water Act Forum Stimulates, Educates

Thanks to Watershed Watch for putting on a forum yesterday "to discuss how NGOs can work together to move the Living Water Smart (LWS) agenda forward, and how groups can help to modernize the BC Water Act." I enjoyed the presentations, learned a lot, and was impressed with the knowledge represented by the people in the room.

The organizers are asking for input so here goes: I'm not sure if "getting groundwater in" came up much in discussion, and that's crucial, particularly in urban watersheds like the creek that I volunteer on as a streamkeeper. The focus seemed to be on sucking groundwater out, which of course is very important, but we shouldn't neglect the "letting it soak in naturally" part of the cycle.

I'm not sure if a water act can include things like impermeable vs permeable surfaces, swales, rain gardens, infiltration ponds, biofiltration, street-edge alternatives, etc., but rainwater infiltration > groundwater infiltration is crucial in urban watersheds. Otherwise too much water is dumped into creeks through rain drains (trying to reshape the debate by getting away from "storm drains") during moderate-to-heavy rains, and not enough gets into the ground to maintain base flows in long, hot, dry spells.

I know we don't want to get too detailed or prescriptive, so perhaps as part of the preamble, or guiding principles, there could be something about the permeability-groundwater issue in regard to promoting watershed-friendly development and redevelopment guidelines?

Posted by Paul at 09:40 PM

November 25, 2009

Salmon Return to Japanese River

From the The Yomiuri Shimbun

This article is about salmon returning to the Chikumagawa river as flows improved after East Japan Railway Co. was directed to stop taking illegal amounts of water from the river to power trains in Tokyo.

Wow, amazing how one's life can change. When I rode the Yamanote Line in Tokyo on a daily or weekly basis for well over ten years from 1985 - 1999 I had no idea that some of the power was coming from a dam that was impacting salmon. Mind you I knew next to nothing about salmon, and nothing about streamkeeping back then.

Posted by Paul at 09:18 PM

November 22, 2009

Coho Spawning in Byrne Creek

The day was dark and gloomy following a week of rain, but my wife Yumi and I decided to check out Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby for spawning salmon. We volunteer with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, and spawner returns have been low this year, but we're always hoping.

It's tough to see fish when the water is high and dirty, and the light is low, but to our surprise we ran across a pair of coho spawning. In fact, the poor conditions likely worked in our favor, for on a bright day with clear water, the notoriously shy coho would have quickly spooked and hidden themselves. While we never saw them that clearly, it was still a thrill when we'd catch a flash of these magnificently muscular fish, with their scarlet-streaked copper-green sides.


A swirl of dark green, brown-gold and red as one of the coho moves up the creek. They had chosen to spawn just above a fast riffle, and moved up and down, battling the current.


The female flips sideways and carves the gravel with her tail to dig a nest for her eggs called a redd.

Posted by Paul at 09:07 PM

November 14, 2009

Bird’s Nest, Spider, Claw Marks Along Byrne Creek

Today on a patrol of Byrne Creek my wife and I found one dead chum salmon, one live chum guarding a nest of eggs (redd), and three coho salmon, in addition to lots of cutthroat trout that gather this time of year hoping to snag a wayward salmon egg. Nature being unemotional and efficient, we've observed cutthroat poking female salmon in their bellies, hoping to pop eggs out.

Today Yumi found a nest on the ground. It looked like it had never been completed. We also ran across what I believe is an orb weaver spider. It was on the cycling/walking path on Southridge Drive, so Yumi shepherded it off into the grass, as she is wont to do with any sort of animal that she feels is in danger.

We also observed plenty of claw marks and tracks at various places along the creek as opportunists of all species gather to meet the returning salmon. That's why salmon are so crucial to the entire west coast environment - they are a key part of the food chain for all sorts of birds and beasts, in addition to fertilizing the forests.







Posted by Paul at 07:37 PM

November 12, 2009

Byrne Creek Paw Prints, Paint & Mushrooms

I ran across lots of tracks along Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby on a patrol looking for spawning salmon today. Dead spawners attract all sorts of hungry animals from skunks to raccoons to coyotes. I've even seen squirrels checking out carcasses - why not? A cousin of mine calls them "rats with bushy tails" :-). Someone also thoughtfully left a bunch of paint cans along the fence at the spawning habitat!


Prints leading toward the creek




A rain-filled mushroom


Poster reminding people and dogs to stay out
of the creek during spawning season


What's with the paint cans? Someone even took the
time to nicely line them up, so why not the time to
take them to a recycling centre?

Posted by Paul at 07:23 PM

November 11, 2009

Burnaby Now Interviews Streamkeepers about Spawning Salmon

Thanks to reporter Christina Myers and photographer Larry Wright from the Burnaby Now. What was to be a quick photo op on salmon returning to Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby turned into a great front-page article after Christina and I "chatted" via email.

Dunno if this is a permanent link, but at least for now you can find the story here.

Posted by Paul at 07:56 PM

November 06, 2009

Face to Face with Coyote on Byrne Creek

I had a meeting at the Stream of Dreams office just off Byrne Road south of Marine Way in SE Burnaby this morning, so I dropped into the Byrne Creek artificial spawning habitat for a few minutes on the way back up the hill to check if the chum salmon I had seen on a spawner patrol the previous day were still around.

As I broke out of the path into the habitat and onto the vehicle access road, a coyote came scooting out of the bush just a few meters in front of me, trotted a short way down the road, and stopped.

A large coyote.


It was the biggest I've seen in some time. It looked at least the match of a mid-sized German Shepherd, and had thick, sleek fur, so it appeared well fed... (the above photo was snapped on the quick draw with a tiny pocket camera and enlarged dramatically, so the quality is middling. . .)

It stopped and stared at me, and I stared at it while regretting not having the long walking pole that I usually carry. It flinched first, and began loping down the chain-link fence looking for a way out, and finally wriggled under it.

Before I proceeded further, I got my knife out and then slowly walked in, making plenty of noise. (During spawning season I carry a sheath knife in my pack to process dead salmon with -- streamkeepers have permission from the Department of Fisheries to cut open carcasses to determine sex and to check if fish have spawned before they died).  The creek was still running high and dirty from the morning rain so I didn't bother searching very hard because water visibility was very poor. I have to admit I was also on edge moving through the bush, because the coyote was likely in the habitat because it was attracted to dead salmon.

Sure enough, on my way out, I found the remains of a chum the coyote had been eating on the bank at the southwest end of the overflow pond, near where I first flushed it out.


There wasn't much left, just head bones, and about five inches of body. I didn't linger, not wanting to be between a coyote and its lunch :-) . I did see salmon eggs that had spilled into the water, so it was likely an unspawned female chum.

I found the experience exhilarating, and it left me tingling all over. It's amazing how the sight of a predator sharpens your senses when you're alone in the bush -- even in an urban park.  Thank you, coyote, for that moment of clarity, focus, and connection to nature.

Posted by Paul at 03:28 PM

November 01, 2009

Silverdale Creek Wetlands

On the way home from Harrison Lake we took the slower route 7, and at one point before Mission saw trails and what looked like a spawning channel to the north of the road. We found an access road, and discovered the Silverdale Creek Wetlands. We'd heard about the project, so we set out to explore. There were "Mother Bear with Cub" warning signs all over, so we kept our eyes peeled, proceeded slowly, and made plenty of noise!

It was a beautiful area, with ponds, marshes, and a spawning channel. We found only one dead spawner in the wetland area, but saw several more dead, and one live one swimming upstream, from the bridge over the creek near the entrance.






Look closely - there, in the middle foreground, it's
a huge concrete salmon. Steamkeepers around the
lower mainland have been sharing the mold for
these beauties


Despite it being November, there were still lots of dragonflies about



Lots of bird boxes of various sizes adorn many erected perch "trees"


The only spawner we saw in the habitat


The same spawner can be seen in the foreground


And a close-up of a second concrete salmon in the habitat

Posted by Paul at 09:42 PM

October 31, 2009

Salmon Pumpkin for Halloween

My wife Yumi carved this salmon pumpkin for Halloween to celebrate the return of spawning chum and coho to Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, just behind our place.


Later: She also made a cat pumpkin.



Posted by Paul at 08:12 PM

October 24, 2009

Spawning Salmon Return to Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers spotted six chum salmon in Byrne Creek this afternoon, and several of them were already digging redds, or nests, for their eggs. It was a wonderful sight to see!

Byrne is an urban creek in southeast Burnaby, and salmon numbers have been declining for the last several years.

I took the above video using the video function on my Canon S5IS camera, which tops out at 640 X 480 at 30 fps. I then used MS Movie Maker, which came free with the Windows XP operating system, to do so some rudimentary editing, titling, etc. It's a far cry from a real camcorder and more powerful software, but it's still fun to play with.

Posted by Paul at 09:52 PM

October 13, 2009

Turning Cities into Sponges

I never thought I'd be quoting a publication called the Daily Commercial News and Construction Record, but I'm willing to learn from anyone. An article entitled Philly's bold stormwater management plan leads the way caught my eye - it's an initiative that I'd like to see in more cities, and promoted by ones like my own Burnaby.

I love the following quotation from the article:

The plan reimagines the city as an oasis of rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavements, thousands of additional trees, and more. The idea is to turn the city into a giant sponge to absorb as much rainwater as possible and delay the rest in its journey to the nearby Delaware and Schuykill rivers.

Now that's vision! Or simply going back to what used to be . . . Most cities were once giant sponges, because that's what most land used to be before we built on it. So it makes sense to return to what worked for Mother Nature for millennia, eh?

How about this?

The new plan announced last month would "peel back" a lot of the city's concrete and asphalt and replace them with plants - rain gardens, green roofs, landscaped swales in parking lots, heavily planted boulevards, and small wetlands.

Yes! Streamkeepers and other concerned citizens have dreamed of this for years. The main issues dogging urban creeks are massive flows during rains because of all the water that goes shooting off of roads, roofs and parking lots straight into street drains, and pollution from oil, antifreeze, brake-lining dust, rubber, soap, other chemicals, etc., washing off our streets. Rain gardens, ponds, swales - they would all help with both problems, slowing peak flows and filtering out pollutants.

I believe all municipalities in British Columbia are required to produce ISMPs (integrated stormwater management plans) for all of their watersheds, and Burnaby is no exception. The City has been working on a Byrne Creek ISMP for some time now, and I have sat in on stakeholder sessions as a representative from the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

Unfortunately, I haven't witnessed much imagination in the process so far. I get the sense that there's more talk about more pipes, than there is about rain gardens, swales, street-edge alternatives, trees and plants. More pipes? That's so 19th and early-to-mid 20th century, eh? Let's be forward-looking!

Posted by Paul at 04:25 PM

October 11, 2009

Autumn Rains Coming to Lower Mainland

We're going to savor the sun today, because look what the Environment Canada Weather Office has in store for the Vancouver area for the coming week:


It's not all bad news, though. This is about the time of year when rain triggers spawning salmon to start coming up our local stream, Byrne Creek, in southeast Burnaby.

Posted by Paul at 10:40 AM

October 02, 2009

Missing Salmon – I Think I Know Where They’re Going

I've been eating them.

I've been to three events in the last week, two of them specifically aimed at raising consciousness about the environment and restoring waterways and salmon runs, and I've been served salmon, lots of it, at all three.

And I've shamelessly, well, OK, with a twinge of conscience, indulged at all three. Heck, I had seconds at one event, because the call kept going out that there was still fish to be served.

Wild? Farmed? Endangered sockeye? "Still plentiful" pinks? I dunno, but it all tasted great. Surely it wasn't farmed, at least at the enviro events, eh?

When people organize an event to preserve, say, the Vancouver Island Marmot, do the little beasts end up on the dinner plates? Do celebrants discretely poke at bits of fur stuck between their teeth instead of fish bones?

Yeah, I know, that analogy is full of holes, but. . . it makes you squirm at bit, doesn't it?

Posted by Paul at 10:21 AM

October 01, 2009

Autumn Colours Advance on Byrne Creek

The recent rains in the lower mainland of BC have cast a chill upon the land, yet warmed my heart with excitement. Salmon will return to Byrne Creek soon.

It's a bit early, the first spawners are usually spotted in this urban creek in southeast Burnaby around mid-October, but the fish follow the rain, so you never know - and I couldn't wait to start looking.

I didn't find any salmon today, but the rain had begun washing the vibrant greens into reds, yellows, golds, and browns.








Posted by Paul at 11:06 AM

September 05, 2009

Blog Mentioned in Burnaby Now

Thanks to Julie Maclellan who mentioned me in her Burnaby Now column this weekend. She called me a "streamkeeper, environmental advocate and blogger about all sorts of interesting things." The pressure is on now!

Posted by Paul at 11:49 AM

August 26, 2009

Silty Discharge Hits Byrne Creek

A "slug" of silty water hit Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby overnight or early this morning. As no dead fish have been spotted, it appears it was not toxic; however, any discharge into street drains is illegal, and City of Burnaby staff are checking for the source.

As streamkeepers repeat again, and again, all drains on streets and in parking lots lead to fish habitat.


Water in the sediment pond in the spawning habitat was still opaque many hours after the discharge, though the water running into the pond (at the lower end of the photo) is clear.


Water discharging downstream of the artificial spawning habitat was also still very murky early in the afternoon.

Posted by Paul at 02:30 PM

May 17, 2009

Canoing Fraser River at SEP 2009 Workshop

About 70 streamkeepers signed up for a canoe trip down the Fraser River to cap the SEP 2009 (BC Streamkeeper) Workshop, out of around 300 people attending. It was a gorgeous day for a paddle and we had a great time. We put in near the Mission bridge, and took out up Kanaka Creek, with a stop for lunch along the way.

sep_2009_ canoe_fraser_1.jpg
The putting-in point near the Mission bridge.

sep_2009_ canoe_fraser_2.jpg
Me in front, with my wife Yumi behind me, and Naomi from Campbell River.

sep_2009_ canoe_fraser_3.jpg
Heading downstream.

sep_2009_ canoe_fraser_4.jpg
Catching up in a bit of friendly competition...

sep_2009_ canoe_fraser_5.jpg
Cool water, blue skies - a gorgeous day for a paddle.

sep_2009_ canoe_fraser_6.jpg
Working up a sweat!

sep_2009_ canoe_fraser_7.jpg
Looking east down one of most productive salmon rivers in the world, with Mt. Baker barely visible on the horizon.

sep_2009_ canoe_fraser_8.jpg
Heading up Kanaka Creek to the landing site.

It was a great day with a fantastic outing with wonderful people. Thanks to all of the organizers and sponsors!

Posted by Paul at 07:00 PM

May 16, 2009

BC Streamkeeper Volunteers Paint Concrete Salmon

At the 2009 BC Streamkeepers workshop, volunteers pitched in to paint two huge concrete salmon in designs inspired by children who had taken the Stream of Dreams watershed education and community art program.

The original salmon sculptures grace the Alexandria Bridge in BC. DFO Community Advisor Joe Kambeitz found original mock-ups of the salmon in a junkyard and rescued them to make molds for use by streamkeepers across BC.

The following photos show the salmon arriving, and being painted by volunteers based on Dreamfish created by schoolkids who took the Stream of Dreams watershed education and community art program.

The last photo shows Joe with Stream of Dreams founders Joan and Louise.















Posted by Paul at 10:23 PM

April 21, 2009

Vancouver as 'World's Greenest City': How About Daylighting a few Creeks?

Is there any possibility of daylighting any of Vancouver's 60-odd lost and buried creeks as part of the mayor's plan to make Vancouver the world's greenest city?

How about a truly green city with salmon spawning in dozens of creeks running through neighbourhoods everywhere? That's what we used to have....


Posted by Paul at 01:51 PM

April 17, 2009

Streamkeepers at Choices Earth Day, Saturday, April 18

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers will have our booth set up from noon to 4:00 p.m. at Choices in the Park for their Earth Day BBQ. We will also offer tours of Byrne Creek, so come and sign up! This is in southeast Burnaby, near Edmonds Skytrain Station. Last year's event was great fun, and kudos to Choices for sponsoring and collecting donations for streamkeepers' efforts to preserve and enhance this lovely, but struggling, urban creek.

Posted by Paul at 01:46 PM

April 13, 2009

Coho Fry Identified in Byrne Creek

Yumi managed to net a couple of fry in Byrne Creek today. To the best of our knowledge they are coho: sickle-shaped dorsal and anal fins with leading white/black rays, distinct parr marks, orange-tinged caudal, anal and adipose fins...

Definitely not chum, and do not have the white dorsal tip of cutthroat fry, and dorsal/anal fins definitely sickle-shaped, which cuts do not have...


NOTE: It is illegal to net fry and streamkeepers do so with the permission of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for ID purposes only. Fry are returned unharmed to the creek.

Posted by Paul at 12:35 PM

March 22, 2009

Salmonid Fry Spotted in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I saw salmonid fry in Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby, BC, today. After checking ID books against the photos we took, they appear to be chum salmon fry.

It's always exciting to see fry in this urban creek, and know that the few salmon that came back the previous autumn were successful in spawning and creating a new generation.


Posted by Paul at 12:32 PM

March 19, 2009

Rainy Byrne Creek

I had to get outside despite the rain and shake my afternoon drowsiness. Byrne Creek was running high and dirty, but there were some beautiful scenes. I saw some varied thrushes -- a male and a female hanging out together -- on the ravine path, and some red-winged blackbirds at the overflow pond. Unfortunately my bird photos were all blurry today because of the low light in the woods. My Canon S5IS does not perform that well in such conditions and I didn't want to carry my DSLR in the rain.

Byrne Creek with high, dirty flow in the rain.

A mossy tree - I didn't realize there were raindrops on the lens until I viewed the photos at home!

Posted by Paul at 03:55 PM

March 12, 2009

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Host Kerr Wood Leidal Presentation

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers hosted Crystal Campbell and Laurel Morgan from Kerr Wood Leidal at our meeting this evening. Crystal and Laurel spoke about stormwater control and amelioration methods, and integrated stormwater management plans, or ISMPs.

The City of Burnaby is currently working with consultants and streamkeepers on an ISMP for the Byrne Creek Watershed, so it was a timely topic. It was an engaging presentation followed by a lively question & answer period.

We had a great time discussing ways to better manage water quantity and quality in an urban watershed with high flows and pollution due to the spread of impervious surfaces, industrial and road (gas, oil, antifreeze, metals) sources of toxins, and the loss of forests and wetlands.

Posted by Paul at 10:07 PM

March 05, 2009

Can New Pollution Bill be Trusted When Present Laws Are Ignored?

Environment Canada News Release
New Enforcement Legislation Cracks Down On Environmental Offenders

Ottawa -- March 4, 2009 -- Cracking down on polluters, poachers and wildlife smugglers through increased fines and new enforcement tools are the main elements of the Environmental Enforcement Bill introduced in the House of Commons today by Environment Minister Jim Prentice.

I hate to be negative because overall this sounds like a great move; however, the problem is even present laws are not being enforced, so will this change anything?

One example: In October 2007, John Mathews Creek in Burnaby, BC, turned orange and fluorescent yellow after someone poured a toxic chemical down a storm drain. Here we are 17 months later, and apparently nobody has been charged.

John Mathews Creek runs into Byrne Creek and then into the Fraser River, so the contamination was widespread. It occurred just as salmon were returning to spawn in Byrne Creek. When streamkeepers recently called the Canadian Environment Ministry about progress in the case, they were told to file a Freedom of Information request if they wanted to pursue the matter. Apparently the City of Burnaby got the same response. This is our national government, using our tax money, "at work." Hah!

Now let's review a few points:

  • Said "someone" was caught red-handed
  • The pH of the creek was running 3
  • Dead fish were collected
  • City of Burnaby environmental staff were called in and were on scene
  • British Columbia Environment Ministry staff were called in and were on scene
  • Samples were collected

And here we are, a year-and-a-half later, and our designated national protectors of the environment have apparently yet to accomplish anything, and refuse to speak to the tax-paying citizens that they work for.

So I'll praise the "new and improved" enforcement bill when I actually see some enforcement.

Posted by Paul at 04:00 PM

February 26, 2009

Chilly School Tour of Byrne Creek

A couple of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers took a class of kids on a tour of the Byrne Creek watershed this morning. It was cold! I was glad I'd zipped home following a biz mtg to put on long underwear, a turtleneck and a fleece jacket.


We pointed out the lay of the land, how streets and storm drains connect to the creek, invasive plant species, found some aquatic bugs to look at, took some water samples.... Great fun with an eager group of "popsicles" as another streamkeeper called them :-).

Posted by Paul at 10:53 PM

February 19, 2009

Protecting the Blue Heart of the Planet

Passionate speech by Sylvia Earle on saving the ocean -- a prize-winner at the TED conference.

"We are facing paradise lost."

"We have taken over 90% of the big fish from the sea."

"Health for oceans means health for us."

"I hope that some day that we will find evidence that there is intelligent life among humans on this planet."

"Auden: Thousands have lived without love. None have lived without water."

"With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you are connected to the sea no matter where on earth you live."

"No water, no life. No blue, no green."

Posted by Paul at 07:56 AM

February 15, 2009

Byrne Creek Fry Search

Fry have been found already in some Burnaby creeks, so Yumi and I checked out parts of Byrne Creek today. While we didn't spot any baby salmon yet, it was a lovely day to be down by the gurgling waters.

Yumi checking the creek for fry.

Some lovely fungus growing on a fallen tree.

Death scene. Feathers trailing down a tall cedar and spread on the ground...

There were over a dozen bald eagles soaring above the ravine.

I wonder if the above feathers were remnants of an eagle lunch...

Posted by Paul at 09:17 PM

February 12, 2009

CNN: Fish Migrating to Cooler Waters

"(CNN) -- Climate-driven environmental changes could drastically affect the distribution of more than 1,000 species of commercial fish and shellfish around the world, scientists say."


This echoes some of the discussion at the recent State of the Salmon 2009 conference that I attended. Could the day come when the Fraser, the world's greatest salmon river, could no longer support runs?

Posted by Paul at 04:01 PM

February 10, 2009

That's Some Road Sweeping Job!

Crews working on a broken water main in our townhouse complex said they'd sweep up after themselves. Right. Here's what the road looked like after they went home for the day. See that drain? It goes straight into Byrne Creek, and baby salmon fry will be hatching soon.


Posted by Paul at 08:58 PM

February 07, 2009

Adopt a Legislator

One of the interesting ideas that came out of the State of the Salmon 2009 conference was "Adopt a Legislator". Unfortunately, I don't recall which speaker said it, so I can't give it proper attribution.

Anyway, delegates from several countries agreed that the only way to get change going, and action happening, was to educate politicians.

So here you go, some protocol and forms of address when writing to politicians in Canada, at various levels of govt., from the CivicNet BC website (thanks to editor Shaun Oakey for pointing this out):




Posted by Paul at 12:42 PM

February 06, 2009

Summary of State of Salmon 2009

The State of the Salmon 2009 conference over the last three-and-a-half days has left me stunned -- long days and lots of information to process. I documented it as best I could in a running collection of Tweets on my Twitter account, and I've posted that entire flow of jottings to my blog here.

First let me say that the conference organizers did a tremendous job. I don't know if there was ever any panic behind the curtains, but there was nary a glitch to be seen by the audience. And thanks to the simultaneous interpreters who mediated the flow in English, Russian and Japanese.

This was the second State of the Salmon conference, and my first. It's mostly aimed at scientists and bureaucrats, but we had a pretty good volunteer presence from lower-mainland streamkeepers and First Nations from the west coast and north. I think such broad representation greatly added to the conference, but of course I'm biased :-).

One of the threads that flowed throughout was the need for more research on how to protect and conserve wild salmon, and there was excitement about the new approach to science under the new Obama administration. The research dollars may start flowing again!

It was interesting to see the rifts occasionally bubble to the surface between the geneticists, the hatchery promoters and hatchery critics, the "stronghold, or protect the best" advocates and those who feel all habitat deserves protection. As a streamkeeper working on the ground, I was part of perhaps a minority that felt that any available $$ need to go toward action and habitat protection. We know what the problems are, yet we continue to study the patient while he's dying. Any knowledge we gain in the end is still, as one participant put it, "looking at a construction site through a hole in a fence -- and we're standing ten feet back from the hole."

There was also an underlying sense that perhaps with climate change leading to ocean warming and acidification, there is no way to prevent the loss of southern salmon spawning areas. Which to my mind made the groaning buffet tables laden day after day with salmon, halibut, shrimp, pork, bison, chicken etc. seem an indictment of the principles of having such a conference in the first place. Of course I ate everything, so I'm as guilty as anyone, but it never ceases to amaze me at how difficult it is for us humans to make our actions even approximate our pious thoughts. When it comes to human gatherings, feasting is so ingrained in all cultures that I doubt we'll ever get away from such behaviour.

At one point I was dreaming about future historians studying the progression of conferences and seeing that at the first one participants ate crab and lobster, at the second salmon and shrimp, at the third tofu and beans... and finally they were chewing on switchgrass because that was all that was left :-). Oh, rats, I've trapped myself in an illogical story -- by that point there would be, er, no point, in holding another salmon conference. I digress...

Something that was strangely absent from any discussion was pollution. I think it came up once in passing in a comment from the audience, and perhaps was glossed over by one of the speakers. Yet pollution is one of the biggest issues when it comes to habitat preservation, and is a direct and deadly killer of urban streams. And what's it doing to ocean survivability? We humans have been flushing all sorts of chemicals down our rivers and into the ocean for centuries -- surely that must have some impact on the "mystery" of declining biodiversity. Yet it was never addressed.

It was refreshing to hear from First Nations representatives who spoke from the heart, and who gave a breath of life to the proceedings. You can throw up all the PowerPoint slides full of as many charts and plots, and dense statistical calculations, as you like, but to hear the simple words "We have no fish anymore," provides much greater clarity and grounding.

Well, I have to get back to work, and perhaps I'll find time for more analysis and synthesis later.

I'm glad I attended.

Now, how about some ACTION!

Posted by Paul at 12:02 PM

February 05, 2009

Tweets From Day 3 Salmon Conference

Here are my Tweets from today's State of the Salmon 2009 conference sessions (third of three days), in last-to-first order:

Angelo: we all hope that future generations will be able to admire salmon as we have.

Angelo: we cannot forget the hope that salmon themselves represent.

Angelo: sustainability must be a primary guide.

Angelo: We need more political leadership.

Angelo: I worry about a younger generation that is drifting away from.

Angelo: need to do more to reconnect young people to the environment.

Angelo: Protecting salmon needs to be seen as a moral issue.

Angelo: need a precautionary approach to development.

Angelo: the unrelenting loss of salmon habitat is mainly due to rising human population.

Angelo: Heart of the Fraser is one of most productive stretches of river in the world.

Angelo: pollution, water extraction, development.

Angelo: but we also have to protect rivers that are still in good shape.
Angelo: urban habitat restoration leads to education.

Angelo: Protect, reconnect, restore.

Angelo: We need to better identify and manage key salmon watersheds.

Angelo: Need to incorporate local values so that people buy in.

Angelo: Instead of reacting to bad development planning, need to be proactive.

Angelo: Need to put a more preventive slant on habitat preservation.

Angelo: need to better understand and incorporate societal values into conservation.

Angelo: strive to develop ecosystem-based approaches to conservation.

Angelo: there is a need for new and fresh approaches.

Angelo: there is a pressing need for action.

Angelo: Most important is to move from discussion to being more action oriented.

Angelo: the theme for this conference was "Bringing the Future into Focus".

Angelo: Closing remarks.

Our problem is managing people, not fish.

Protected areas give society an excuse to ignore everything else.

Comment -- urban streams are so important, they bring fish to people's backyards.

Belyaev -- every citizen of every country is an integral part of the environment, their habitat.

Belyaev -- legislators won't get on side until they are informed.

Need to have an ongoing conversation with a legislator.

"Adopt a Legislator" Every scientist, every activist needs to adopt a legislator.
We're still talking about the same things we were 15 years ago -- how do get moving, doing?

We need a scale that people can relate to.

We need to change the paradigm as how we function as humans.

We need an informed public that votes differently and changes behavior.

Glaciers "make rivers work" in many places.

How long will glacier-fed watersheds continue to exist?

Groundwater flows are critical to spawning habitat and must be protected.

QA "we'll come to that later" -- later is now.

Every salmon stream must have a protected base flow throughout the seasons.

Alaska has strong laws for preserving flows in streams for salmon, but tough process.

Bristol: salmon are fun, they're food, let people define salmon for themselves.

Bristol: need to do outreach with political decision makers, and those who live off salmon.

Bristol: reframe the issue -- protected areas to pass on to future generations.

Bristol: Tongas has been a long and heated land battle in Alaska, but we're making progress.

Bristol: Grassroots concept -- bringing more and disparate people to conservation.

Bristol: what role do salmon play in modern society?

Bristol: Trout Unlimited Alaska

Belyaev: we can't accomplish anything in isolation, need all groups aboard.

Belyaev: criticizing is a favourite pastime of people.

Belyaev: different fishermen have very different opinions.
Belyaev: where can we find a compromise among all the groups?

Belyaev: salmon preservation is first and foremost human relations, scientists, fisherman, politicians.

Belyaev: How is Russia different -- no private property along rivers, so feds can protect areas.

Healey: must be thinking about salmon within context of global change.

Healey: the future is not going to be same as the past.

Healey: should we preserve Arctic areas as refuge for migrating salmon?

Healey: we have to start looking at Arctic as becoming suitable for salmon.

Healey: are there places where salmon habitat will continue to be suitable in face of warming.

Healey: In a very few decades most salmon habitat in southern range will no longer be suitable for them.

Healey: we really need to take a long-term view of conservation.

Kopchak: we are building an "electronic elder" to collate/share information.

Kopchak: Find common languages, cross jurisdictional systems.

Kopchak: H2O -- Headwaters to Ocean.

What are you going to do about long-term sustainability of salmon. YOU.

We who love salmon are not necessarily representative of the general public.

Rahr: we cannot succeed without preserving salmon strongholds.

Rahr: Russian far east has best opportunity for salmon habitat preservation.

Rahr: WWF study says 55,000 tons of salmon are poached for roe yearly in Kamchatka.

Rahr: We tend to react at the 11th hour -- we need to take the long view, get ahead of the curve.

Rahr: We don't proactively protect, we react, so good places get pounded, it's a losing strategy.
Rahr: Pacific Salmon Conservation Assessment.

Rahr: The time to be effective is before the threat is on top of you.

Rahr: we must save the best -- habitat etc.

Rahr: Pacific Rim population will double by 2050.

Rarh -- Wild Salmon Center http://www.wildsalmoncenter.

Fukushima: masu salmon are effectively protected but taimen are not.

How the heck do get an average from some of these scatter plots?

Fukushima: Japanese huchen/taimen -- http://tinyurl.com/cfo4tw

Fukushima: fish species richness falls due to damming.

Fukushima: Hokkaido protected drainages designed for salmon conservation.

Fukushima: Hokkaido has 574 watersheds of which 32 are "protected drainages"

Fukushima: Japan has thousands of dams.

Fukushima: National Institute for Environmental Studies Tsukuba Japan http://www.nies.go.jp/

Marxan: http://www.uq.edu.au/marxan

Reeves: Marxan -- a decision support system for systematic conservation planning.

Reeves: Concept of irreplaceability -- areas essential to meet conservation goals.

Reeves: We have long thought that nature can bounce back from any indignity we impose upon it.

Reeves: Livingston Stone was calling for salmon reserves in Alaska in 1892.

Salmonid Rivers Observatory Network

Do we need more vision or more implementation?
Skeena: kids learn to honour, respect and take care of the fishery.

Skeena -- these fisheries are also nurturing grounds for our children.

Skeena -- this is all for naught if we don't protect the habitat. Yes!

In-river native fisheries don't need boats, fuel, port infrastructure.

Skeena, we can catch fish in better ways, with more local benefits, while boosting biodiversity.

Russia -- we need legislation like Canada's Wild Salmon Policy, and we need more than that.

Kaev: Pink salmon need improvement of spawning conditions.

Kaev: chum salmon need further development of hatchery rearing.

Kaev: wild vs hatchery salmon in Sakhalin.

Russains are using Google Earth for some mapping -- what a change from the Cold War!

Semenchenko: Sakhalin test rivers -- Taranay, Kura, Naycha.

Semenchenko: move away from monitoring commercial fisheries to whole river monitoring.

Semenchenko: Monitoring salmon in Sakhalin.

Tabunkov: We are talking major devastation (poachers + ruthless companies).

Tabunkov: Companies will take maximum fish regardless of regulations.

Tabunkov: Poachers taking about 20% of salmon caught.

Tabunkov: I don't want to keep this photo on screen (fish gutted for roe only) -- too depressing.

Tabunkov: Problem of poachers taking roe only.
Tabunkov: problem of "heavily corrupt companies working with "heavily corrupt bureaucrats"

Tabunkov: we do not tag hatchery fish on Sakhalin so research "leaves much to be desired"

Tabunkov: hatchery chum pushed wild pink out of spawning grounds, so law was changed.

Tabunkov: these recently built hatcheries were destructive to wild fish.

Tabunkov: fishing companies are building their own hatcheries with no scientific input.

Tabunkov: Sakhalin has 15 federal hatcheries producing 900 million fish?/year.

Tabunkov: Sakhalin divided into over 700 fishing areas -- assigned to companies -- they care for enviro.

Tabunkov: no forestry, no mining, no drilling equals recovering fish.

Tabunkov: collapsing Russian economy (see prev Tweet) resulted in recovery of salmon.

Tabunkov: collapsing Russian economy some years ago impacted fisheries - no forestry, mining, drilling.

Tabunkov: Sometimes there were too many spawning fish that clogged the river - I don't get this.

Tabunkov: Fisheries Association of Sakhalin http://tinyurl.com/cegdgd

Tabunkov: I'm here representing concerns of fishermen.

Taylor: thanks to First Nations of the Skeen Fisheries Commission http://www.skeenafisheries.ca/

Taylor: looking for "fair trade" designation for Skeena salmon sustainable harvested by FN.

Taylor: all economic benefits of Babine/Skeen fishery stays local.

Taylor: conservation, biodiversity and ecological integrity paramount in all decisions.

Taylor: develop selective in-river fisheries that emulate what FN did.

Taylor: look back to move forward -- there are other ways.
Taylor: but increased abundance of "enhanced Sockeye" has led to overharvest of wild fish.

Taylor: says installation of spawning channels was a success.

BTW, by FN, I refer to First Nations, or "native Indians".

Taylor: We are trying to replicate something FN had in place for hundreds of years.

Taylor: FN principles -- reciprocal economic exchange, strict and transparent enforcement of rules.

Taylor: FN principles -- fishing property rights, sustainability, conservation for future generations.

Taylor: Babine River, FN used to harvest 3/4 million salmon a year.

Taylor: First Nations "managed" fisheries for hundreds and thousands of years ? sustainably.

Taylor: there was a robust fishery on the Skeens thousands of years ago - a sustainable FN fishery.

Taylor: Skeena Wild Conservation Trust - http://www.skeenawild.org/

So LuLu says, yes we need a TV show or weekly newspaper column called "Fish Files"

Artist LuLu has a panel on her scroll called "Fish Files" -- I like that, sounds like a TV series.

Artist Lu is chronicling the conf with an art scroll.

Morning break is announced -- we now get to eat Skeena salmon with our coffee.

I'm feeling like the patient is dying and we're discussing better ways to monitor the decline.

DFO asked Tlingit to halve salmon take, elders said no fishing at all because there are almost no fish.

Tlingit have completely stopped fishing in the headwaters of the Yukon on advice from elders.

Peterman: we have data on Fraser sockeye "all the way back to 1938" - how is that "historical"?

Canada's Species at Risk Act - http://tinyurl.com/cdg9s6 9:31 AM

QA comment, no fish species has ever been listed as endangered under SARA, even the cod that 99% gone.
Holt: We suggest that risk tolerance be identified by fisheries management.

Holt: uncertainties are pervasive, but we can account for them in the model... Uh, OK

Mortality is depensatory when its rate increases as the size of the population decreases. (http://tinyurl.com/ccwwws)

Holt: depensatory mortality -- another term I need to learn

Canada's Wild Salmon Policy: http://tinyurl.com/bexba

Holt: speaking on Canada's Wild Salmon Policy

Zhivotovsky: there are some lake-spawning chum salmon in Russia - rare

Zhivotovsky: speaking about research on "south Kuril" islands - wonder how Japanese feel about this?

Thinking at the first conf they ate crab and lobster, now salmon and shrimp, next conf tofu and beans.

Posted by Paul at 09:52 PM

February 04, 2009

Tweets From Day 2 Salmon Conference

Here are my Tweets from today's State of the Salmon 2009 conference sessions (second of three days), in last-to-first order:

BTW. today's sessions wrapped up with a plea from octogenarian Pearl Keenan -- nice to have some heart instead of statistics. She's from the Tlingit First Nation in the Yukon. Her basic plea? Please stop taking all the fish at the mouth of the river -- she lives near the headwaters, and they're all gone up there. I had to find her later and thank her for speaking from the heart, and hoping we would listen to something other than "science" and PowerPoints.

Long: Washington State fisheries are dependent on hatcheries

Busack: Argument is now how serious is domestication (hatchery fish), not if it exists.

Busack: Concern that interbreeding between hatchery and wild fish reduces fitness.

Researchers find what they look for, and when you bring up other potential factors, they get defensive.

When issues arise, it's time to break for coffee. Sheesh.

One word I have yet to hear at this conference is "pollution."

Q&A: Beamish -- coho and chinook in St of Gerogia are critical and think will get worse.

Walters: But culling seals is no solution because they also keep down other predators.

Walters: Huge growth in harbour seal population in Georgia Strait.

Walters: Ocean mortality causes hypotheses - hatchery disease, ocean warming, predators??

Walters: We don't know what is causing coho and chinook ocean mortality.

Walters: South BC chinook continue to decline despite closing commercial fishing in 80s and sport in 90s.

Walters: coho spawning in south BC has collapsed even with hatchery supplementation.

Walters: Declining marine survival is the biggest hit to salmon.

Walters: there has been no substantial habitat loss since 1990. Huh?

What data? Historic salmon runs - data never goes back more than a century, so how is that "historic"?

Walters: severe coho and chinook declines in south BC - threats are other than fishing.

Some speakers really need to take a Plain English course! Jargon-itis puts the audience to sleep.

What the heck is a "mortality objective"?

Schindler: geomorphic variation in fresh water is reflected in ocean growth of salmon.

Schindler: spawning productivity of rivers changes over time -- me: so shouldn't we protect *all* rivers?

Schindler: Are doomsday scenarios the best way to get the message out to the public?

By the time this conference is over we'll have eaten all the fish in the sea.

Q&A - Hokkaido also has conflicts between agriculture and fisheries.

Q&A - salmon can quickly repopulate territory if habitat is cleaned up and access enabled.

Q&A - unfortunately, education on salmon preservation is weak.

Q&A - if policymakers would err on the side of safety, we'd have better monitoring.

Q&A - Japan considers 2nd-gen hatchery spawners to be "wild" as long as from same stock.

Walton: need to look at viability of salmon at local levels -- creeks.

Walton: hatchery reform will be crucial to the survival of wild salmon.

Walton: over-harvest and hatcheries impact wild fish.

Walton: if you want to keep salmon runs strong, don't ruin your rivers.

Walton: after a century of using salmon hatcheries, we still don't know if they benefit salmon.

Walton: challenge is to develop a concise story we can tell people about protecting wild salmon.

Walton: How are we going to change human behaviour in relation to wild salmon?

Walton: do we have a common vision for a wild salmon policy?

Walton: endangered salmon are a West Coast-wide issue.

Walton: we have been working on recovery plans for a long time, but need people's support.

Last US administration (Bush) gave little support to conservation.

Bowles: fish only care about action -- what are we doing to fix things?

Bowles: "plan" has become a four-letter word, but plans are essential for salmon recovery.

Bowles: hatchery fish are not a replacement for natural populations.

Bowles: key threat to salmon is apathy.

Bowles: public becoming more disconnected from fish and their watersheds.

Riddell: conservation of wild salmon and their habitat is the highest priority.

Riddell: in BC/Yukon there are 8300 combinations of streams/salmon species.

Riddell: diversity is key to preserving salmon.

White: all groups that harvest salmon have a sense of entitlement.

Kulikov: sounds like Russia also has jurisdictional and bureaucratic issues.

Kulikov: First protected area in Khabarovsk area was created in 1920s.

Nagata: Japan looking at zone management for coexistence of hatchery and wild salmon.

Nagata: Commercial and game fisheries in rivers are prohibited in Hokkaido.

Nagata: Hokkaido fishery needs to change to wild salmon management objectives.

Nagata: calls native salmon spawning "traditional management", hatcheries "modern management".

Nagata: Hatcheries in Japan were established in 1888 from US.

Rawson: Pogo - we have met the enemy and he is us.

Rawson: we can't be doing things the same way that we have been doing them.

Rawson: habitat protection is the key contributor to saving the salmon.

Rawson: there is little public confidence in process for protecting habitat.

Rawson: Spawner return in some Puget Sound rivers is less than 10% of historic figures.

Rawson: lost 75-90 % of estuary habitat in Puget Sound.

Rawson: Habitat loss is the key factor for decline of Puget Sound chinook salmon.

Rawson: Hatchery risks - genetic, ecological, disease, etc.

Rawson:hatcheries are our arrogant assumption that we can do better than Mother Nature.

Rawson: causes of chinook decline - harvest, hatcheries and habitat.

Rawson: Skagit chinook have declined dramatically over last 50 yrs.

Rawson: Puget Sound chinook listed as threatened.

Quinn: larger fish may enter spawning grounds ealier than small fish.

Quinn: in some cases, middle of run is fished hard, with early and late less exploited.

Quinn: so we might be hitting more "early" fish, and more "late" fish.

Quinn: human exploitation appears to affect timing of spawning runs to some degree.

Quinn: fishing rates (exploitation) vary widely during run timing due to management.

Quinn: fisheries are less size-selective than they used to be.

Quinn: intermediate sizes of fish are most vulnerable to being caught.

Quinn: expected that gillnet fishery is selective against large fish.

Quinn: salmon have been declining in body size -- selective effects of fishing?

Quinn: humans have an impact on evolution of animals through hunting.

Quinn: humans have a long history of affecting the evolution of animals.

First nations comment - science must work with first nations knowledge.

Audience comment - global warming is a symptom of overpopulation.

Williams: Aldo Leopold - humans must change from conquerors of land to members of it.

Williams: to save salmon - land ethic, multiple scales and political boundaries, restoration economy.

Williams: hatcheries alone cannot solve problem of declining salmon, declining biodeversity.

Williams: artificial species restocking is not biologically viable without addressing causes of decline.

Williams: impacts - rising temps, reduced snowpack, variability in flows, fires.

Williams: Stressors - human pop growth, resource consumption, invasive species, climate change.

Williams: reconnect rives to their floodplains, do not channel them.

Williams: Protect remaining habitat, Reconnect to other areas, Restore urban waterways.

Williams: we must protect remaining habitat.

Williams: 29% of Pacific northwest salmon stocks are extinct

Williams: Laws and regulations are not enough. We are destroying Earth -- ecological footprint.

How the heck do you "increase salmon resilience to climate change"? Isn't that evolution?

Posted by Paul at 08:15 PM

Sun: Canadian Fisheries Management 'A Mess'

Vancouver Sun: Canadian fisheries management a mess.

Posted by Paul at 12:10 PM

February 03, 2009

Tweets From Day 1 Salmon Conference

Here are my Tweets from today's State of the Salmon 2009 conference sessions, in last-to-first order:

Fedorenko: Pacific Rim nations release 5 billion hatchery salmon/year.

Fedorenko: Total value of Pacific Rim commercial salmon catch $1 billion/year.

Beechie: Dams are the big story in extirpation of salmon in US lower 48, along with development.

Irvine: 50% or more of all BC salmon species are red/amber status (ie not good) in conservation units.

Irvine: In Canada general catch declines for all salmon species, 2008 one of lowest years.

Disappointed that reports from different countries are measuring different things so can't compare.

Hilsinger: Alaska salmon catches for all species have been good in last thirty years.

Radchenko: Russia releasing over half a billion hatchery salmon into Pacific annually.

Radchenko: Russian sockeye and chum catches are way up in the last ten years.

Kang: Korean salmon returns in 2000s fell to a third of returns in 1990s -- also warming?

Nagata: Focus on biodiversity of wild salmon and restoration of freshwater environments.

Nagata: Japan chum returns have fallen dramatically in south, more stable in north (Hokkaido) - warming?

Nagata: Japan stocking hundreds of millions of chum and pink fry.

Vladimir Belyaev: Important to improve national and international reporting to set reserves for salmon.

Vladimir Belyaev: Protecting entire watersheds is crucial to protecting salmon.

Vladimir Belyaev: Ocean survivability is moot if we don't protect spawning habitat -- rivers, estuaries.

Vladimir Belyaev: Russia is looking at setting up protected areas for salmon.

David Anderson: Concerned that Canada will fall behind US under Obama on climate change.

David Anderson: Major uncertainties about the impact of hatchery fish on ocean survival of wild stocks.

David Anderson: Strong opposition to change. People understand existing systems and fear the unknown.

David Anderson: The dead hand of the past protects the status quo.

Nathan Mantua: Humans are the primary drivers of change in salmon ecosystems.

Looking at Ecology and Society journal website: http://www.ecologyandsociety

Resilience Alliance http://www.resalliance.org/

David Suzuki -- World Scientists' Warning to Humanity, back in 1992 - http://deoxy.org/sciwarn.htm.

Suzuki: State of Salmon -- we invented the economy, we gotta change it.

Suzuki: State of Salmon -- all that humans can do is manage themselves, not other animals.

Suzuki: The most important lesson we have is the extent of our ignorance.

Suzuki: The future of salmon is bleak as long as politics and economics are the major drivers.

Guido Rahr fate of salmon will be determined in our lifetimes.

First Nations start by pointing out that side channels and creeks in the lower mainland are being destroyed.

Posted by Paul at 06:25 PM

January 29, 2009

Muddy Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby, BC, looked pretty muddy this afternoon, even though the rain had stopped for several hours. I tracked it as high as near the Edmonds Skytrain Station, and the water up there was still muddy, so it wasn't erosion in the ravine. Hope nobody was pumping out a construction site into a storm drain -- all drains connect directly to the creek, and baby fish will be hatching soon.

City staff responded immediately and said they'd check it out.


Posted by Paul at 03:24 PM

January 22, 2009

Vancouver Sun on Threats to Fish

The Vancouver Sun published a story today on Water crossings pose serious threat to fish: report. While as a volunteer streamkeeper I'm happy to see coverage of threats to migration of fish, some of the conclusions raise a resounding "Duh!"

As in "Culverts and bridges are a little-known threat to migration." Right, as if we didn't know.

But now perhaps more people will know.

Question is whether anything will be done about it.

Posted by Paul at 08:25 PM

CBC Story on Invasive Plants in BC

CBC has run a story on invasive plants in BC. It's about time the mass media began covering this issue. Streamkeepers and other groups have been putting in thousands of collective volunteer hours battling these non-native plants that overpower and kill native species, leading to monocultures that destroy habitat.

Posted by Paul at 07:08 PM

January 18, 2009

Byrne Creek Patrol Jan. 18, 2009

Yumi and I walked the ravine portion of Byrne Creek this afternoon for the first time in over a week. As we suspected, there was some significant erosion following the melting of the heavy snow we've had over the last few weeks.

Heading down the stairs into the ravine.

Tree fallen into creek at eroded bank.

A closer view.

Wild looking fungus on a fallen log.

Posted by Paul at 08:49 PM

January 13, 2009

Appointed to City of Burnaby Environment Committee

I've been appointed to the City of Burnaby's Environment Committee as a citizen representative. Went to my first meeting last night, and was pleased to see several familiar faces among senior staff that I've worked with through my streamkeeping volunteering with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and the Edmonds Business and Community Association. I look forward to learning the ropes and contributing toward making Burnaby a great place to live, work and play.

Posted by Paul at 10:08 PM

December 12, 2008

Short Water Videos From CWF

The Canadian Wildlife Federation has a good series of short videos on water. Check them out!

Posted by Paul at 04:36 PM

December 09, 2008

Report Says DFO Not Monitoring Enough Salmon Streams

According to this Globe and Mail article, a new study shows that Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not monitoring enough salmon spawning streams to preserve salmon stocks.

Stocks may be even more depressed than previously feared, and without adequate monitoring, Pacific salmon could go down the road toward oblivion as have the Atlantic cod. It also appears that the DFO has a pattern of dropping monitoring of streams that are in trouble, potentially skewing results.

Posted by Paul at 04:23 PM

December 08, 2008

Mapping Multiple Benefits of Marine Ecosystems

Interesting article on a joint project between Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund to develop software to assist in mapping the economic benefits of marine ecosystems.

I like the following quotation:

"'People tend to look at nature in one of two ways,' added Michael Wright, managing director of the Natural Capital Project. 'We either ignore the values it provides altogether, or we focus only on one specific commercial value, such as fisheries,' he said. 'We see individual pieces, not the whole. As a result, the collective value of nature is diminished. Through this grant we want to develop tools that do not just maximize the fisheries but capture all of the interests that depend on the oceans.'"

Any effort to broaden the way we calculate the "value" of nature is to be applauded.

Posted by Paul at 04:13 PM

Informative News Video on Stormwater Management

The Newshour with Jim Lehrer on PBS had a good video on stormwater management in the northwest US.

It presents the problems with urban runoff and what can be done about it.

What I find interesting is that often Canadians feel that they are miles ahead of Americans when it comes to the environment, when in fact US legislation and *enforcement* put us to shame.

Posted by Paul at 03:36 PM

December 05, 2008

Western States Face Water Shortages

According to this article, increases in population and climate change are putting even greater pressure on the Colorado River, leading to potentially worse water shortages in the future.

What I found interesting is that there is no mention of fish or other wildlife in the article. Makes you wonder if any species other than humans have been written off already...

The history of our exploitation of water in the west is long and torturous. I recommend the meticulously researched and well-written Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner on this topic.

Posted by Paul at 10:58 AM

December 04, 2008

The Tyee on Fraser Salmon

"All of BC has a stake in better managing once massive salmon runs. Third in a series."

Part of the Exploring the Fate of the Fraser River series in The Tyee.

Posted by Paul at 04:48 PM

November 28, 2008

Seattle Coho Dying Before Spawning

Coho are dying in restored streams in Seattle before they can spawn, according to this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article. The cause is speculated to be polluted runoff from roads. We have noted the same effect here in the lower mainland of British Columbia, with many coho dying unspawned in "our" stream, Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby. While Byrne has received few coho in the last few years, it's even more tragic when the few that do come back do not spawn before they die.

According to the Seattle article, coho in rural creeks are fine, it's urban creeks and restored city waterways in which the fish are struggling -- precisely the creeks that suffer most from pollutants.

Thanks to streamkeeper Joan for pointing out the article.

Posted by Paul at 07:09 AM

November 24, 2008

Streamkeepers on CBC Radio

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers were interviewed by CBC radio reporter Terry Donnelly today. Joan Carne and I spoke about the trials and tribulations facing urban creeks, and the positive news that this year's run of chum and coho spawners in Byrne Creek had at least matched the new low set last year. Why is that good news? Well, it's the first time in several years that the numbers had not declined!

We covered some of the issues affecting urban creeks including scouring and erosion caused by massive runoff during rains due to the buildup of impervious surfaces (roads, parking lots, roofs) in urban watersheds, pollution from road wash that goes down storm drains including gas, oil, antifreeze, brake dust, rubber dust, etc. Terry was also curious about efforts to daylight creeks, or bring them back to life from the pipes that they have been buried in.

It was a great conversation, and I hope a decent portion makes it onto the air. I know that the vagaries and time pressures of journalism often result in at best a minute or two of a two-hour discussion actually being published...

The piece should air on B.C. Almanac on Friday, Nov. 28, 2008, and the latest we heard was that it was slated for 1:40 p.m.

You can monitor the show here.
(http://www.cbc.ca/bcalmanac/) Just look for the link near the top of the page under "Listen Live".

Posted by Paul at 02:49 PM

November 13, 2008

Female Chum Awaits Death in Byrne Creek

This female chum salmon was quietly awaiting death in a calm pool in Byrne Creek this morning. Her spawning mission accomplished, her life's purpose was done. In her deteriorating state she appeared to have gone blind, as she didn't react to my looming shape, but when I stepped in the water she sensed the movement, her shallow breathing accelerated, and she stirred her body -- battered from digging a nest for her eggs in the gravel. I snapped a quick photo and left her in peace.


Posted by Paul at 01:39 PM

November 10, 2008

Chum Spawn in Byrne Creek

Chum salmon have been returning to Burnaby's Byrne Creek over the last couple of weeks. You can check out the website for updated information on numbers as streamkeepers monitor the run.

I took a video of a few spawners today and posted it on You Tube -- my first YT contribution. The quality is not the greatest as I shot it with a digital camera, not a video camera, and I'm still experimenting with editing and processing techniques.

Posted by Paul at 07:55 PM

October 10, 2008

Autumn Signs Along Byrne Creek

A ramble down the Byrne Creek ravine revealed signs of autumn, though a holdout garter snake proved it wasn't too cold yet.

An empty bench in Ron McLean Park invites contemplation of changing colours.

The return of an American Dipper to the creek is a sure sign of the impending arrival of spawning salmon.

These bouncy little birds love to dive under the water for salmon eggs.

Not the best shot of a garter snake -- but I was happy to see they were still enjoying a bit of sun as the cold comes on...

Posted by Paul at 01:13 PM

September 28, 2008

Rivers Day 2008

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers had a booth up at Rivers Day on the BCIT campus in Burnaby today. It was a gorgeous day with lots to see and do.

Hanging a temporary Stream of Dreams mural for the event.

Byrne Creek display.

Rivers Day founder Mark Angelo and BC Environment Minister Barry Penner.

VIPs release cutthroat trout into Guichon Creek.

A curious ball of fluff watches the activities.

Posted by Paul at 06:54 PM

September 10, 2008

Touring Byrne Creek Watershed With MP, MLA

I had the pleasure of taking MP Peter Julian and BC MLA Raj Chouhan on a tour of the upper Byrne Creek watershed this afternoon. I appreciate the time these gentlemen took to listen to streamkeepers' concerns, learn about efforts to enhance the watershed, and view a couple of proposed project sites.

Peter and Raj have toured Byrne Creek ravine and the artificial spawning habitat previously, but this time we concentrated on the "creek beneath the streets" -- the upper part of Byrne Creek that has long been buried and piped into the storm drain system. I took the opportunity to talk about the possibility of daylighting (bringing the creek back up from pipes) in Ernie Winch Park, and creating a rain garden/biofiltration facility at the lower end of Southpoint Dr.

Thanks again, Peter and Raj!

Posted by Paul at 08:35 PM

September 03, 2008

Alternative Sidewalk in White Rock

I ran across a SEA (street edge alternative) street in White Rock today, but on taking a closer look, it appeared to be more of an alternative sidewalk. SEA streets do away with curbs and gutters, and replace them with vegetated swales to reduce the impact of rain into storm drain systems and filter out pollution. This street had small swales but it still had a curb... Hmm... There were openings cut into the curb here and there, with small guides to let street runoff in, but I don't think they would accomplish much.


As you can see, the regular storm drain is still in place, and the teeny street diversion would not move much water into the swale.

I'm not an engineer, and I'm scratching my head on this one :-). Most such projects attempt to capture the polluted water from streets... Not nearly as much pollution on the sidewalks...

Posted by Paul at 08:26 PM

August 31, 2008

Byrne Creek Sediment Pond Profiling

The sediment pond upstream of the Byrne Creek artificial spawning habitat is to be cleaned out next week, and streamkeepers decided to do a depth profile of the accumulated silt and gravel, so that we can learn how fast the pond fills after it's been cleaned.

Streamkeeper John W. told me about a method using a transverse line knotted at 1-meter intervals, from which a weighted line is dropped with tabs at 10cm intervals. The method worked like a charm; however, my wife Yumi had to go through some contortions to anchor the line on the side of the pond with a lot of growth next to it!

Yumi setting up the ropes.

Me checking out the drop line.

Streamkeeper John G. helps collect data.

Yumi burrowing through the bush.

Posted by Paul at 07:35 PM

August 11, 2008

Fish-Friendly Car Wash Kits

Having a car wash fundraiser? Make sure you're not polluting your local creek while you're at it -- all street drains lead directly to local waterways with no treatment. So what's the solution? A salmon-friendly car wash kit. I picked this up from the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation bulletin board and think it's a great idea.

Check out this info on the kits from our neighbours to the south in King County, Washington.

It would be great if the City of Burnaby would get a few of these kits and make them available at community centres!

Posted by Paul at 01:37 PM

August 08, 2008

Blame Mother Nature?

People on a mailing list were discussing the damage humans do to the environment, and the "damage" that Mother Nature does. Here was my two cents:

I suppose it depends on one's definition of "damage." A lot of what Mother Nature does could also be called "renewal" or "ecosystem change or development" or.... Nature is not static by nature :-).

The kind of damage that humans do is very different from the kind of damage that Mother Nature does. Our damage tends to be more permanent. Once we've changed something, we are loath to see nature reclaim or reuse it in any shape, manner or form.

As a streamkeeper, I like to use the example of rivers. In their natural, healthy state, rivers are alive. They shift, they move, they're full of snags that provide habitat, they carry and turn over gravel that fish need to spawn in. They are constantly changing. They flood, and floods are good because the silt and accompanying biota renew the land.

Then people come along and choose to build in the flood plain. Now suddenly for one species -- us -- the annual flooding isn't all that pleasant, so then comes the channeling, the diking, the building of dams. Those snags and other woody debris are dangerous for boaters, so they're pulled out. The river is dredged to provide safe passage. The spawning gravel is mined for more construction. The river is a shackled shadow of its former self.

In addition, we choose to take our bodily and manufacturing wastes and pipe them into rivers, often with little or no treatment.

And the irony is that it is we who make rivers "dangerous" through all of our construction. The forests are gone, the meadows are gone, the wetlands are gone, so when it rains the water has nowhere to go but into the storm-drain system and then directly into the river, instead of soaking into the ground. And all that diking and channeling ends up just collecting all the force that would have dissipated in a natural flood plain. So when the levee breaks and we suffer damage.... whose fault is it? Can we blame Mother Nature?

Posted by Paul at 04:36 PM

June 20, 2008

Adera Donates $10,000 to Streamkeepers

Today Adera Development Corp. handed a $7,500 cheque over to the Pacific Salmon Foundation that is designated for projects by the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. Adera has already printed colour brochures for the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, so the total donation is $10,000.


Photo by Cindy Sommerfield

Adera has built several developments in the Byrne Creek watershed, and wanted to give back to the community by supporting the efforts of the streamkeepers. Byrne Creek Streamkeepers plan to use the funds on stormwater management facilities such as rain gardens and biofiltration ponds that would naturally filter and slow flows into the creek, in conjunction with the City of Burnaby.

Posted by Paul at 07:41 PM

June 16, 2008

Canadian Govt Reclassifies Pristine Lakes as Toxic Waste Ponds

According to this CBC article, lakes across Canada are being classified as mining-tailings waste sites, using an obscure mining regulation to apparently trump the Fisheries Act that prohibits the dumping of toxins into any fish-bearing waters.

This is insane.

Both the government and the businesses involved must be confronted on this issue. The government for failing to protect the environment, wildlife, and everyone's health, and businesses for proposing this idiocy. I run my own business, belong to my local board of trade, my neighbourhood business association, and this sort of cavalier destruction sickens me. These companies are getting a free ride with no real accounting of the associated environmental and health costs. Where does the death of a watershed touch the profit-loss statement or balance sheet?

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Loyola Hearn should resign for failing his department's mandate to protect our watersheds and fish.

[Counterpoint, June 17] OK, I was riled and while I stand by my post, I should acknowledge that without the mining industry, I wouldn't even be able to have a blog :-). Think of all the metals in my computer... the coax cable that connects me to the Internet... the server farm that hosts my site... The electricity plants that make it all run. Not to mention the pervasive use of metals in all sorts of items I use daily. Would I give up my watch? My cameras? My shower?

Yet I do believe there is a huge disconnect between what we pay for products and what their true cost is. Some inputs into the raw-materials production and manufacturing processes are not accounted for, and neither are most unacknowledged outputs such as garbage and toxins.

Posted by Paul at 09:25 PM

June 15, 2008

Streamkeepers Tackle Invasive Plants

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers tackled masses of invasive plants that had overwhelmed native plants and trees planted by the City of Burnaby on the sides of the access ramp to the creek off Southridge Dr. Unfortunately, the City has no invasive species plan or coordinator, or apparently any budget to maintain what it has planted.

Streamkeepers to the rescue!

Thirteen volunteers put in a total of 32.5 hours this morning unearthing conifers, ferns, salmonberry, and other native plants from the clutches of Himalayan Blackberry, Morning Glory, English Ivy, and Scotch Broom. We filled two heaping truckloads of invasive plants and took them to the City's recycling centre on Still Creek.

One of the areas we worked on. It was so overgrown that these conifers were not even visible. As we cut down 2-meter high blackberry we came across more stunted trees.

Hauling the invasive plants up the ramp.

Filling the truck.

Posted by Paul at 06:28 PM

June 08, 2008

Burnaby Environment Awards

Burnaby City Council and its Environment Committee held the 2008 City of Burnaby Environmental Awards Reception this afternoon.

Byrne Creek Streamkeeper and Stream of Dreams Murals Society co-founder Joan Carne was among the recipients.

Joan with Councillor Dan Johnston


Several Byrne Creek Streamkeepers attended the event, and were happy to see a Stoney Creek volunteer receive an award as well.

Posted by Paul at 05:40 PM

May 22, 2008

Streamkeepers Attend South Burnaby Rebel Fest

A few Byrne Creek Streamkeepers set up a miniature version of our booth at the South Burnaby Secondary Rebel Fest this afternoon. It was a beautiful day to be outdoors and it was fun talking to kids about streamkeeping. Volunteer Eleanor was a hit because she'd graduated from the high school the previous year and still new many kids.



Posted by Paul at 06:06 PM

May 20, 2008

Armstrong School Guides Mark Rain Drains

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and Girl Guides from Armstrong Elementary marked rain drains (storm drains) with yellow fish this evening so people are aware that all such drains lead to fish habitat. We had gorgeous views of clouds building over the North Shore, but thankfully the rain held so we could complete our project.

Streamkeepers oversee the work.

Guides paint yellow fish.

Clouds gather on the horizon.

Armstrong school is quite a distance from "our" Byrne Creek watershed, but a drain is a drain!

Posted by Paul at 08:43 PM

May 03, 2008

Edmonds Clean Sweep

Community members participated in the Clean Sweep sponsored by the Edmonds Town Center Business & Community Association this morning. The main meeting site was the Eastburn Community Centre, whose staff were very helpful in coordinating the event. It was a rainy day, so we had fewer volunteers than usual. The City brought one of its salmon eco-sculptures and participants were invited to help plant it.


Mayor Derek Corrigan and Councilors Pietro Calendino and Dan Johnston helped out.

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers also participated in the event, setting up a sign-up booth in the parking lot of Edmonds Skytrain station. Thanks to the Horizontes Scouts for assisting!

photo by Joan Carne

Thanks to Burnaby Firefighters for supplying a hot dog BBQ and hot chocolate!

All in all, volunteers reported that the amount of garbage had diminished from previous events, which is a good sign. I did manage to fill a 5-gallon pail just patrolling around the community centre!

Posted by Paul at 02:42 PM

April 24, 2008

Two Schools Release Fry

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers were kept hopping today, as two schools released their chum fry from Salmon in the Classroom programs.

South Slope Elementary released their chum at 9:30 a.m.

Kenneth Gordon kids released their fish around noon.

Posted by Paul at 06:43 PM

April 22, 2008

Byrne Creek Chum Release With Clinton School

Students from Clinton Elementary School in south Burnaby released chum salmon fry into Byrne Creek this morning with the help of DFO and Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. This is one of my favourite annual events because the kids are so excited and happy, and it connects them a bit to nature.

DFO's Maurice Coulter-Boisvert talks salmon.

Kids get chum fry to release.

My wife Yumi assists.

Kids point and marvel as silver hatchery fry turn brown to blend into the creek.

Chum schooling in the creek.

Posted by Paul at 08:22 PM

April 20, 2008

Choices Earth Day BBQ - Byrne Creek Tours

Choices in the Park hosted a salmon BBQ for Earth Day, and once again Byrne Creek Streamkeepers had our booth set up for the event. We also did two tours of the creek for people interested in getting out in nature and learning a bit about what streamkeepers do.

Thanks again to Choices for having donations from the BBQ this weekend and last weekend going to help efforts to keep Byrne Creek clean and habitable for all the fish and wildlife that it supports.

We presented two hand-cut, hand-painted cedar salmon to Choices CEO Mark Vickars and Choices in the Park manager Dominic Uy in appreciation of their efforts.

Me, Dominic and Mark

Pointing out park features on creek tour.

Posted by Paul at 05:45 PM

April 19, 2008

Byrne Creek 1 of 10 Best!

According to the Newsleader, Byrne Creek Ravine Park is one of the ten best places in Burnaby for a bag lunch and a walk! The story also mentions the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and asks walkers to help keep the creek clean and healthy.

Posted by Paul at 06:31 PM

April 18, 2008

Burnaby Parks Volunteer Dinner

The Burnaby Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission put on its annual Volunteer Recognition Night this evening, and Yumi and I attended representing the Edmonds Town Centre Business & Community Association, of which I am president. I have had the pleasure of attending the event in the past representing Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, and the Stream of Dreams Murals Society. Tonight our table was made up of representatives from Byrne Creek, Stream of Dreams, and the City's Parks department. It was an excellent event, as always, and the food provided by the City's Deer Lake Catering was fantastic.

Posted by Paul at 10:24 PM

April 17, 2008

Streamkeepers Push For Ponds At Translink Event

A couple of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers attended a Translink workshop this evening on the BC Parkway bicycle and pedestrian trail that links Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey. Work is afoot to realign parts of the trail, provide better connections and crossings, add public amenities, etc.

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers are most interested in the parkway course through Burnaby, and in particular the section between Gilley and Griffiths just north of Rumble. We envision the addition of beautiful vegetated biofiltration swales that could intercept and treat stormwater flows before they enter Byrne Creek. The area north of the parkway in this section has a lot of light industrial and automotive businesses that historically have been problematic point sources of pollutants into the storm drain system that connects to the creek.

Our ideas appeared to receive a warm reception! Here's hoping....

Posted by Paul at 10:13 PM

Byrne Creek at Blue Cross Earth Day

A couple of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers put up a small version of our creek display at the Pacific Blue Cross Earth Day event this afternoon. It was a windy, sunny day out on the cafeteria patio and we enjoyed talking to people about the connection between roads, storm drains and creeks. People love our 3D relief map of the watershed.


Posted by Paul at 03:03 PM

April 15, 2008

Streamkeepers, Stream of Dreams Tame Lions

Joan Carne and I spoke to the Burnaby Host Lions club this evening. I spoke about Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and Joan spoke about the Stream of Dreams Murals Society. We were warmly welcomed to dinner, and our presentations got lots of questions. The Lions generously asked if there was anything they could do for us, and are willing to bring out their rolling BBQ gear and do hot dogs and burgers, or pancake breakfasts, if we do any fund raisers. Thank you! It is community volunteers pulling together within and across organizations that make Burnaby a great place to live!

Posted by Paul at 09:18 PM

Byrne Creek Habitat Looks Like Pea Soup

The spawning channel, sediment pond and overflow pond in the Byrne Creek spawning and rearing habitat in southeast Burnaby looked like pea soup around noon today. Yumi and I had gone down hoping to ID some fry (baby fish); however, visibility was zero. The creek was clean, so the sediment was likely coming down the stormwater pipes along Southridge Dr.

Fortunately, we did not see any dead fish, but we'll watch closely for the next few days. We called the incident in to the City, and an environment officer said the situation would be investigated.

The overflow pond.

The sediment pond.

Yumi and I checked several areas up the hill along Southridge Dr. but did not spot any smoking guns. Hope the City has better luck.

Posted by Paul at 01:57 PM

April 12, 2008

Choices - Byrne Creek BBQ Huge Success

The Choices BBQ today was an overwhelming success. I don't know how much money was donated by people today that will go to Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, but I imagine it must be several hundred dollars. We had a constant flow of people all day long. Choices also provided seven gorgeous gift baskets for prize draws along with several gift certificates.

The staff were incredibly responsive and did special orders on the BBQ for vegetarians or people who wanted chicken instead of beef, in addition to the burgers, European wieners, and bacon... Oh yes, there was also an apparently endless river of chocolate cake!

I was blown away. Thank you Choices managers and staff!

Setting up for the event -- it was a gorgeous day.

Prize baskets.

A happy winner receives her basket.

Join us for more fun tomorrow! Pancake breakfast from 9:00-11:00 and another BBQ from 12:00-3:00. Food and drinks by donation, with donations supporting the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. Come and learn about Byrne Creek and streamkeeper activities. Our bug team will be doing a bug count of samples collected from the creek at the Choices site from around 10:00.

We will be back at Choices for an Earth Day event on April 20 from 12:00-4:00. Streamkeepers will lead tours of the beautiful ravine park and Byrne Creek starting from Choices at 12:30 and at 2:00.

Posted by Paul at 09:52 PM

April 09, 2008

Choices Weekend Celebration Benefits Streamkeepers

Choices Markets is putting on a breakfast and two BBQs this coming weekend, and Byrne Creek Streamkeepers are thrilled that donations from the events will support their efforts to restore and maintain the watershed. Wow!

The Choices location near Byrne Creek is on the park side of Edmonds Skytrain Station in southeast Burnaby.

BBQ at the Park: Saturday, April 12, 12:00 - 3:00
Breakfast at the Park: Sunday, April 13, 9:00 - 11:00
BBQ at the Park: Sunday, April 13, 12:00 - 3:00

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers will also have their booth set up at Choices in the Park for an Earth Day event on Sunday, April 20 from 12:00 - 4:00. Streamkeers will be offering tours of the creek and ravine park.

Posted by Paul at 08:01 PM

April 02, 2008

More Fry, Oil, Flicker in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I spotted more fry in Byrne Creek today, along with a flicker in the ravine park, but were dismayed by the amount of oil accumulating in the sediment pond.

Salmon fry in the sediment pond

Blue and purple oily sheen on water surface

I think this is a common flicker of the red-shafted race.

Posted by Paul at 07:15 PM

March 31, 2008

More Signs of Spring

Cherry blossoms, a plump robin, and a small school of salmonid fry (baby salmon) all pointed to signs of spring on our Byrne Creek ramble after lunch today.




Posted by Paul at 09:17 PM

March 24, 2008

Spring Salmonberry

I patrolled for fry this afternoon in Byrne Creek this afternoon and was happy to find several more spread in pools in the spawning habitat. As I was scanning one pool a curious chickadee flitted over and danced from branch to branch just a foot or two from my face. We had a little chat and then he bounced off as I moved on. More salmonberry bushes are beginning to blossom.


Posted by Paul at 06:57 PM

March 12, 2008

Baby fish spotted in Byrne Creek

Yumi spotted a salmonid fry in Byrne Creek this afternoon. While we were not able to ID the species, it was great to see baby fish in the creek following last autumn's disappointingly poor run of spawning salmon.

Posted by Paul at 09:34 PM

March 11, 2008

Upper Byrne Creek Needs Some Tender Loving

As streamkeepers, Yumi and I focus mostly on the fish-bearing part of Byrne Creek, and don't get out to check the area upstream of Edmonds Skytrain station in southeast Burnaby that often.

We'd gotten a heads up from city staff that some work was being done in the area, and also that they were hoping to tackle invasive plant species. We took a look, and there is certainly work to be done!

Here's a site that was replanted following the building of a new townhouse complex -- invasive plants including Morning Glory have overwhelmed the area.

A closeup of the sign declaring this to be sensitive habitat!

Abandoned pipe in the bush along 18th Ave.

Large metal junk in the bush along 18th Ave.

Posted by Paul at 09:22 PM

March 05, 2008

Signs of Spring Along Byrne Creek

It was a beautiful sunny day today and I took advantage of it for a long walk along Byrne Creek.

Sun splashing off the water.



Red alder -- I'm allergic to the pollen -- dominates the spawning channel.

Mayfly larva in a pool -- there's a photo of a hatched mayfly in yesterday's blog entry.

Pileated woodpecker in Byrne Creek ravine. I love these flashy birds.

This was a hand-held shot in a forested ravine with my Canon S5 IS at its maximum 432mm telephoto (35mm camera equivalent), so don't look too closely :-).

Posted by Paul at 02:52 PM

Foam in Byrne Creek

There was a suds event in Byrne Creek this afternoon. When I started on my walk shortly after 11:00 the creek was clear. I spent some time sweeping the lower reaches, the spawning channel, the sediment pond, and the overflow pond for fry, but saw nothing -- no fry, no smolts, no cuts, zip.

On my way home I took the upper ridge trail, and about halfway along I spotted a pileated woodpecker, and as I was lining him up in my camera, I noticed the creek way down below was quite foamy. Snapping a few shots of the woodpecker, I headed up the hill and found almost no sign of foam in Griffith's Pond near the skytrain station. When I went down the Ron McLean path, there was quite a bit of foam coming down from upstream of the Hell Hole at around 1:15. So the source was likely somewhere upstream of Griffiths.


Posted by Paul at 02:49 PM

March 04, 2008

Byrne Creek Mayfly Hatch

Mayflies were skipping along Byrne Creek this afternoon. Yumi and I didn't spot any salmon fry yet, but they should be popping out of the gravel soon...


We also saw many small apparent redds, or nests of eggs that fish deposit.


Posted by Paul at 10:28 PM

February 29, 2008

Premier Screening of Eagle Eye

The Fraser Valley Hatchery was the site of the premier screening of Peter Donaldson's Eagle Eye, a video based on his one-man show "of ecological intrigue about the ancient dance of interdependence between Salmon and Eagle, creating a classic teaching legend."

Donaldson is a breathtaking writer and performer, known for his Salmonpeople masterpiece. Tonight's event, hosted by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C., was a "beta" run of the video, with Donaldson seeking input from the audience as to what parts really engaged people, what sections lost their interest, and how the project could be disseminated and used in secondary schools, colleges, universities and communities for environmental education dealing with biodiversity and systems thinking.

Donaldson's show was filmed during the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, and is an emotionally powerful performance that really gets you thinking about life and our interdependence with other species and nature.

Posted by Paul at 11:30 PM

Byrne Creek High School Global Issues Event

In the afternoon I represented the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers at a climate change workshop at Byrne Creek Secondary in southeast Burnaby. The Check Your Head group (Educating Youth for Global Hope and Local Action) facilitated the event, and I provided background on streamkeeping and how kids could volunteer on creek activities. I love working with students and getting their perspective on these sorts of issues.


Our 3D relief map of the Byrne Creek watershed was a big hit.

Posted by Paul at 04:38 PM

February 28, 2008

Environmentalists Roast Run of River Power Inc.

"We want our park, we want our wild salmon, and we want you to go away," said Burke Mountain Naturalists activist Elaine Golds, to rousing cheers from the crowd at a forum on multiple run-of-river power projects planned for several streams on the upper Pitt River.

The overflow crowd jammed into the much-too-small venue was spirited and angry, with cat calls often interrupting presentations by the BC Environmental Assessment Office, BC Parks, and the proponent, Run of River Power Inc.

Although I strongly oppose the projects and the accompanying proposal to cut a power transmission right of way through Pinecone Burke Provincial Park, I was dismayed at the uncivil attitude dominating the crowd.

Yet people had reason to be frustrated. Pinecone Burke is a pristine Class A park that people fought for many years to be declared off limits to logging, mining and hydro projects. To ask that the boundary be adjusted now is crazy.

To invade all the salmon-bearing streams in the upper Pitt is crazy.

To pay private producers 5 or more times the rate for power than the province produces is crazy.

Eventually the fire marshal showed up, and said the number of people in the room had to be reduced. At that point, several hotter heads began shouting "We won't leave!" OK, act like children having a tantrum in the face of logic and safety -- I thought it best to slip away.

As I was wriggling myself out of the room, people were demanding that the meeting be rescheduled in a larger venue. I'm all for that. And while I admire the passion, I think some of the behavior tonight was counterproductive. The mandarins in the room have to follow this provincial government's restrictive policies -- it's the politicians noted for their absence who should bear the brunt.

As the cry went up: "Where are you Environment Minister Penner?"

Posted by Paul at 10:22 PM

February 27, 2008

Nooksack Dace Recovery Strategy

The Nooksack Dace is a little fish found only in a few rivers and streams in the Lower Mainland of BC. It has been listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act, and tonight I attended a Department of Fisheries and Oceans forum on steps being taken to identify and protect crucial habitat. It was an interesting presentation on the dace and its preferred habitat. Unfortunately, the ratio of audience to DFO staff was about 10:6 -- it could have been better publicized.

Something that I found interesting was that all remaining Nooksack Dace habitat is in developed/developing areas. That's going to make it really tough to preserve this species. I asked if in the future there would be attempts to transplant dace to other streams in their previous range. They're not at that point yet, but one of the biologists said that transplanting would certainly contribute to keeping the species from going extinct.

Here is the recovery strategy for the fish, and watch the SARA public registry for a 60-day comment period after the strategy is officially posted soon.

Posted by Paul at 09:38 PM

February 26, 2008

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, DFO Tour Habitat

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and several representatives from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans toured the artificial spawning habitat constructed as compensation when a major road was built over prime spawning habitat. Since the habitat was built around a decade ago, there have been some problems with siltation and flow. It was instructive to share our stream and salmon spawner monitoring observations with the DFO staff, and we discussed several potential ways to remedy some of the problems.

Getting the lay of the land.

Posted by Paul at 09:49 PM

February 22, 2008

Lower Fraser Coho Conservation & Enhancement Initiative

The Musqueam Fisheries Commission and the Pacific Salmon Foundation co-hosted Pulling Together, Making a Difference The Lower Fraser Coho Conservation & Enhancement Initiative today. The day-long workshop brought together First Nations, scientists, and stewards. It was a stimulating event with many excellent speakers, and the Musqueam were wonderful hosts.

Over the lunch hour, participants toured Musqueam Creek and then planted trees in the riparian zone.

Here I am with "my" tree.

Stream of Dreams Murals Society decorated the gym. Here are some fish lanterns, several made by my wife, Yumi.

Stream of Dreams Dreamfish.

Posted by Paul at 11:58 PM

February 17, 2008

Successful Byrne Creek Fish Trapping Survey

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers found 17 cutthroat trout in the Gee traps that they placed in the creek yesterday. While far off the record, we were happy to see fish at all as the creek has been hit by several toxic spills through storm drains over the last couple of years. One disappointment was the lack of coho salmon smolts (yearlings); however, we had not been expecting much as there have been almost no successful coho spawners in the last couple of years.

We handle the fish as gently and quickly as possible as we size and ID them, and then return them to the creek. NOTE: It is illegal to trap fish, and streamkeepers do so with DFO permission.

Measuring a cutthroat.

Streamkeepers head up the ravine.

Posted by Paul at 06:44 PM

February 16, 2008

Fish-Trapping Streamkeepers Find Herons

Members of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers set traps in the creek today hoping to catch some fish to see what species are resident. We do this every year under the auspices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to gather data. (Note that trapping is illegal unless sanctioned by DFO). We weren't the only ones out looking for fish! We spotted herons several times -- likely repeat viewings of two birds.

This one was fishing the big pool where the stairs come down into the ravine from Brynlor.

This one was further up the ravine.

Streamkeepers bait Gee traps.

Posted by Paul at 07:28 PM

February 15, 2008

Greenwashing BC's Power Policy?

There's a lot of talk about "green power" in British Columbia, but are initiatives like privately developed "run of river" power projects really green? Few citizens seem to be aware that companies have applied for such projects on streams throughout the province -- and that they are using our water for free while selling their power to BC Hydro at higher rates than the public utility charges.

Run-of-river is being spun as green, but it looks more like death by a thousand cuts.

Problems with these projects include the amount of water diverted (up to 80%!), the roads built to get access to streams to build the plants, the swaths cut through forests for power lines.... It goes on and on. Companies are already trying to get land removed from parks for their construction.

I urge people to check out the video series "Power Play: The Theft of BC's Rivers" at the Save Our Rivers Society website.

Thanks to the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation for making me aware of these videos.

Posted by Paul at 07:19 PM

February 14, 2008

'Porridge' Fouls Byrne Creek Again

The mystery "porridge" has fouled Byrne Creek yet again. We know it comes down the Hedley St. storm drain and into the creek, but the City of Burnaby's engineering department has not managed to confirm the source yet. This has been going on for months now in a haphazard manner. Hope they track it this time!

The stuff was pooled all along the creek. While it does not appear to be toxic, it has no business coming down storm drains into the creek.

UPDATE on Feb. 15: City staff have found the source and are dealing with it. While for legal reasons they can't tell us the details, streamkeepers are relieved that this ongoing irritant will be under control. Thank you!

Posted by Paul at 02:36 PM

February 13, 2008

Sun Splashes Byrne Creek

The sun broke out for a couple of hours today, so I trundled off to do a quick loop of Byrne Creek ravine, checking for fry along the way. Fry are baby fish, and while the coho and chum salmon returns to the creek were very poor last autumn, I'm hoping we did have some successful spawners. In the past we've seen fry as early as mid-February, though I think that is a bit unusual. Streamkeepers will be keeping an eye out for the cute little fish over the next couple of months.

Heading down the stairs into the ravine.

Posted by Paul at 06:48 PM

January 07, 2008

Shopping Carts Dumped in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I found a couple of HomeSense shopping carts dumped into Byrne Creek today. We used to find shopping carts only in the upper watershed, but I guess we'll be finding more on the flats now that the big malls have opened nearby.


Posted by Paul at 07:16 PM

More Oily Burnaby Streets

Yesterday we saw a steady stream of oil washing off Southpoint Dr. in southeast Burnaby into a storm drain and into Byrne Creek, and today we found someone had dumped oil on a street in the upper watershed at the corner of 15th St. and 14th Ave. -- just feet away from another drain that leads to the creek. The mangled plastic oil jug was nearby.


Posted by Paul at 07:09 PM

January 06, 2008

Road Oil Enters Byrne Creek Through Storm Drain

Oil that had accumulated on Southpoint Dr. in southeast Burnaby was flowing down the rain drain at the bottom end of the cul-de-sac and into Byrne Creek this afternoon as a steady drizzle washed pollution off the street.


Can you imagine the cumulative flow of this crap into drains all over the city -- all of which lead to local creeks, rivers and the ocean? Yuck!

It is precisely for this reason that streamkeepers are pushing the city to build bio-filtration swales and ponds. There are well-known, well-established ways to ameliorate the impact of such pollution on fish and wildlife habitat.

Posted by Paul at 04:18 PM

December 26, 2007

Fishing Birds Feast on Byrne Creek Trout

When Yumi and I arrived at the sediment pond in the artificial spawning habitat on Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby today on our weekly salmon spawner patrol, a heron struggled into the air, two rotund cormorants plunged off of the concrete lip at the lower end and into the pond, and a kingfisher chattered at us angrily.

We saw a couple of dead cutthroat on the bottom of the pond in the 25-30cm range and for a heart-stopping moment we thought there may have been another fish kill, but we finally saw a couple of live trout as well.

The two cormorants refused to fly -- they simply dove under and swam from end to end depending on where we moved to, and we finally surmised that perhaps they had gorged themselves on trout to the point that they were having trouble getting airborne. The big schools of trout were all gone, perhaps they skedaddled downstream when they came under protracted attacks from all the fishing birds. Maybe the birds had killed the large trout and then had been unable to swallow them? Or they were finally full?

(Note: By "refusing to fly" I don't mean that we were trying to drive the cormorants off -- we were being as non-threatening as possible and just observing -- I've just never gotten that close to cormorants before!)



Note: the apparently different colouring on the bottom bird is just a matter of lighting and exposure.

Posted by Paul at 07:32 PM

December 10, 2007

Heron in Byrne Creek Ravine

A heron was fishing in Byrne Creek today and I got a couple of photos of it on my ravine ramble. It had its eye on me, so as I angled for a better view, I kept talking to it in a soothing tone in an attempt not to flush it -- they can be quite twitchy. That seemed to work as I snapped a few quick ones and then quietly moved away and let the bird continue looking for its lunch.


Posted by Paul at 08:22 PM

December 05, 2007

Salmon Patrol Finds Dead Cutthroat

On our weekly Byrne Creek salmon spawner patrol, Yumi and I found no spawners but did find a dead 23cm male cutthroat trout with no visible external damage. There were live trout in the same pool, so we don't know why this one died.


Posted by Paul at 08:31 PM

November 29, 2007

Byrne Creek Sees Few Spawning Salmon

It's been a disappointing spawning season so far this autumn on Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby, with only around 20 chum and coho salmon tallied. Another issue that has cropped up in the last few years is also being repeated -- the lack of spawning success in coho. We keep finding female coho dead before they have laid their eggs, and today Yumi and I processed another.

NOTE: My usual disclaimer -- it is illegal to disturb spawning salmon. Streamkeepers receive training and also have permission from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to process dead spawners and record data about them. I think it is important to share our volunteer efforts with the public; however, I occasionally worry that people may get the idea that these fish and their eggs are fair game -- they are not!

Beautiful coho found in Byrne Creek today.

Unfortunately, this female did not spawn before she died.

Some people may also be confused about why these fish die. Salmon are anadromous -- that's a big word that means that during their lives they move from fresh water, to salt water, and back to fresh water again to lay their eggs. This entails major changes in their organs -- from ingesting minerals in fresh water to extruding salt in the ocean. Some species of fish can repeat this cycle, but when salmon come back to their birth creeks, streams and rivers to spawn, it's a one-way trip. They stop eating when they enter fresh water and their health begins to steadily deteriorate -- all of the energy in their bodies goes to keeping their reproductive systems and brains going as their flesh fails. If a fish cannot reach its native spawning grounds and find a partner within a set period, it will die before it can spawn.

After collecting data about the fish, Yumi and I voiced a brief appreciation for her efforts, and then we cut the carcass in half (this ensures that streamkeepers don't double count fish) and returned it to the creek where it will provide essential nutrients for the food chain.

Posted by Paul at 03:27 PM

November 18, 2007

Streamkeepers Wrap Trees Against Beavers

Yes, beavers are part of the ecosystem, too, but streamkeepers have to preserve trees in our urban habitat -- in cities the odds are already heavily stacked against healthy streams and salmon. Beavers have been razing trees in the Byrne Creek spawning habitat, so we are wrapping trees with chicken wire to preserve them against the gnawing beasts.

Me wrapping a tree -- photo by JW

Posted by Paul at 07:28 PM

November 05, 2007

Mushy Pollutant Pours Into Byrne Creek

The Hedley storm drain outfall has poured an ugly, whitish, porridge-like pollutant into southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek yet again.

Yumi and I were doing a creek patrol today when we saw a sandy white substance deposited in pools along the creek. We backtracked it to the Hedley storm drain outfall, where we found gallons of the yucky stuff.

We called it in to the city, and environmental staff said they would be on it along with sewer system staff. This is at least the third or fourth time that streamkeepers have found this substance entering the creek.

I am fairly certain that the flaky porridge-like substance does not come from a sanitary/storm system cross-connect because it occurs sporadically. While the Hedley outfall is notorious for having a nearly constant obnoxious smell, I think we are dealing with at least two sources -- one a fairly constant flow that causes the smell, and dumping into a storm drain that produces the "porridge."



Posted by Paul at 10:27 PM

October 31, 2007

Spawning Salmon Back in Byrne Creek

Spawning salmon have returned to Burnaby's Byrne Creek with streamkeepers spotting both chum and coho in the last week.

I did a spawner patrol today and came across five live chum salmon and two dead ones, which I processed for length, sex and spawning status. Please note that it is illegal to disturb spawning salmon, and that streamkeepers undergo training for monitoring techniques and report their findings to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

If you come across spawning salmon, feel free to observe them from a distance, but do not disturb them, or their carcasses after they die. Streamkeepers check carcasses for size, sex and spawning success, and return them to the creek because the bodies provide essential nutrients to the ecosystem.

Chum salmon spawner in Byrne Creek.

Posted by Paul at 07:19 PM

October 11, 2007

Toxic Substance Kills Fish in Southeast Burnaby

A Byrne Creek Streamkeeper reported a toxic spill in John Mathews Creek in southeast Burnaby this morning. City staff and streamkeepers found dead fish in the creek, and also in Byrne Creek downstream of where John Mathews Creek joins it. The creek was still running a florescent yellow colour well into the late afternoon when streamkeeper Joan Carne took the following photos.

I find it unfathomable that after years of public education efforts, people still don't know, or more likely just don't care, that all street and parking lot drains connect directly to local creeks.

We will all be eating and drinking this stuff some day, for we are at the top of the food chain. It may be highly diluted by the time it enters our bodies, but eventually it will affect us, and our children...




Posted by Paul at 11:00 PM

October 10, 2007

Autumn Colours Paint Byrne Creek

Red, yellow, gold, and brown leaves are painting Byrne Creek with an enchanting mosaic of colours. I love this time of year when the air takes on an edge and the hazy days of summer are replaced with an invigorating clarity.

I also love this time of year because the leaves that colour the creek foreshadow the return of the salmon. Any day now, likely within the next week, coho and chum salmon will start swimming up Byrne Creek to spawn and die, after traveling thousands of kilometers in the Pacific Ocean. As a streamkeeper, monitoring the return of these magnificent fish is a peak experience that I look forward to every autumn.

The relaxed creekside rambles of spring and summer take on urgency and excitement as we stalk the mottled purple and green chum, and the silvery scarlet coho, making note of redds (nests of eggs), and measuring and assessing fish after they die.

Descending the stairs into the ravine.




Posted by Paul at 04:33 PM

Burnaby Builds Ugly Drain on Southpoint

The other day I was driving down Southridge Dr. in Burnaby and saw some heavy equipment in action near the bottom end of Taylor Park on Southpoint Dr. Today I walked past the area to see what had been going on and was disappointed to find a huge, ugly asphalt catchment and storm drain. I wish the city could start getting a bit more creative with its planning. This area is right next to a city park and would be the perfect place to put a beautiful rain garden to soak up rainfall. I hope it's not left as is, and some more thought goes into the area's potential for improved stormwater management. It's ironic that the city put in this barren monstrosity just as it is soliciting community input into an Integrated Stormwater Management Plan for the Byrne Creek watershed.

Looking downhill toward Southridge Dr.

Looking up Southpoint with Taylor Park to the right.

Looking down Southpoint from the present dead end where the street was blocked.

Now, imagine this area as a beautiful wetland or rain garden, with lots of opportunity for rain coming down Southpoint to soak into the ground. It could be gorgeous. C'mon Burnaby!

Posted by Paul at 03:45 PM

September 22, 2007

Alta Vista Picnic, Gas, Dirt in Drains

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers had their booth up at the Alta Vista Park community picnic again this year. It's a great event, and the organizers do an amazing job. It's always fun, and like last year, we brought bugs from the creek for kids to check out.

Streamkeeper Eleanor supervises the bug activity.

The rock climbing contraption is always popular.

As is the annual appearance of a Burnaby firefighters ladder truck.

At events like these, streamkeepers try to educate the public about their local creeks and watersheds. People are often amazed to learn that drains on streets and in parking lots lead directly to local creeks with no filtration. That means nothing except rain should go down those drains!

It was then my turn to be amazed when a person came up to me and told me there was a vehicle parked across the street from the park leaking gasoline directly into a rain drain! I have cropped this photo so as not to cause embarrassment, but this is exactly the type of problem streamkeepers fight.

If you see something like this happening, call the Burnaby 24-hour hotline at 604-294-7200.

On the way home after the event, Yumi and I were also surprised to see trucks spreading dirt from a construction site along Royal Oak. This is illegal, and should be reported to the city.


Remember, everything that gets washed down a drain on a street or parking lot goes directly into a creek!

Posted by Paul at 05:49 PM

September 14, 2007

SalmonTrain Kickoff


This morning the SalmonTrain was officially launched at Gilmore Station on the Skytrain Millennium Line. What's a SalmonTrain? It's a commuter train car covered with Stream of Dreams Murals Society (SDMS) Dreamfish, with an urban creek running down its floor with tips on maintaining healthy watersheds. Conceived by Louise Towell, a co-founder of SDMS, and implemented with the hard work of the Rivershed Society of BC and corporate partners Translink, 3M, and Lamar Advertising, the Stream of Dreams® SalmonTrain Mural in Motion is a vibrant means of educating the public about the importance of clean water in our creeks and streams.

As president of the charitable SDMS, I was proud and amazed at the results of nearly a year of hard work by all the partners. Here are some photos I took of the event, and the SalmonTrain.

The SalmonTrain poster at Gilmore Station.

Fin Donnelly, founder and executive director of RSBC, chairs the event.

Louise Towell, co-founder of SMDS, speaks.

Dan Johnson, Burnaby City councillor.

Partners pose in front of the Gilmore Station poster.

The SalmonTrain arriving at the station.

Louise and Joan Carne, SDMS co-founders.

The partners in front of the train.

A closer look at the exterior.

The urban stream inside the train.

An incredibly lifelike storm drain on the floor.

A closeup of Dreamfish in the floor stream.

The message? All street drains lead to fish habitat.

A ceiling poster, also called a "Michaelangelo."

Another ceiling poster.

So the message is, all rain drains (storm drains) connect directly to local creeks and streams. Why does this message need to get out? Ironically, as my wife Yumi and I walked home from Edmonds Skytrain Station after the event, we came across what was likely paint coming down Powerhouse Creek that leads to Byrne Creek. Somebody was washing out painting equipment into a storm drain, so we called the city in on it. There are still a lot of people to teach!


Update: Lots of stuff on You Tube

Salmon Train Launch -- Fin Donnelly, Louise Towell and Dan Johnson


Translink's Drew Snider

SDMS co-founder Joan Carne

Posted by Paul at 07:56 PM

September 06, 2007

Nature Illuminated at Deer Lake

My wife Yumi was interviewed about her animal lanterns that are part of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers display at the Night of Lights lantern festival in Burnaby. Originally I posted the story and photo here with full and repeated attribution to the Newsleader because their website does not have direct links to individual stories. On second thought, I am removing that copyright material. To find the story, go to the Newsleader website and click on the "Arts" link in the top navigation bar. It should be there for at least a week or two.

Posted by Paul at 11:37 PM

September 05, 2007

Great Info on wikiHow

I just ran across a site called wikiHow "The How-to Manual That You Can Edit."

It has several entries related to streamkeeping and stormwater management.

Here is an entry on creating a rain garden.

And another one on how to
reduce stormwater runoff at your home

Looks like there are plenty of other goodies, too.

Posted by Paul at 07:39 PM

August 16, 2007

Paint Flows Into Byrne Creek

Someone was washing paint or a similar substance into a rain (storm) drain in or near our townhouse complex today, and it was flowing into Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby. Yumi and I immediately called the spill in to the city, and they sent out an environmental officer from the engineering department to check it out.

Our complex is being painted in the same white colour, so while Yumi and I were waiting for the officer to arrive, we checked all the storm drains in our complex. We found one with evidence of a white substance leading into it, but it appeared to be the work of an owner, not the painting company. Since the drain pipe runs between our complex at 6700 Rumble St. and the one next door at 6670 Rumble St., we also checked the neighbouring complex, and found a patio with white wash leading down another drain.

The officer spoke with the units that appeared to have washed something down the rain drains; however, it was difficult to find a smoking gun. We'll certainly keep an eye out for any recurrence.

All drains on streets and parking lots lead directly to local creeks and are not treated!

If you see anything entering a creek in Burnaby, smell something bad near a rain drain, or see dying fish, contact the 24-hour emergency line at: 604-294-7200.



Posted by Paul at 07:49 PM

Como Creek Wiped Out

I was saddened to hear a report from Pamela Zevit of the Como Watershed Group that the creek was hit by toxins for the second time in a month, likely wiping out any remaining fish.

I am taking the liberty of posting her initial report here, which I found on the Salmonopolis website:

Second Toxic Event In A Month Wipes Out Remaining Como Creek Fish

By Pam Zevit

It is with a heavy heart that I have to inform the community that a second toxic event has now impacted the remaining fish in Como Creek. Senior environmental emergency response, fire, the City and enforcement are all on scene at the time of this e-mail to deal with the problem and initiate the investigation. I have been on scene and have been provided some preliminary information. While there is some idea as to the cause of the event, the actual source of the toxic material which entered the creek system upstream of Millside school is still being determined via investigation. While I cannot provide any comment until such time as the information is made public, I can tell you that the last pocket of salmon and trout which were upstream of where the fire runoff entered the creek in July (just one month ago) are now dead. This basically means that while some remnant numbers of fish may have survived, for the most part the fish bearing part of the creek system from Brunette Avenue to at least the Superstore area (and possibly farther downstream) are now pretty much sterilized. Most of the dead fish will be collected as there are concerns that they may be toxic to wildlife.

If you wish further information please contact the City of Coquitlam in the coming days. I will pass on any further information when I know more.

I have toured the Como Watershed with Pamela and want to express my sympathies (and outrage) at these avoidable events. It is difficult to find the words to express the heartbreak and anger that accompany a tragedy like this, after one has invested so much time and effort into preserving a slice of nature in the concrete jungle. I wish Como Creek the best, and may nature work her wonders in bringing life back to its waters.

Posted by Paul at 07:08 PM

August 04, 2007

Snakes by a Creek!

A few Byrne Creek Streamkeepers went out battling invasive Policeman's Helmet in the creek this morning, and found several garter snakes soaking up the heat beneath black garbage bags in which we compost evil plants on site.

Streamkeeper Maho inspects a garter snake.

My wife Yumi checks out another one.

We handled them gently and released them unharmed.

A close-up of one of the harmless beauties.

A grasshopper posed for a portrait.

Posted by Paul at 06:00 PM

July 18, 2007

Donaldson's Salmon Poetry

A friend sent me a link to Peter Donaldson's moving salmon lifecycle poems. He has a lot of excellent material on his site, and I hope to catch his Salmonpeople one-man performance some day.

Posted by Paul at 05:44 PM

July 14, 2007

Dreamfish Renewed at Discovery Day

Burnaby's Discovery Day at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts on Deer Lake was the site of the latest Stream of Dreams Murals Society and Byrne Creek Streamkeepers renewal of Dreamfish from the original fish mural at the corner of Kingsway and Edmonds. Those Dreamfish commemorated the killing of 5,000 fish in Byrne Creek in 1998 when someone poured a toxin down a storm drain, and grew into a watershed education and community art program that has taught over 50,000 participants across Canada with over 160 murals installed.

That original mural came down for a new development, and we salvaged fish that were still in good condition, and prepped them so that they could be repainted for a new location on a bridge on the Urban Trail that crosses the Skytrain line near Edmonds station.

You cannot paint a Dreamfish until you have heard the story of the death and rebirth of Byrne Creek, and learn how drains on streets and parking lots lead directly to local waterways.

Stream of Dreams co-founder Joan Carne explains how rain drains lead to local creeks.

Stream of Dreams co-founder Louise Towell talks about environmentally friendly cleaning products.

Kids painting Dreamfish.

My wife Yumi found time amid volunteering to paint a Dreamfish.

Kids double-teaming on a Dreamfish.

Adults become kids again, and the creativity flows.

Admiring the growing collection.

A closer view of a few beauties.

Posted by Paul at 08:41 PM

July 01, 2007

Dreamfish Revived at Canada Day Fest

Canada Day dawned bright and clear, and the Stream of Dreams Murals Society and Byrne Creek Streamkeepers took part in the festivities at Burnaby's Eastburn Community Centre.

We've participated in this event for many years, but this day was special because we invited people to help revive the original Stream of Dreams dreamfish that graced a chainlink fence at the corner of Kingsway and Edmonds in Burnaby for many years. The dreamfish commemorated the killing of 5,000 fish in Byrne Creek in 1998 when someone poured a toxin down a storm drain, and grew into a watershed education and community art program that has taught nearly 50,000 participants across Canada.

That original mural had to come down for a new development, and we salvaged all the wooden fish that were still in good condition, and sanded them and primed them so that they could be repainted for a new location on a bridge on the Urban Trail that crosses the Skytrain line near Edmonds station.

Dreamfish are special, and you cannot paint one until you have heard the story of the death and rebirth of Byrne Creek, and learn how drains on streets and parking lots lead directly to local waterways. We set up a pathway in our tents through which people passed to learn that story, and then they painted their dreamfish.

People line up to paint dreamfish.

We had lots of posters of trout and salmon to provide inspiration.

Kids learn from a 3D topo map of the Byrne Creek watershed.

Kids paint their dreamfish.

The collection of fresh dreamfish grows.

The palettes of paint grew increasingly funky!

Here's another one next to a blank dreamfish.

Even more dreamfish...

Admiring the eclectic collection.

Do you remember which dreamfish you painted?

What's a Canada Day without an RCMP honour guard?

Or municipal, provincial, and federal politicians cutting a cake?

By the end of the afternoon, Stream of Dreams and streamkeeper volunteers were exhausted, but we had a great time.

Posted by Paul at 08:19 PM

May 14, 2007

Byrne Creek Duckling Rescue!

Yumi and I found a mallard couple and five ducklings in the Byrne Creek sediment pond this afternoon.

Dad took off, leaving Mom to protect her babies. The family had either jumped in or come down the culvert, and once over the stop log the ducklings couldn't get out of the concrete basin. We hauled a debris log from the spillway and made a ramp, but it took Mom and the kids the longest time to figure out how to use it. We kept gently shooing them toward it, and Mom finally jumped out and stood near the top end of the log, and quacked to attract her kids. A couple of them figured it out and scooted up and over, followed eventually by a third, but two were left behind.

At that point it appeared that Mom was going to accept her losses and began leading the three down to the overflow pond. The two left behind became increasingly frantic, peep-peeping mournfully. Finally one of them discovered the log and scooted up, and fortunately number five saw him go and skittered on up as well.

By this time Mom and the other three were swimming down the overflow pond, and the two laggards veered off the spillway and into the habitat. One of them finally rejoined the group, but number five was lost in the spawning channel. We saw no. 5 several times and kept trying to shoo it toward the overflow pond, but it finally went to ground and stopped peeping, so we gave up. By that point we were wondering if our efforts were doing more damage than good!

Mom and the kids near the log we put in place as a ramp.

Posted by Paul at 07:02 PM

May 08, 2007

Byrne Creek Coho Smolt Relaase

Kids from Stride Ave. Community and Kenneth Gordon schools in southeast Burnaby released coho salmon smolts (babies) into Byrne Creek today. The event was a blast, and we were also graced by the presence of a bald eagle that sat in a tree watching the fun until the noise got to be too much and it flew away. Our DFO community advisor Maurice Coulter-Boisvert shows up with the tank full of fish from the Bell-Irving Hatchery at Kanaka Creek, and the kids are given plastic bags of the yearling fish to release into the creek.

Maurice speaks to the kids.

Kids watch the fish they've released.

A slightly stunned smolt gets used to its new surroundings.

Posted by Paul at 06:55 PM

April 24, 2007

Byrne Creek Chum Fry Release

Kids from Glenwood Elementary and Kenneth Gordon schools in southeast Burnaby released chum salmon fry (babies) into Byrne Creek today. The event was great fun as it always is. Our DFO community advisor Maurice Coulter-Boisvert shows up with the tank full of fish from the Bell-Irving Hatchery at Kanaka Creek, and the kids are given plastic bags of the wee fish to release into the creek.

Posted by Paul at 06:51 PM

April 19, 2007

Thank You South Slope Elementary

I would like to thank teacher Gary Thompson and his students at South Slope Elementary in Burnaby for the package of thank you cards that I received today. It was totally unexpected and greatly appreciated.

Gary and his students have participated in the Salmon in the Classroom program for many years. They receive chum salmon eggs from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and care for them in their classroom until they hatch as alevins. They feed them until the tiny fish reach the fry stage, and then the kids release them into Byrne Creek. As volunteer streamkeepers, my wife Yumi and I have had the privilege of guiding the kids to the creek for several years now.

This year's South Slope Elementary release was particularly meaningful to me, because my Mom was dying of cancer. I didn't tell Gary, but it was an uplifting moment being with his kids that morning, and seeing them so full of life and wonder.

Later that day I told Mom about the fry release, and though she was heavily medicated, she indicated that she understood, and was happy. She loved kids, she loved teaching, and she was a teacher of teachers. She died that evening, and it wasn't until today that I made the connection that South Slope Elementary is right across the street from St. Michael's Hospice, the wonderful place where she spent her last few days.

Posted by Paul at 08:19 PM

March 20, 2007

Streamkeepers ID Several Species of Salmonid Fry in Byrne Creek

Baby salmon and trout are appearing in greater numbers in Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby. Yumi and I positively identified chum salmon fry and cutthroat trout fry today and have photo evidence. We also thought we had got a few coho salmon fry, but unfortunately we have only one, poor-quality photo to back us up.

NOTE: It is illegal to net baby fish, and streamkeepers do so with permission from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We handle them with care and release them once we get a close look at them and take some photos.


A chum fry. Note the parr marks that do not extend below the lateral line, and the light greenish coloration.


A cutthroat fry. Black leading ray and white tip on dorsal fin.


Three chum and one cutthroat in the creek after we released them. The chum are in the top center-left and the cutthroat is at the bottom right. The chum were around 5cm long, while the cutthroat was about 3.5cm.


Likely a coho fry -- it's a poor photo, but the anal fin does appear to be sickle shaped, and have a leading white ray followed by a dark ray.

Posted by Paul at 05:38 PM

March 14, 2007

Salmon Fry Popping Up in Byrne Creek

Salmon fry (babies) are popping up out of the gravel in Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby. I saw fry in several areas of the creek, the spawning habitat and the sediment pond this afternoon. I was elated to spot them because streamkeepers had seen fry several weeks earlier last year, and I was getting concerned. I haven't positively identified them yet, but they are likely chum. I also saw mayflies hatching and a butterfly, so spring is in the air. Last, but not least, I saw a muskrat or beaver swim into a hole in the bank of the overflow pond in the habitat.

Look carefully and you can see a school of fry above the gravel.

This mayfly has just hatched. The husk is above.

Here's one emerging. A nymph can be seen to the left.

Posted by Paul at 04:57 PM

March 08, 2007

Steelhead Recovery Biologist Speaks to Streamkeepers

Greg Wilson, a fish biologist with the BC Ministry of Environment, spoke to Byrne Creek Streamkeepers about steelhead recovery and habitat restoration efforts in BC this evening. It was an interesting presentation about these unique fish, and he also addressed assessment of the massive fish kill on the Cheakamus River after the August 2005 toxic spill when a CN train derailed on a bridge over the river.

Posted by Paul at 10:37 PM

March 04, 2007

Now That's Rain Drain Marking!

Streamkeepers in BC have long been marking rain drains (aka storm drains) with painted yellow fish to inform the public that all street and parking lot drains lead directly to local creeks and streams. Here's a video from New Zealand with some amazing drain marking!

Posted by Paul at 10:07 AM

March 02, 2007

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Release 2006 Watershed Report

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers released their Byrne Creek Watershed 2006 Status Report today (5.8MB PDF file).

The report grew from 17 pages in 2005 to 27 pages in 2006. We added an extensive write-up on the February 2006 fish kill as an appendix, and added new sections on pH measurements, rain drain marking, and community participation.

Thanks to everyone who contributed!

Posted by Paul at 05:15 PM

February 26, 2007

Calling All Streamkeepers: Workshop 2007

Community Workshop 2007 for BC streamkeepers will be held May 18-20, 2007, at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake, BC. The topic is "Stewardship in Transition: Impact and Adaptations in a Changing Climate."

Check out the conference website for more information and registration forms. Yumi and I went to the conference in Squamish nearly two years ago, and had a great time.

Posted by Paul at 08:11 PM

February 24, 2007

NewsLeader Publishes My Green Street Letter

The Burnaby NewsLeader published my letter in support of the City of Burnaby's green street initiative that I wrote about here.

Unfortunately, you cannot link to specific NL items, so I'll just paste it here:

Burnaby?s alternative street design project applauded

Feb 23 2007

Kudos to the City of Burnaby for initiating a pilot project to make Clinton Street greener while benefiting Byrne Creek and the surrounding environment. (NewsLeader, Feb. 22)

I am excited by this plan and envy local residents who will likely see the beautification of their street result in a reinforced sense of community and higher property values. What bonuses to appreciate, while also knowing their street will have a positive effect on the health of their watershed, and their own physical and mental well-being.

As a volunteer with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, I am elated the City has chosen this area for the pilot project.

One of our greatest concerns as stewards of our beautiful neighbourhood waterway is the impact of unrestrained flows of rainwater through street drains directly into the creek. Not only do such huge flows from impervious surfaces such as roads and parking lots contribute to erosion and sedimentation of salmon spawning areas, they also carry pollutants such as oil, antifreeze, brake-lining dust, and other toxins into the creek.

The City?s street edge alternative (SEA) project will help on both counts.

I sense that as a society we are becoming increasingly aware of our impact on our environment, and are realizing that we can all make a difference. Indeed, that we all must start making a difference if our children and grandchildren are to enjoy healthy, sustainable lives.

Such change happens person by person, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, and I am proud that the city I have chosen to live in is taking the lead in fostering such progress.

Paul Cipywnyk

Posted by Paul at 01:06 PM

February 22, 2007

SEA Street Pilot For Southeast Burnaby

Burnaby is planning a pilot SEA (street edge alternative) project on a section of Clinton St. near Ron McLean Park. This is a very exciting development, and I'm elated that it's going into the Byrne Creek watershed, where I volunteer as a streamkeeper.

What's so great about SEA streets? They reduce the amount of rain that runs off into rain drains (storm drains :-) by as much as 90% or even more compared to traditional streets with curbs and gutters. This is very important to local creeks because all of those street drains connect directly to them. That means every time it rains, massive amounts of water go shooting down the creeks because it cannot sink into the ground, or be caught by vegetation, as it did in pre-development times.

Not only do SEA streets reduce runoff, they also help to filter pollutants such as oil, gas, brake-lining dust, antifreeze and other substances that collect on roads. They do this by providing vegetated swales, or shallow ditches beside roads, so that water can soak into the ground. Not only are they functional, they are also beautiful. I hope the neighborhood gets excited about this project, and that it goes well, so that it expands to other areas.

Seattle has had great success with SEA streets. Here are a few links:

Street Edge Alternatives Project

SEA Steets Virtual Tour

Wikipedia entry on daylighting creeks and SEA streets.

Wikipedia entry on rain gardens and SEA streets.

Posted by Paul at 03:15 PM

February 20, 2007

Flow Monitor Installed in Byrne Creek

Burnaby installed a flow monitor in Byrne Creek recently as part of work toward developing an Integrated Stormwater Management Plan (ISMP) for the watershed. I look forward to seeing the data, as the creek has become very flashy due to the effects of urban development and increasing impervious surfaces that result in rain shooting into the creek in huge quantities through rain drains (storm drains :-).

Streamkeepers have been collecting some data on flows for years by manually reading staff gauges installed above and below a gate in the spawning habitat, however readings have been sporadic. The new data-logging equipment will give much greater detail.


Posted by Paul at 03:00 PM

Byrne Creek Fry Patrol

Salmon fry (babies) should be popping out any day now from the nests that spawning chum and coho made in Byrne Creek last autumn. While the returning spawner count was disappointing last year at around a third of its peak since the creek was restored, streamkeepers did tally around a dozen redds (nests of eggs) in the creek and spawning habitat.

Yumi and I checked several spots where we've seen fry in previous years, but we didn't see any yet. It wasn't a good day for spotting the wee fish -- it was overcast and fairly dark. It's much easier to see them on a bright, sunny day, when they cast shadows as they flit around.

Posted by Paul at 02:53 PM

February 03, 2007

Atlantic Salmon in Saskatchewan?!

I was skimming an issue of Outdoor Canada and was blown away to read that Atlantic Salmon have been farmed in Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan and anglers have caught escapees in the Saskatchewan River. I don't understand why people continue to introduce non-native species all over the place. It just seems such a no-brainer that this sort of tampering with nature will have negative consequences.

I ran across this article that has sections on fish farming all across Canada:

The Canadian Society for Bioengineering: The Canadian society for engineering in agricultural, food, environmental, and biological systems. A special issue on aquaculture

Posted by Paul at 02:09 PM

January 28, 2007

Trout Repopulate Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers were happy to tally 55 trout in their winter trapping run on Burnaby's Byrne Creek--a number that was near previous highs. The results were heartening considering that a year ago a toxin introduced into the creek through a rain drain (storm drain) killed all fish throughout most of its length. We identified species, measured them, and released them back into the creek.

NOTE: It is illegal to trap fish, and streamkeepers do so for monitoring purposes under the auspices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Streamkeepers retrieve a trap.

Measuring a fish--you have to be gentle and quick so as not to harm them.

Streamkeepers work their way up the misty ravine.

Posted by Paul at 09:51 PM

January 27, 2007

Foggy Fish Trapping on Byrne Creek

Twice a year Byrne Creek Streamkeepers set out Gee traps in the creek to check on populations of cutthroat trout and young coho salmon. We leave them in overnight and come back the next morning to identify, measure and release any fish that are caught.

It was a foggy, mysterious morning on the creek today, with a forecast for sun. I love the arduous tramp up the ravine. It's hard to believe you're in a city once you get into its depths. Well, the old tires here and there, and the garbage that washes down the creek are reminders that this is not pristine wilderness...

The foggy ravine before the sun burns through.

John, Dave, Dave, and Yumi set a trap and check water temperature and pH.

Yumi checking pH. The results were good all along the creek.

Resting on a trail as the sun tops the ravine rim.

Lovely light pours through the woods.

Posted by Paul at 08:07 PM

January 24, 2007

Dead Cutthroat Trout, Mayflies in Byrne Creek

We found a dead cutthroat trout in the sediment pond above the spawning habitat in Burnaby's Byrne Creek today. It was about 30cm long, and when we opened it up, it was a male. No signs of external damage. There were plenty of other live trout around, so it wasn't killed by a toxin. I wonder if was an early spawner near the end of its life cycle. CORRECTION: Yumi believes that it was spiked by a heron -- there was a stab wound that I assumed I had inflicted when I scooped it out of the pond with a pike, but she thinks that the size and shape of the wound were smaller than what the pike would have done.



We also saw many mayfly nymphs in pools on the spillway between the sediment pond and the overflow pond, and also found one hatched, rather bedraggled looking mayfly floating on the surface of the sediment pond. We fished it out with a twig.


Posted by Paul at 04:33 PM

January 04, 2007

Salmon Spawning Season Ends in Byrne Creek

As winter sinks its grips into the lower mainland of BC with unusual ferocity, it appears that the salmon spawning season has ended for southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek for another year. Autumn is the most exciting time of the year for Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, for the return of salmon to this struggling urban waterway in the autumn is the most visible evidence that our efforts to protect and enhance the watershed are not in vain.

This year the returns were poor -- at around 35 chum and coho we saw only about a third of the over 90 spawners recorded in 2004 -- our best year since volunteers began to rehabilitate the once-dead creek about 20 years ago. It was a wild, wet and snowy year though, so we suspect we missed salmon that we couldn't see in the high, dirty water, or that were flushed away in the heavy rains before we could find their carcasses. A good sign is that we saw at least 10 redds (nests of eggs) in the spawning channel, well up from sightings in the last few years.

You may scoff at these numbers, but seeing as only about a third of the creek remains in a somewhat natural state, and the rest is piped or ditched, any positive results are to be celebrated.

Streamkeepers patrolled the creek almost daily as the weather allowed, and though past records indicate the spawners peter out by mid to late December, we continued into the New Year, hoping...

We have lots of other activities to keep us busy until once again we begin stalking the creek for the first spawners next October, but we'll miss them. They surmount incredible odds from birth to going out to sea, to returning to spawn and die, and we appreciate every one that makes it back to "our" small, battered creek.

Posted by Paul at 09:44 PM

December 18, 2006

Excellent Videos on West Coast Salmon

Excellent series of videos on salmon, their life cycle, their decline, and their historical relationship to people and life on the west coast. Thanks to Zo Anne (Pacific Streamkeepers Federation) and Joan (Stream of Dreams) for the links!

The last run, part 1: www.lifeonterra.com/episode.php?id=24
The last run, part 2: www.lifeonterra.com/episode.php?id=25
The last run, part 3: www.lifeonterra.com/episode.php?id=26

Posted by Paul at 11:42 AM

December 17, 2006

Streamkeepers Wrap Trees Against Beavers

Beavers have been mowing down trees in the artificial spawning habitat on Burnaby's Byrne Creek. While the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers are all for urban biodiversity, we felt we had to protect the trees in the habitat that provide crucial shade for the spawning channel in the summer, so we had a tree-wrapping session this morning. We use chicken wire, and it's effective in keeping Canada's national symbol at bay :-).

A view of some of the damage.

Here I am going at it with chicken wire and cutters.

My wife Yumi, Bob, and Rusty, one of our mascots.

Posted by Paul at 07:05 PM

December 13, 2006

Byrne Creek Patrol Finds Oil Still Seeping, Dead Cutthroat

The oil that streamkeepers saw entering Burnaby's Byrne Creek a week ago is still trickling out of a storm outfall. City environmental staff put a boom in to try to soak some of it up, but it doesn't appear to be very effective. Today we found a dead cutthroat trout a few meters downstream of where the substance is entering the creek, and while it's impossible to say there is a causal relationship, it's possible the fish blundered into a pocket of the pollutant.

This little cutthroat trout had no visible external damage and was 17.5cm long.

As we worked our way upstream looking for spawning salmon, the sun broke through.

It's beautiful moments like this that lift a streamkeeper's spirits!

Posted by Paul at 05:37 PM

December 11, 2006

Burnaby Acknowledges Streamkeepers, Stream of Dreams

There's a nice mention of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and the Stream of Dreams Murals Society on this City of Burnaby page. (Check the Community Support area) for their input into the city's Eco-Sculpture program.

As a streamkeeper volunteer and president of the Stream of Dreams board of directors, thanks Burnaby! We enjoy working with the city and appreciate the support.

Posted by Paul at 07:32 PM

December 09, 2006

BC MLA Raj Chouhan Tours Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers were happy to take BC MLA Raj Chouhan on a tour of the creek this morning. We explained how the watershed works, what we do throughout the year, and what some of our concerns are. We really appreciated the opportunity to share, particularly since MLAs are so busy. Mr. Chouhan gamely followed us through the bush in the spawning habitat, asked many questions, and shared his appreciation for volunteer efforts like ours.


Posted by Paul at 08:04 PM

December 06, 2006

Coho Spawners, Polluting Oil in Byrne Creek

Today Yumi and I did our weekly salmon spawning patrol for the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers in southeast Burnaby. We were happy to find a couple of coho, but were also dismayed to see a steady stream of oil entering the creek from a storm outlet. We called the city's environment department, and they sent staff out to put a boom in and try to trace the source.

Here's the oil entering Byrne Creek.

This outfall has always been problematic, with oily substances appearing quite often. Today the flow was stronger than usual and steady. This must be more than just road wash.

The amount of guck accumulating in the settling pond is also increasing...

A magnificent male coho that we found today.

We measured him and checked out his internals, and his milt was loose so he appeared to have spawned. We process spawners and keep records under the auspices of the DFO.

We were also happy to find a huge new redd, or nest of eggs, in the spawning channel, with a female guarding it. We found the expired male perhaps 15-18 meters downstream, and there are few spawners in the system now, so he may have been her partner.

Posted by Paul at 07:23 PM

November 29, 2006

Cold Spawner Patrol on Byrne Creek

Yumi and I did a cold, wet spawner patrol on Burnaby's Byrne Creek today -- halfway through it started snowing again. We were rewarded with one dead spawner, unfortunately it was a female coho salmon that had not deposited her eggs. Poor visibility precluded sighting any other returning salmon.

An unspawned female coho.

(Please note that streamkeepers monitor spawners under the auspices of the DFO -- please do not disturb salmon or their carcasses.)

Oily filth accumulates in the semi-frozen spawning habitat.

The blast of snow in BC's lower mainland is going to have a negative impact on local creeks. All the salt and snow melt that people use to keep their vehicles moving will eventually make its way down rain drains (AKA storm drains :-) and into local waterways.

Posted by Paul at 09:40 PM

November 18, 2006

Salmon-Safe Certification -- Why Not in BC?

I first learned about the Salmon-Safe certification program at the 2006 State of the Fraser Basin Conference a few days ago. It's an intriguing program that certifies farms, vineyards, industrial sites and even parks as being salmon safe. I think this is a great idea, and one that would be excellent to transplant to British Columbia.

"Welcome to Salmon-Safe. Almost a decade after we first started certifying fish friendly farms in Oregon's Willamette Valley, Salmon-Safe has become one of the nation's leading regional eco labels with more than 50,000 acres of farm and urban lands certified. The Salmon-Safe retail campaign has been featured in 200 supermarkets and natural food stores."

Posted by Paul at 06:58 PM

Federal, Provincial Govts Invest $20 Million in Fraser Salmon

Some good news. Read the press release.

Posted by Paul at 02:06 AM

November 10, 2006

Heavy Rains, Urban Development Batter Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek has been suffering as torrential waters barrel through it during the recent heavy rains that have hit the lower mainland of BC. The ravages are human caused -- if the watershed were still in its natural pre-settlement state, the creek would be in fine shape. Say what?

Yes, development is pouring the massive amounts of water into the creek -- the deluge comes from roads, parking lots, and buildings that drain directly into the creek. All those roads, all those parking lots, all that pavement, all those roofs mean that rain pours directly into the creek through the rain-drain (storm drain) system instead of being absorbed into the ground.

We can't turn back time, we can't "un-develop" urban areas, but why can't we protect what few teeny pocket forests we have left? Why not redevelop aging one- and two-story buildings into towers instead of clearcutting pockets of urban biodiversity?

Burnaby has done a decent job of protecting urban biodiversity, but it could be doing so much more.

Heavy rain turns what is normally a few inches of water into a torrent that scours the creek.

Massive flow is causing erosion and ripping a new, less diverse channel through the creek.

Posted by Paul at 08:27 PM

November 08, 2006

Byrne Creek Spawner Patrol

I went on my first spawner patrol this autumn on Byrne Creek this morning, as I had been away at university for three weeks. Yumi and I found two dead coho spawners and a very dead chum. We also saw four live chum and a live coho.

Unfortunately, the two coho were both unspawned females. They were in excellent shape and had not begun to turn color as spawners usually do. Their egg sacs were still firm, and we wondered why they had died prematurely. We hope this doesn't become a recurring pattern with female coho, as it was last year on Byrne Creek.

Here's Yumi hauling one of the coho out of the spawning channel.

A close-up of the egg sacs.

Yumi found this one by smell! Not much left of it...

Streamkeepers measure all dead salmon spawners we find and check if they have spawned. We then cut the carcasses in half so we don't double count, and return them to the creek where they provide essential nutrients.

Posted by Paul at 06:45 PM

October 25, 2006

Streamkeepers in Burnaby Now

The Burnaby Now had a good article today on Byrne Creek Streamkeepers monitoring returning salmon spawners with a couple of photos. It's great to get the coverage. There was one misunderstanding though, in that the spawners tallied and pictured were chum, not coho.

Posted by Paul at 09:12 PM

October 16, 2006

Salmon Return to Byrne Creek

I knew it! The day after I arrived in Victoria for my second residency at Royal Roads, salmon were spotted in Byrne Creek back in Burnaby. A member of the streamkeeping group that I volunteer with spotted two chum and one unidentified salmon following the rains that came on the weekend. I'm sorry to have missed the start of the run, but I'll be following reports from the group while I'm away.

Posted by Paul at 08:37 PM

October 14, 2006

Low River/Stream Conditions in BC

The BC Environment Ministry issued a press release today saying: "Rivers in a large portion of the province continue to experience low streamflow conditions. In some areas, these continue to be record-low flows for the date."

Details here.

Posted by Paul at 08:52 PM

And Man Created Coho

There was a story in the Vancouver Sun today about coho salmon in the city. It's part of a series of short articles on urban wildlife. While I applaud the Sun's initiative in educating the public about nature, the coho story ended with a rather strange sentence that implied coho never existed in urban streams in the lower mainland until humans began stocking the fish.

"Fish in the city: Initially all the coho that swam out to sea from city streams were hatchery-born. They were transported to creeks as fry, where they remained until heading to Georgia Strait and the Pacific a year and a half later. Hatchery-born fry are still added to creeks but, over time, wild-born fry have become part of the spring mix."

There is a huge historical gap here -- human activity wiped out "fish in the city" for decades. Vancouver used to have over 60 streams, of which only a few still exist, and only a couple provide spawning access and habitat. All the rest have been paved over and piped. Where I live next door in Burnaby we are more fortunate in having a greater number of productive urban streams because development happened later here, at a time when people were more aware of environmental and sustainability issues.

But no, hatcheries and humans did not create salmon runs in the city! The best we can say is that we brought some of them back in a diminished state with a lot of hard work after realizing the error of our destructive ways.

Posted by Paul at 08:03 AM

October 10, 2006

Adams River Sockeye Run

Yumi and I headed up to the Adams River yesterday afternoon to take in the sockeye run -- 2006 is one of the peak returns that happen every four years. I checked the BC Parks website and discovered that a campground near Vernon, Kekuli Bay, was still open, so we decided to spend the night there.

That evening it was cold and windy, and we chowed down on hot ramen and hot dogs in the dark.


The next morning, we had a chat with the park operator and complimented him on the clean site. The park is on the bare side, but still beautiful in its own way. We saw loads of small fish from the dock, and enjoyed the changing colors on Kalamalka Lake as the sun rose.


We drove up to Adams Lake via the Falkland-Chase road. It's a small highway with a stretch of gravel that passes through pretty country. When we arrived at Roderick Haig-Brown park, it was already crowded even on a weekday. There were lots of schoolbuses with hundreds of kids.


DFO staff were on hand to tell people about the sockeye, and disect a few dead ones.


We headed out to the river to watch the fish. It is a breathtaking sight to see the thousands of spawners performing their final act before they die.



We were surprised to see many chinook spawners as well -- they are huge fish compared to the sockeye. We hadn't seen any chinook when we visited the Adams run four years ago. Here's a dead chinook next to a dead sockeye and the size disparity is evident.


There were several people snorkelling and taking video and still images of the spawners.


Here's one more image of a male sockeye in his full glory.


We spent over an hour walking along the river and watching these beautiful animals complete their life cycle. As a sign on the path poignantly pointed out, they're born orphans and die childless. A true wonder of nature.

We drove to Kamloops and then took the 5A south to Merrit, stopping for an hour of fishing at Stump Lake along the way. I had a couple of bites casting from shore, saw a trout following my lure, and had one on line for 10-15 seconds, but we didn't land any. We always use single, barbless hooks. Here's Yumi as the sun began to drop in the sky.


Posted by Paul at 10:00 PM

September 01, 2006

Pre-Sediment Pond Cleanout Fish Salvage

The sediment pond in the Byrne Creek spawning habitat needs to be cleaned out this year, so Burnaby city staff, Envirowest staff, and Byrne Creek Streamkeepers have been salvaging fish by netting them, and releasing them downstream. It's always a fun activity, albeit stressful on the fish. Yet it's better than trying to get them as the water is pumped out -- that's really hard on them.



We were pleased to find several coho among the preponderance of cutthroat trout. Most of the fish were in the 7-12cm range, however we did get a nice cutthroat that was 21.5cm.

Posted by Paul at 06:41 PM

August 17, 2006

Paint Poured Down Storm Drain

I was shocked and disappointed to see someone in our townhouse complex in the Byrne Creek watershed has poured what appears to be paint down a storm drain.


While it didn't appear to be a large amount, any paint at all is no good. People still don't seem to know, or perhaps care, that all storm drains lead to local creeks. That means that anything except rain that goes down those drains could potentially kill fish and other creatures.

I've informed council and also suggested that the drains in our complex be marked with the yellow fish program. As a streamkeeping volunteer, I'd be happy to do so.

Posted by Paul at 04:06 PM

July 30, 2006

Byrne Creek Summer Bug Count

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers completed their summer aquatic invertebrate survey today -- or bug count -- and the results were satisfactory. All of the samples were in the 2.0 - 2.5 range for water quality on a scale with 4 being good. Not bad for an urban creek that faces a constant flow of pollutants from storm drains. Thanks to leader John for organizing the three weekend counts and Dave for tallying the results. Here's one of Dave's charts:

Summary Bug Chart1_200607_small.jpg

We use the standard Streamkeeper's Handbook method of surveying. The types of bugs and their numbers indicate the quality of the water.

Posted by Paul at 07:49 PM

July 26, 2006

Fish Population Recovering in Byrne Creek

The fish population in Burnaby's Byrne Creek is recovering following a devastating toxic spill into a storm drain that killed some 700 trout and coho at the end of February 2006. Byrne Creek Streamkeepers found 15 cutthroat trout in 9 traps tonight, for an average of 1.67 fish per trap. That's still off of the usual tally of 3-5 fish per trap, but its a huge improvement from the big, fat, zero we got a few weeks after the spill.

While we had set out 10 traps, unfortunately one was pulled from the creek by someone. We were fortunate to run across it later in Ron McLean Park. We're not sure if it's pranksters that yank the traps, or perhaps concerned citizens who don't understand that streamkeepers are authorized by the DFO to do such fish surveys.

Posted by Paul at 09:30 PM

July 21, 2006

Fish Killed In Eagle Creek

Over 200 trout and juvenile coho salmon were killed in Burnaby's Eagle Creek when a toxin, perhaps chlorine from a hot tub or pool, was poured down a storm drain. As a volunteer with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, I was dismayed, for some 700 fish were killed in Byrne Creek at the end of February by a toxin that was never identified or its source tracked down.

At least in the Eagle Creek case it appears that the city's environment officers may have discovered the source, and if so, I hope they throw the book at the perpetrator(s). My sympathies to the Eagle Creek Streamkeepers!

The Burnaby Now and the NewsLeader covered the event.

Posted by Paul at 07:36 PM

July 16, 2006

Brunette River Recovery

There's an excellent article in the News Leader on efforts to rehabilitate the Brunette River in the lower mainland of BC. It features longtime streamkeeper Elmer Rudolph, and well-known watershed advocates Mark Angelo and Bob Gunn from BCIT.

Reporter Michael McQuillan presents the history of the river and the terrible impact of unbridled industrialization. Fortunately, citizens and governments are gradually learning that rivers that we once treated as open sewers can be rehabilitated, and that fish and other wildlife will come back. I love to see good news like this, and hope it will only get better in the future.

Posted by Paul at 12:36 PM

July 01, 2006

Canada Day in Burnaby's Richmond Park

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers volunteered at the City of Burnaby's Canada Day event at Richmond Park today. We had great weather and had a fun time interacting with the public. Hundreds of people dropped by our booth to learn a bit about their watershed.

The RCMP bear in front of the streamkeepers booth.

Streamkeepers answer questions.

RCMP honour guard gears up for the opening ceremony.

Air cadets and RCMP lead the parade of dignitaries.

My wife Yumi checks out a cruiser from the driver's seat...

And from the rather less desirable cage in the back seat :-).

Posted by Paul at 07:13 PM

June 19, 2006

Trying New pH Kits in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I received new pH kits from Byrne Creek Streamkeeper Brian yesterday, and we tried them out on our ravine walk by the creek today. We got a reading of 7.5 with the Hach kit from Dynamic Aqua-Supply, and also 7.5 with a lo-Ion paper kit, so at least the results were consistent.


Posted by Paul at 02:11 PM

June 15, 2006

Lamprey Spawn in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I spotted nine lamprey in Byrne Creek today, and most appeared to be paired off and spawning.

This appeared to be a threesome :-).

We also saw lots of caddisfly larva -- they look so cool encased in woody debris and sand.


Posted by Paul at 05:52 PM

June 11, 2006

Burnaby Environment Awards 2006

A few weeks ago we got a call from the City of Burnaby that Yumi and I had won an Environment Award for Community Stewardship for our volunteer work with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. It took awhile for the idea to sink in -- while we've put our share of hours into the group, there are other members who are at least as deserving, if not more so. Ironically, I think what put us in the running was media exposure the two of us got after the devastating fish kill in the creek in late February this year when someone poured a toxin down a storm drain.

Today we received the award from the city's Environment Committee at a nice open-air luncheon at the city art gallery at Deer Lake, along with several other recipients, including an Environmental Star award for youth for another Byrne Creek Streamkeeper, Eleanor King.

Since we began streamkeeping about four years ago, we have made wonderful friends and learned so much.

Yumi, me, my Mom, and her husband Barry.

Posted by Paul at 08:13 PM

May 10, 2006

Gladstone Secondary Kids Tour Byrne Creek

Yumi and I took a bunch of high school students from Gladstone Secondary in Vancouver on a tour of Burnaby's Byrne Creek today. It was a gorgeous day for a loop around the ravine, and while it's sometimes hard to tell with teenagers, I think they enjoyed rambling through the woods. Dunno if they enjoyed my blathering on about streamkeeping and urban biodiversity, but I did get a few questions :-). I like going out with kids and trying to get them to connect a little with nature.

That's me on the right in a ball cap, waving a rolled up map, talking about the watershed.

Posted by Paul at 07:47 PM

May 09, 2006

Taylor Park Kids Release Coho in Byrne Creek

A couple of classes of kids from Taylor Park elementary school released coho smolts (yearlings) into Burnaby's Byrne Creek today. The DFO fish releases are always fun, and it's great watching the childrens' glowing faces as they let the fish go in the creek.

A volunteer helps kids release fish.

Posted by Paul at 09:56 PM

April 30, 2006

Released Chum Fry Still Hanging in Byrne Creek

Several hundred of the thousands of chum fry released in Byrne Creek on Tuesday, April 25, by kids from Burnaby's Clinton Elementary are still hanging around in the creek. Chum start migrating toward the ocean not long after reaching the fry stage, so it's interesting to see schools of them five days after they were released.

Here's Yumi taking close-up shots.

(Netting fry is illegal, and streamkeepers do so under the auspices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for identification purposes only.)

Posted by Paul at 02:21 PM

April 23, 2006

Byrne Creek Teems With Life Months After Toxic Spill

Southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek is burgeoning with life two months after someone dumped a toxin down a storm drain killing some 700 trout and salmon, along with other aquatic life. It's hard to keep nature down, life just keeps bubbling up no matter how our cruelly our supposedly superior, smarter species abuses it.

Yumi and I rambled through the Byrne Creek ravine this sunny, warm afternoon, and were rewarded with an abundance of bugs, birds and baby fish. We saw a pileated woodpecker, a finch, towhees, robins, chickadees and several species of ducks.

The female red-eared slider turtle that someone dumped in the spawning habitat a few years ago was out sunning on a rock--though she's an invasive species it was nice to see she had survived the toxin and come out of hibernation. As for how we can tell she's a female when she dives under the water as soon as we get within 10 meters of her, well, it's all in the tail. Boy turtles have noticeably thicker, larger tails than the girls do.

Insects abounded, some "good" some "bad." The good included bumblebees and crane flies, the bad were represented by tent caterpillars. I guess caterpillars are not really bad, but they do munch so heartily upon trees!

Here are a few photos we snapped:

A cutthroat trout fry hanging out in the creek.

A crane fly larva we spotted in the creek.

And a crane fly (?) that skittered along the ground and up my pants!

It takes patience squatting by the creek to spot some of these beasts.

A water strider.

Bright green algae appears in the creek in the spring.

Posted by Paul at 10:58 PM

April 21, 2006

More Trout Fry in Byrne Creek

More cutthroat trout fry are emerging in Burnaby's Byrne Creek, not quite two months after a toxin poured down a storm drain killed an estimated 700 fish.

We returned this little fella to the creek after taking many photos. You can still see a bit of a tummy bulge left over from the alevin (hatched but still in the gravel) stage where the yolk would have been.

That's my index finger outside the jar behind the fry!

(As always when I post such photos, I caution readers that netting fry is illegal, and streamkeepers do so under the auspices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for identification purposes only.)

Posted by Paul at 10:13 PM

April 14, 2006

Trout Fry Found in Byrne Creek, pH Fears

More good news mixed with bad from Byrne Creek, which was devasted by a toxin that killed hundreds of fish about six weeks ago. In addition to the chum fry (salmon babies) that streamkeepers began seeing a few weeks ago, we're starting to see cutthroat fry.

Yumi and I saw several very small fry in the ravine portion of the creek around noon today, extending from just below the footbridge (T516) to the area near the monument (T519-520). We netted one from a pool about 3 - 4m downstream of the footbridge and it was a cutthroat. It was tiny, two-three centimeters long.

We released this tiny trout unharmed after getting some photos.

Assuming the normal time of around seven weeks for cutthroat to hatch and another week to emerge from the gravel (these figures taken from the BC provincial "Fish Facts" coastal cutthroat pamphlet), the eggs that these fry came from were perhaps laid about 8 - 9 weeks ago, or a week or two before the toxin killed fish in the creek. Nice to know cutthroat are being born!

A negative recording to offset the good news is that we got a low pH reading at T521 (the bottom of the Brynlor stairs) of around 5.5 - 6, which is definitely on the edge for fish and other aquatic life. We got 6.0 on our old pH paper and around 5.5 on new paper streamkeepers bought a few weeks ago. Water temp was 8.5C and air temp was 6.0C.

We're going to monitor the pH closely. Apparently fish need at least 6.5 to do well, and thrive at around 7.5. Try Googling "salmon optimum pH" and you'll find lots of good information.

Posted by Paul at 05:46 PM

April 04, 2006

Streamkeepers Never Surrender!

I was saddened to hear about the death of another creek, yet heartened that local stewards are not giving up. Reay Creek in the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island has had toxic kills for three years in a row, yet Sidney Anglers, Peninsula Streams and Friends of Reay Creek vow to continue restocking efforts. See this article (don't know how permanent this link will be) in the Peninsula News Review.

This case is particularly poignant for me because some 700 fish were killed by a toxin a month ago in Byrne Creek, the urban waterway in Burnbay, BC, on which I volunteer as a streamkeeper. That followed a massive kill of nearly 5,000 fish in Byrne Creek in 1998.

I wonder how many creeks are killed each year in BC? Canada? The world? There should be some means of keeping track of such events and comparing them over time.

Check out the Peninsula Streams Society for more info on the Reay Creek kill and rehabilitation efforts, along with coverage of other watersheds in that area.

Posted by Paul at 09:27 PM

April 01, 2006

Streamkeepers Release Report on Byrne Creek Fish Kill

Streamkeepers have released a report (500K PDF) on the fill kill in Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby on the Feb. 25/26 weekend.

Posted by Paul at 07:05 PM

March 31, 2006

FM 107.9 Streamkeeping Interview

Broadcasting student Jill Batie of BCIT interviewed me a few days ago for an update on the fish kill in Byrne Creek that happened a month ago.

Jill has kindly allowed me to post the interview here. We covered the issues in depth, including an update on the kill, some positive signs that are emerging in the creek, how storm (rain) drains are connected to the creek, the issue of impermeable surfaces and urban development, sustainability, and how Byrne Creek's ongoing struggle has led to an excellent educational/art program by the Stream of Dreams Murals Society that has touched over 32,000 schoolchildren across BC.

You can download the 25-minute interview in a 2.9MB MP3 file. Hope you enjoy it!

Posted by Paul at 07:21 PM

March 29, 2006

Soap Enters Byrne Creek From Hedley

Yumi and I went for a walk down Byrne Creek ravine in southeast Burnaby at around 3:00 this afternoon. As we neared the bottom of the Brynlor stairs, we could see the creek had a heavy soapy flow. When we got to the bottom of the stairs I called the 24-hour spill number, and the person who answered said there was a similar complaint yesterday, and put me through to Environmental voicemail.

Yumi and I tracked it back to the Hedley Ave. outfall -- there was an obvious trail of suds down the side of the ravine over the rocks from the drain pipe. It was near 4:00 by then and the flow of soapy stuff had dwindled.

The Hedley outfall is where rain drains enter the creek from a large area bounded approximately by Hedley Ave. and Gilley Ave. east to west, and Kingsway and Portland north to south. The flow of soap was much too heavy for an individual washing a car. If you see any flows of soapy water or other noxious substances entering rain drains on a street or parking lot, call Burnaby Environmental at 604-294-7460, or after regular hours the spill hotline at 604-294-7200.

The soapy flow near the stairs in the ravine.

Yumi checking the pH. It was 6.0, not bad.

Suds trail down the side of the ravine from the Hedley Ave. pipe.

Posted by Paul at 04:51 PM

March 28, 2006

Byrne Fish Kill Update on 107.9 FM

BCIT contacted me for a radio interview update on the fish kill in Byrne Creek a month ago, and I spoke with broadcasting student Jill Batie for over 20 minutes this morning.

We covered the issues in depth, including an update on the kill, some positive signs that are emerging in the creek, how storm (rain) drains are connected to the creek, the issue of impermeable surfaces and urban development, sustainability, etc. Hope my blathering made some sense!

The interview should be aired on 107.9 FM in the lower mainland at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 30.

Posted by Paul at 11:34 AM

March 26, 2006

Trout Repopulate Damaged Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers trapped four cutthroat trout and a dozen stickleback over the weekend in an area of the creek that was wiped out by a toxin a month ago. While the numbers are still way below average, they are encouraging because it appears that trout are are moving back into the main stem of the creek from its tributaries.

BC Environment Ministry biologists now estimate that 650 - 750 fish were killed in the creek on the Feb. 25/26 weekend based on the numbers of dead collected.

Here's a trout being measured before we released it.

Posted by Paul at 11:20 AM

March 20, 2006

Chum Fry Enliven Devasted Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers John and Maho reported seeing over a hundred fry in the sediment pond in the artificial spawning habitat yesterday, so Yumi and I went to check it out this afternoon.

Sure enough, they were cruising around in schools of a couple of dozen fry each, and we managed to corral a few. Yumi got four in one swipe of her net -- a butterfly net with nice, soft mesh that doesn't hurt the tiny fish.

We put them in a bucket and transferred them to a jar for photos. They were chum salmon, and a welcome sight in a creek that was wiped out by a toxic spill just three weeks ago. Apparently the toxin did not penetrate all the redds, or nests of eggs, deposited by spawning salmon last autumn.

Four chum fry from overhead.

The wee tykes spread like a volley of mini torpedoes.

Here's another overhead with a tape -- they're 4 - 5 cm long.

Yumi getting set to release them back into the creek.

NOTE: Please don't try this with your kids -- it's illegal without the sanction of the DFO!

Posted by Paul at 03:17 PM

March 12, 2006

Byrne Fish Survey Finds Zero Post-Kill Fish

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers conducted our annual late winter/early spring fish-trapping survey over the weekend, and came up with zero fish in an area where we'd usually trap 30-40 on average.

We hadn't been expecting much following the kill two weeks ago of over 300 trout and a few salmon after someone dumped a toxin into a storm drain in the Edmonds area of Burnaby.

While it was exhilarating to hike the ravine in the sunny weather, the result was disappointing.

Setting traps in the creek.

Checking traps the following day.

We usually catch cutthroat trout and coho smolts that we measure and then release. Please note that it is illegal to catch fish through trapping, and that streamkeepers are authorized by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to carry out this research.

Posted by Paul at 09:16 PM

March 10, 2006

Follow the Muddy Brown Creek

Setting out on our regular walk around Byrne Creek at noon, my wife and I could hear from a distance that the water was still running high, at least seven or eight hours after a rare dusting of snow had fallen overnight.

We caught glimpses of the creek through the trees as we walked along the ravine and it looked dirty.

Walking down the Brynlor stairs.

Our impression was confirmed when we reached the bottom of the stairs in the ravine. The water was high, frothy, and coffee-with-milk brown in colour, with near-zero visibility. Runoff following rain or snow is often silty, but this was opaque, and following the major fish kill in the creek just 10 days ago, we were not impressed.


We checked the artificial spawning channel and sediment pond, and could not see a thing, the water was so dirty.

Dark water pouring into the sediment pond from the Southridge culvert.

While we understand it is impossible to contain all silt and dirt in runoff, there is something wrong with this picture. This is not from erosion, for we followed the creek all the way up to where it appears from the storm drain system (it was buried years ago in the upper watershed), and the water there was nearly as bad. So the silt had to be coming from somewhere further up in the watershed.

Byrne Creek between 18th and 17th.

It's not only chemicals and other toxins that streamkeepers worry about, such silty flows are hard on life in the creek as well. Please let Burnaby environmental staff and streamkeepers know if you see dirty water flowing into rain drains (aka storm drains) on streets or in parking lots.

Burnaby Environmental: 604-294-7460
24-hour spill hotline: 604-294-7200

Posted by Paul at 03:19 PM

March 07, 2006

BCIT TV Interview on Byrne Creek Kill

A couple of BCIT broadcasting students interviewed me about the recent fish kill in Byrne Creek, and the story should air on the Shaw Cable community channel this Sunday from 1:30 p.m.

It was another good opportunity to get the word out about how storm drains (or rain drains as we like to call them :-), connect directly to creeks in the Lower Mainland of BC.

We spent over an hour in the rain shooting around the creek -- footage that apparently will be edited down to 2 minutes. It will be interesting to see what they squeeze in!

Posted by Paul at 10:39 PM

March 05, 2006

Promising Bug Count in Despoiled Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers found a little life to celebrate today in the creek, which was hit by a toxic substance last weekend that killed hundreds of trout and some salmon.

Streamkeepers did a "bug count" of aquatic invertebrates over the weekend, focusing on areas already covered two weeks ago. They were happy to find that while the overall rating had dropped a bit, the change was minimal.

That was good news at the end of a devastating week.

Posted by Paul at 04:54 PM

March 03, 2006

Minimal Life Signs in Post-Kill Byrne Creek

We're finding a few signs of life in Burnaby's Byrne Creek, five days after a toxic substance entered a storm drain in the upper watershed, killing hundreds of trout and some young coho salmon. It appears a few fish are beginning to gradually repopulate the creek from some of its tributaries.

A biologist from the BC Environment Ministry who was collecting dead fish from the creek for further studies called me last night to say that he had placed 16 baited traps in the creek yesterday, and invited me to join him this morning to check them out.

There were a few signs of life in the lower reaches that were the farthest away from the toxin's point of entry. We found 3 cutthroat trout, 1 coho smolt, several dozen stickleback, and 1 sculpin spread out among 10 traps between the Fraser River and the golf course. They could have come from the tributaries, or found refuge in them, or perhaps whatever hit the system was diluted by the time it got down there. The 1 coho smolt was in a trap at the outflow where Gray Creek joins Byrne Creek on the u/s (Gray) side of a flood gate, so perhaps it wasn't in the main stem when the event occurred.

We also found a couple of stickleback in three traps around Meadow Bridge and the lower end of the spawning channel in the artificial habitat. The stickleback may have survived by being in the upper reaches of the overflow pond where they might have avoided the flow of deadly stuff. We often see stickleback at the upper end of the overflow pond where there is stagnant water unless rain pushes water down the spillway.

There were no fish in three traps placed near Ron McLean park upstream and downstream of a storm drain outfall we call the "Hell Hole."

So it looks deathly quiet all through the ravine and the habitat, with some signs of life starting around Meadow Bridge, and building up a bit moving further downstream below Marine Way. We've seen lots of cutthroat in Froggers Creek in the past, and there are likely more in the other tributaries, so the cutthroat will gradually repopulate.

We also spotted one free-swimming salmonid fry at the lower end of the Southridge Dr. culvert yesterday, so perhaps it popped out of the gravel after the event and the toxin didn't penetrate the redds (nests of eggs laid by spawning salmon and trout). We're keeping our fingers crossed and our eyes open! With luck there may be a few redds, both salmon and trout, yet to produce....

While the above numbers are minimal, and in no way mitigate the extent of the tragedy, some life is better than no life!

Here's a dragonfly nymph found in one of the traps. Its labium, or mouth, is extended. Cool! I'd never seen one before...

Posted by Paul at 07:11 PM

March 02, 2006

Local Papers Cover Burnaby Fish Kill

The Burnaby Now and the Burnaby NewsLeader both had coverage of last weekend's fish kill in Byrne Creek on their front pages this week.

Both papers also wrote editorials about the kill.

I don't know how stable these links are but here are the two stories:



The NewsLeader doesn't reveal direct links to stories, so the above link will no longer point to this story in a few days.

Posted by Paul at 05:06 PM

March 01, 2006

Citizens Send In Fish Kill Tips

I got a phone call this morning from a person who saw someone dump a gallon pail into a storm drain near the Byrne Creek spawning habitat. The witness soaked up some of the substance with a towel and said it smelled like thinner. He said he'd read about the fish kill in the paper, and tracked me down. I've forwarded the information to Burnaby's environmental department.

If anyone else has any tips, if anyone saw something being dumped into a storm drain in the upper watershed in the Edmonds area last weekend on Saturday or early Sunday, please let streamkeepers or the city know, and we will respect your privacy if you so wish.

Burnaby Environmental: 604-294-7460
Byrne Creek Streamkeepers fish kill messages: fishkill@byrnecreek.org

Posted by Paul at 08:31 AM

Vancouver Sun Picks Up Byrne Fish Kill

Today's Vancouver Sun published a paragraph on the fish kill in Byrne Creek on page B2 based on Dan Hilborn's article that is appearing in the Burnaby Now today.

Access is for subscribers only, but the lead to the Sun story can be seen here.

Posted by Paul at 07:07 AM

February 28, 2006

Global, CTV Coverage of Byrne Creek Kill

I was interviewed by CTV and Global TV this morning about the fish kill in Byrne Creek. The resulting stories were pretty good, especially the Global item with Mike McCardell. He really got across the image of a creek trying to survive in an ever-encroaching urban environment. He also managed to get me three or four clips of some length, rather than the usual half-hour interview parsed down to a 10-second blurb. Thanks!

CTV used several of my photos, but limited my airtime to that 10-second blurb :-).

There will also be stories appearing in the Burnaby Now and the Burnaby Newsleader over the next day or two.

Thanks to all the media for turning out, streamkeepers really appreciate these chances to educate the public. Remember, storm drains on roads and parking lots lead directly to your local creek!

One issue with the Global coverage was that somehow the crew got the notion that Byrne Creek had been buried downstream of Marine Way by the recent widening of Byrne Road, which is not the case. The creek was re-channeled west of Byrne Road some years ago.

Posted by Paul at 07:58 PM

BC Environment Ministry Collects Dead Fish

A couple of biologists from the BC Environment Ministry patrolled Byrne Creek over the last two days, collecting fish from the major kill due to an unknown substance entering the creek through a storm drain.

They collected several hundred fish, and while they said they probably won't be able to determine what killed them, they will try to make the best of a terrible situation by using them to get a picture of life in an urban creek through species identification, measurements and ages.

Posted by Paul at 04:19 PM

February 27, 2006

Fish Kill Extends Throughout Byrne Creek

Volunteers with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers have tracked dead trout and coho smolts all the way up Byrne Creek Ravine Park to Giffiths' Pond near the Edmonds Skytrain station in Burnaby. The total count of dead fish is now about 300.

One volunteer reported a "diesel smell" and a slick of oil coming out of the storm drain where the creek "daylights" (appears from the storm drain system into which it was channeled and covered), and a different chemical odour at another drain that enters the creek nearby.

Volunteers will try to cover lower portions of the creek today to further assess the damage. Streamkeepers increasingly fear that this kill may be approaching the magnitude of the 1998 tragedy that wiped out life in the creek after a toxin was poured down a storm drain in the upper watershed.

Posted by Paul at 10:33 AM

February 26, 2006

Fish Kill in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I were dismayed to find dead fish throughout Byrne Creek this afternoon. The kill took place sometime between noon yesterday, when we walked the ravine portion of the creek and saw no fish, and this afternoon when we counted over 150 dead trout and salmon.

This photo shows trout ranging from 9cm to 33cm in length, along with one coho smolt.

We called the city, and an environmental officer was on the scene in less than half an hour. We also called another streamkeeper, Jane, and we counted 12+ dead between the slide in the ravine and the upstream end of the culvert under Southridge Dr. (Tag 517 to Tag 515). We saw 77+ dead in the Sediment Pond, and 62+ dead in the spawning channel. There were couple on the spillway and one in the overflow pond, for a total of well over 150 fish, most cutthroat trout, with a few coho smolts (young salmon that are born and live in the creek for a year before heading out to sea).

A closeup of the 33cm beauty.

We could not see dead fry (salmon babies that began appearing in the creek a few weeks ago in small numbers), however they are so small that it would take a very close examination to find any, and we ran out of time.


I fear that what killed the bigger fish may have wiped out the fry. It's been raining all evening and into the night, so chances of finding more evidence tomorrow are slim.

Later the city environmental officer called and said he found at least 50 more dead fish up the ravine as high as Ron McLean park. While we don't yet know if this kill is of the epic proportions that wiped out all life in Byrne Creek in 1998 after someone poured a toxic chemical down a storm drain, it does not look good.

I hope we find live fish tomorrow if the rain lets up.

Meanwhile, please remember, EVERYTHING that goes down a storm drain IS NOT TREATED and ends up in a creek or a river.

Posted by Paul at 10:13 PM

February 06, 2006

Storm Dumps Tree on Byrne Creek Footbridge

A recent storm knocked a tree over, damaging the footbridge over Byrne Creek in the ravine. This morning I ran into a city crew inspecting the damage and assessing how they would repair it.

After I said I was a streamkeeper they assured me they were aware of the sensitive environment and that they would be careful working around the creek. We chatted about spawner returns, and how the fry from last autumn's chum and coho spawners should be appearing soon. They even asked me about the woody debris, and I said that I'd heard that the city's policy was to leave it in place as long as it wasn't creating a hazard, and they concurred.



Posted by Paul at 05:13 PM

January 30, 2006

Flat Ben Tours Fraser River, Byrne Creek

This is the second installment in our nephew Flat Ben's visit to Burnaby, BC. The sun came out today after days of rain, so Uncle Paul and Aunt Yumi took Flat Ben to the Fraser Foreshore Park and to Byrne Creek.

Here's Flat Ben on the shore of the north arm of the mighty Fraser River, which is said to have the world's most productive salmon runs. It's also a working river and you can see log booms tied to pilings in the background.


Here's Flat Ben at a Stream of Dreams mural near the spot where Byrne Creek enters the Fraser River.

"Did you paint any of these fish?" Flat Ben asked.

"Yes," replied Aunt Yumi. "I painted the fish at the bottom right corner."


"Hey, what's that square thing over there?" said Flat Ben.

"It's a huge picture frame," said Uncle Paul. "Let's pose you in it with the south slope of Burnaby in the background."


"OK," said Uncle Paul. "It's time to put on our streamkeeper hats. Let's go to Byrne Creek and check the water."

"How do we do that?" asked Ben.

"Well, one indicator is the temperature," said Aunt Yumi. "The temperature of the water determines how long it will take salmon eggs to hatch -- the eggs need a certain accumulated amount of thermal energy to develop into alevins, which are teeny fish with yolk sacs. Chum and coho salmon made nests of eggs called redds in the gravel and cobble on the streambed from October to December, and the fry, or baby fish, should start emerging from the gravel any day now."

Ben held the thermometer in the water and discovered that the temperature was 8 degrees Celsius, or 46 degrees Fahrenheit.


"What else can we test?" asked Ben.

"We also test the pH," said Aunt Yumi. "That tells us how acidic or alkalyne the water is. Fish die if the pH is below 4 or above 9."

"So what does the pH paper say?" asked Ben.

"It's 6.4," said Aunt Yumi, "so that's fine."


"OK, let's go home and decide where to send Flat Ben next," said Uncle Paul. "We'll miss having you around!"

Posted by Paul at 04:25 PM

January 26, 2006

Mayfly Photos From Byrne Creek

When I stopped to scan Byrne Creek from the wooden footbridge in the ravine this afternoon, I spotted this mayfly sitting on the rail. It was dark, cold and wet, so it wasn't moving much.

Here's a photo with flash.


Here's another one without flash. It's interesting how the lighting changes the appearance of the mayfly and the background.


Posted by Paul at 04:16 PM

January 16, 2006

Byrne Creek Salmon Run Disappoints

It appears that the 2005 salmon spawning season in Byrne Creek has ended, with the last coho found on Dec. 29, 2005. Streamkeepers haven't seen any spawners since then.

Unfortunately, the return was less than half of 2004. Streamkeepers were also dismayed that very few male coho returned, and almost all of the female coho found had not spawned. The chum run was very low, less than a third of 2004.

Posted by Paul at 04:56 PM

January 08, 2006

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Volunteer Hours 2005

I started keeping track of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers volunteer hours on June 9, 2005, and here are the results.

They are on the low side, because not everyone tells me when they put in streamkeeping-related volunteer time. Even so, the numbers are impressive for a group with about 15 active members and around another 15 occasional participants.

June 165.5 hours
July 135.5
August 67.5
September 240
October 161.8
November 113.5
December 99

June 9 to Dec. 31, 2005 total: 982.8 hours
Monthly average: 140.4 hours
Weekly average: 32.8 hours

Posted by Paul at 06:20 PM

December 29, 2005

Never Give Up, Salmon Are Still Coming

Yesterday I wrote a sad post about how the salmon spawning season appears to be over with poor results in the lower mainland of BC, and today I find two dead coho spawners in Byrne Creek!

That's the good news. The bad news is that they were both unspawned females, ripe with eggs.


This one was a beauty, big and plump. Too bad she couldn't link up with a male. Where have all the boys gone?

While the overall coho run in the lower mainland has plunged this year, streamkeepers keep finding unspawned females, with few males to be seen. It's a disturbing trend.

Posted by Paul at 11:04 PM

December 28, 2005

Sunshine Enlivens Winter Spawner Patrol

I headed out on our regular Wednesday Byrne Creek spawner patrol today under a dreary overcast sky. I wasn't expecting to see much, as the creek was high and dirty following a heavy rain.

As I walked along I saw blue sky on the horizon, and I wondered if it would clear. I was feeling glum at the poor return of spawning salmon to the creek this year, however the band of blue kept expanding and gradually my spirits rose. By the time I got to the bottom of the ravine, the cloud cover was completely gone.

I searched the spawning channel and habitat in vain, and saw no fish in the ravine either. I think we're probably done for the season, but I keep hoping that the rain we've had nearly every day for a week may entice a few wayward stragglers upstream.

Here's a shot of sunlight bouncing off the water near the footbridge in the ravine.


Posted by Paul at 05:23 PM

December 12, 2005

Burnaby South Green Team Presentation

I was one of two Byrne Creek Streamkeepers who spoke with the Green Team at the Burnaby South High School over lunch today. This is the second year that we've talked to the kids about the watershed, and what they can do to help protect it. It's always interesting to talk to young folk about what streamkeepers do and what issues we are concerned about. It's always a challenge trying to engage teenagers, and its great to see the Green Team getting involved.

Posted by Paul at 06:42 PM

November 26, 2005

Mystery Coho Kill in Byrne Creek

I got a call from two volunteers with the Byrne Creek Streameepers today who were out patrolling the creek for returning salmon spawners. They had come across nine dead coho salmon, all female, all un-spawned, and all looking like they were fresh out of the ocean.

This was unusual for several reasons. First, we rarely see that many dead spawners in one day in our small, urban creek. Second, the fish were in pristine condition, without the usual bodily and color changes that salmon exhibit when they return from salt water to fresh water to spawn. Third, they also found a couple of dead coho smolts -- young fish that live in the creek for a year after they hatch before going out into the ocean.

Coho are our "canaries in coal mines," for they seem to be more sensitive to pollutants than other fish.

We got the word out to a City of Burnaby environmental officer, who went down and took some water samples, and some of the dead fish. We hope an explanation will be found, but often in such cases nothing can be pinpointed.

The kill distressed me, for it added to the toll of female coho that have died before spawning in the creek this autumn.

Posted by Paul at 06:13 PM

November 18, 2005

Disappointing Start to Byrne Creek Spawning Season

We're off to a disappointing start to the salmon spawning season in Byrne Creek, the urban waterway that runs behind our townhouse complex.

So far we've confirmed (measured, sexed, and checked spawning status of dead fish) only 15 chum and 11 coho, less than half of what we had counted by this time last year.

We counted 91 dead spawners last year, and while that may sound paltry, it's an amazing feat for an urban creek in which salmon populations were wiped out for decades. Even after cleanup efforts and restocking initiatives, everything in the creek was killed when someone poured something toxic down a stormdrain six years ago.

It is also frustrating that nearly all of the coho females have not spawned -- we find them with full egg sacs -- while the chum females are almost uniformly spawned.

Streamkeepers have heard that runs have been late this year, so we're hoping the action will pick up.

Posted by Paul at 07:17 PM

October 13, 2005

Coho Spawner Found in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I found a dead coho spawner in Byrne Creek today just a few meters downstream from the wooden footbridge (Tag 516) in the ravine.


It was a strange find, for the fish had not changed colour as spawners typically do.


We processed it for our streamkeeper records, and to our dismay it was a female that had not spawned -- she had two full egg sacs. She was 45cm from eye to base of tail, and 55cm from nose to fork.


We also found three chum salmon in the sediment pond (Tag 514). One pair actively spawning just below the stop log downstream of the culvert, and one on its own -- likely the lone female we found a few days ago.

Posted by Paul at 02:13 PM

October 11, 2005

First Byrne Creek Spawner Sighted

Yumi spotted one spawning chum salmon in Byrne Creek today.


We patrolled from Byrne Bridge (Tag 507) up to the base of the stairs in the ravine (Tag 521).

The chum was hanging in the spawning channel right at the gate into the sediment pond (Tag 514). I poked my head over the edge of the rail and kept going, only to have Yumi shout that there was a spawner there a few seconds later.

It looked like a female, and was starting to develop whitish spots so it had likely been in the system for several days. Perhaps the redd we saw on Saturday was her work. We hope she had a boyfriend that we missed!

Posted by Paul at 04:09 PM

October 08, 2005

Spawning Salmon Return to Byrne Creek

Yumi and I spotted a distinct redd (nest made by spawning salmon) in Byrne Creek today, so the spawners are back! Unfortunately we didn't see any spawners, though the redd triggered a 1 - 1/2 hour search in the stretch between the confluence with John Mathews (Tag 506) up to the bottom of the stairs (Tag 521) in the ravine.

We were elated to see the redd, as we've been expecting the recent rains to trigger the final migration from the Fraser River up the creek.

It's an exciting period for streamkeepers. The final leg of the spawners' odyssey as they return from the ocean to start a new generation of fish is an affirmation of all the work we do throughout the entire year.

Posted by Paul at 06:48 PM

October 04, 2005

Byrne Creek Patrol Oct. 4

With other streamkeeping groups reporting the appearance of salmon returning to lower-mainland creeks in the last few days, Yumi and I decided to do a thorough patrol on Byrne Creek this morning.

We covered the area from Byrne Bridge (Tag 507), through the spawning habitat, and upstream as far as Tag 518 in the ravine. We didn't see any spawners, but there were hundreds of cutthroat trout and coho smolts throughout the area, with concentrations in the spawning channel pools, the sediment pond, and pools in the ravine.

We found a dead cutthroat in the sediment pond. We pulled it out and inspected it. It had no visible signs of external injuries and measured 20cm from nose to fork.


We also drove down to Foreshore Park where the creek empties into the Fraser River, however we didn't see any salmon at the mouth. Perhaps the rain forecast for later this week will trigger some spawners to come up the creek.

As we circled the artificial pond just west of the creek in the Glenlyon development, we were surprised to see hundreds of small golden-coloured fish ranging from about 2-4cm in size. More invasive species?

Posted by Paul at 01:54 PM

September 29, 2005

Autumn Rain Roars Down Byrne Creek

The first autumn rain of the season in the lower mainland of BC roared through Byrne Creek overnight and all day today, turning a trickle into a near-flood.

The heavy autumn rains are a blessing and a curse -- a blessing for they bring salmon back to spawn, and a curse because the development of the watershed has decimated forests and wetlands, resulting in destructive flows into the creek.

Of all the rain that falls on southeast Burnaby, less and less penetrates the ground each year, and more is directed by the storm drain system directly into the creek.

Here are a few photos of the creek taken this morning.

Here's the creek at the base of the stairs that go down into the ravine from Brynlor Dr. Yesterday this was a series of shallow pools with riffles only a few centimeters deep.


And this is the footbridge. I hopped across the creek in this vicinity yesterday in my hiking boots, easily stepping from stone to stone in shallow water.


This is the sediment pond that collects gravel and sediment during heavy flows. The culvert in the background that passes under Southridge Dr. is usually completely visible to the bottom, with only a few centimeters of water flowing. My wife Yumi was standing on a bar in the pond a few meters downstream of the cement block in the middle of the photo two days ago!


This is a new culvert being installed beneath 18th Ave. in the upper watershed. Streamkeepers and the city engineering department have been keeping a close eye on it because the construction is going on outside the usual "window" for such work. Normally in-creek work should not be underway now due to the onset of the salmon spawning season.

Posted by Paul at 06:49 PM

September 27, 2005

Tomatoes Grow in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I found tomatoes growing in the sediment pond in Byrne Creek today. The seeds or a plant must have floated down the creek and got hung up on the bar in the pond.


Yumi jumped into the sediment pond to take a closer look.


Here she's picking a few to take home.

Posted by Paul at 07:25 PM

September 19, 2005

Interviewed by Salmonopolis

There's a new website out there for salmon stewards in BC called Salmonopolis.

An interview with me on how the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers use the Internet to our advantage can be found here.

Posted by Paul at 08:58 PM

September 17, 2005

Night of 2005 Lights

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and Stream of Dreams Murals Society participated in the Night of 2005 Lights at the Shadbolt Centre on Deer Lake in Burnaby again this year.

I believe our lantern installation is getting better every year. To our usual complement of salmon we have added jellyfish, a frog, a turtle, a crane, an owl, a dragonfly and other weltand creatures.

Here are few shots of setting up, and a few taken at night.






This is one of my favorite events of the year. I love how the atmosphere changes as the sun sets and the lanterns take shape, blooming out of the deepening darkness.

Posted by Paul at 10:41 PM

August 11, 2005

Byrne Creek Fish Trappers Skunked

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers completed their annual summer fish trapping in the creek with dismal results that seem to back up annecdotal evidence of low fish populations this year. It's disappointing as we seemed to have an excellent coho hatch early this spring followed by plenty of cutthroat fry that appeared later.

The summer trapping (which is approved by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans) produced only 12 cutthroat trout and 2 coho in nine traps, compared to 60 fish, five of which were coho, during the winter pre-hatch trapping.

Several streamkeepers also feel that stickleback numbers are way down from previous years, judging from visual observations at places where they usually hang out.

We hope this is just an anomaly, as creek conditions have generally been improving slightly over the last few years.

Posted by Paul at 10:45 PM

August 09, 2005

Media Finally Sees Long-Term Spill Implications

I was happy to see that CBC television news yesterday and the Vancouver Sun today had items covering the long-term implications of the Cheakamus River toxic spill. It's been interesting to watch this story develop. I don't know what took so long -- it was obvious days ago that there had been a massive kill of fish and other aquatic animals.

Posted by Paul at 04:48 PM

August 08, 2005

Where's the Toxic Spill Outrage?

Well, here it is, the fourth day after a CN train derailment spilled a toxic chemical into the lower Cheakamus River, killing tens of thousands of fish and other aquatic animals, and not a peep about it on the press release websites of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or the BC Ministry of the Environment.

As for CN, its press release site still doesn't mention the massive kill.

I don't get it. If this had been a spill by a mining company, there would have been universal outrage.

Posted by Paul at 02:03 PM

August 07, 2005

CN Ignoring Fish Kill?

It's interesting to see that as of noon Sunday, Aug. 7, the CN press release site still makes no mention of the massive fish kill in the Cheakamus River caused by the train derailment north of Squamish that spilled sodium hydroxide into the river.

It'll be interesting to monitor this site and see what they publish in the coming days...

Posted by Paul at 12:50 PM

August 06, 2005

Toxic Spill Wipes Out Lower Cheakamus River

A Canadian National Railways train derailed on a bridge over the Cheakamus River north of Squamish on Friday, Aug. 5, 2005.

According to the Provincial Emergency Program, "One car carrying a load of 53,140 litres of 73% sodium hydroxide, an extremely corrosive solution, ruptured and spilled into the Cheakamus River; which feeds the Squamish River system. This resulted in significant environmental impact and reports have been received of all-species fish kill downstream of the spill."

It appears that thousands if not tens of thousands of fish have been killed, including chinook salmon, coho salmon, chum salmon, steelhead, dolly varden, trout, sculpins, lamprey etc.

Yumi and I received a call for volunteers, so we drove up and helped collect and tally fish this afternoon at the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery.

It was depressing work on a gorgeous sunny day. First we helped count and measure steelhead fry, and then we joined a recovery crew in the river. Here are a few photos:


Hard to believe, but that one Ziplock bag contained 240 steelhead fry ranging in size from 25 - 50mm.


Yumi looks at a beautiful chinook that a recovery crew brought in. Beneath it were a dolly varden and an early chum.


That's me in my chest waders in the Cheakamus, looking for dead fish.

There are more photos and info on the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation website.

Posted by Paul at 09:32 PM

June 22, 2005

Insecticide Awareness Heads Off More Spraying

I was pleased to see a letter in today's Burnaby Now from A.J. Bramhill. I don't know him, but I was thrilled that he took action to stop the spraying of an insecticde that is toxic to water bugs and bees after seeing an article in which I pointed out the possible dangers of the chemical.

In only 48 hours, Mr. Bramhill managed to get five townhouse complexes in south Burnaby to stop their plans to use Merit to battle the invasive chafer beetle. He lives nears Powerhouse Creek, which runs into Byrne Creek, and was happy to notch a "small environmental victory."

I admire his success and hope to meet him some day to extend my gratitude.

Posted by Paul at 10:48 PM

June 15, 2005

News Editor Makes News Again

Here's another example of an editor being on the other side of the desk.

I was interviewed about an insecticide that could affect local streams after sending a press release out for our volunteer streamkeeper group. It never ceases to amaze me how it feels to be on the interviewee side, and the dismay that crawls up the back of your neck when you feel your comments have been misinterpreted.

It's a good story, and I'm happy that it will raise public awareness about insecticides and creeks, it's just that I didn't say quite what it says I did!

I sent in a request for a correction today:

(NOTE: I'm happy to report that the paper will air my concerns. I'm also pleased that we've patched things up amicably, and look forward to working with the paper in the future -- I certainly appreciate its coverage of local environmental issues!)
Thank you for the extensive article on the chafer/insecticide issue, however I have several concerns about how some of the information was presented.

1) I never said that there was a "potentially deadly impact of the chemical on spawning salmon...." Salmon enter creeks, they spawn, they die. The key is the chemical has a potentially deadly impact on the bugs in the water that are part of the food chain for hatching fry, resident fish, and other animals.

2) "Cipywnyk said coho salmon fry are especially susceptible to chemicals because they have to live in the local creeks for up to a year...." I never said fry were susceptible to Merit, which is the implication in this statement. Again, the issue is that the chemical is toxic to the bugs in the water, and the fry eat the bugs.

3) I never said "... if the chemical was to enter the storm sewer system, it could flow into streams and kill salmon runs throughout the city." Again, it's the bugs.

4) I never said "... Burnaby's storm drains should be considered aquatic habitat." I said storm drains lead directly to streams and creeks.

I am concerned that these misrepresentations could hurt my credibility as a streamkeeper, and even potentially leave me open to accusations of misinformation from the manufacturer of the insecticide.

I would appreciate it if the paper could publish a short correction or letter to the editor along the following lines:

"Paul Cipywnyk thanks the Burnaby Now for its environmental coverage, however he would like to clarify that he did not say that the insecticide Merit would directly affect spawning salmon or coho salmon fry. The key is that the chemical is known to kill the water bugs that fry and resident fish eat. He also did not say that storm drains should be considered aquatic habitat, but that they lead directly to local streams and creeks, conveying chemical runoff and other pollutants into sensitive aquatic systems."

Posted by Paul at 08:40 PM

June 11, 2005

Insecticide Threatens Local Streams

Here's a press release I sent out for a group I volunteer with.

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers


For Immediate Release, June 10, 2005

Insecticide Threatens Local Streams

Burnaby streamkeepers fear that the introduction of Merit insecticide to combat the European chafer in the lower mainland could have serious effects on local streams. The active ingredient in Merit ? imidacloprid ? is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates, or in other words, the water bugs that fish and other animals in the food chain need to survive.

Burnaby streams had their best salmon spawner returns in decades last autumn, and scientific bug counts by streamkeepers show that water quality in some streams has been improving recently. It would be a shame for the efforts of many volunteers and government agencies at the local, provincial and national levels to go to waste.

The label on Merit says:

"Do not apply within 30 meters of environmentally sensitive areas such as lakes, streams, rivers or other aquatic systems. Do not apply to terrains where there is a potential for surface run-off to enter aquatic systems." We note that storm drains lead directly to creeks and streams.

It further says:

"This product is highly toxic to bees?. This product is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates?. The use of this chemical in areas where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow, may result in groundwater contamination."

We have learned that landscaping companies working in Burnaby have been recommending Merit to clients, and have heard that some strata councils have approved its use. Inquiries with the BC Ministry of Water, Land & Air Protection, and the Federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency confirm that licensed landscapers must follow the restrictions on the label.

The City of Burnaby strongly recommends that chemicals be used as a last resort, advising proper lawn care as the first step, and the use of native nematodes as another option. We urge landscapers, strata councils, and homeowners to reconsider using Merit.


Posted by Paul at 08:45 PM

June 10, 2005

2005 Byrne Creek Watershed Status Report

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers have released their 2005 Byrne Creek Watershed Status Report (4.4MB PDF file).

The report includes several indicators of the health of the creek and its surrounding watershed, and represents hundreds of hours of volunteer data collection.

Check it out, we're proud of it!

Posted by Paul at 05:03 PM

May 25, 2005

Fresh Coho Fry in Byrne Creek are Cutthroat!

Yumi and I netted one of the new, small fry that we've been seeing in Byrne Creek the last few days. It was a tish longer than 3cm. Initially we thought it was a coho, but debate with other streamkeepers and research in identification guides makes it a cutthroat trout.

Yumi took this photo of it before we released it.


Posted by Paul at 03:47 PM

May 24, 2005

Lots of Good Bugs in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I checked out Byrne Creek carefully again today and saw lots of caddisfly larva! We saw a total of 16 of them while we were looking for fry, ranging from u/s of Tag 517, all the way down to just above the stop log at the upper end of the sediment pond, and even below the gravel pile in the sediment pond. There were also loads of mayflies, including beneath rocks in the gravel pile in the sediment pond.

Caddisflies and mayflies do not tolerate pollution, so things are looking good!

Posted by Paul at 08:54 PM

May 23, 2005

Victoria Day Byrne Creek Observations

Yumi and I spent a couple of hours this lovely afternoon poking around along Byrne Creek. A few observations:

The most interesting was a small coho fry in the sediment pond just below the gravel pile. There were lots of larger coho fry in the 5-6+cm range, however this one was distinctly smaller, perhaps 3.5-4cm, and swimming alone. This makes us wonder if we got late coho spawners that we missed. We had a similar phenomenon last spring, with batches of small coho fry appearing months apart. Hm..... We're going to keep a sharp eye out to see if we spot any more small coho babes, or if this one was just some strange runt of the litter.

NOTE: All of the fry that we initially thought were late coho are more likely cutthroat trout... Live and learn :-).

There were lots of cutthroat and coho smolts in the sediment pond as well. Their numbers have been increasing over the last few weeks. Interesting to see how they move about the system. The incoming water was slightly soapy and there was oily film on the surface.

Saw lots of tiny stickleback at the upper end of the overflow pond, and more at the lower end.

We also saw a coho fry at Tag 531, and at least half a dozen at Tag 532. This is d/s of the Hell Hole, but above the Hedley outfall.

Somebody built a fire on top of the roots of the big cedar near the Hell Hole again. This time they dragged woody debris out of the bush. There were broken beer bottles and a can of fire starter. We've broken up fire rings there several times, however I think we need to clean up the area and cover the burned roots with earth. I think the dead coals and ashes attract more use, and Parks has never done anything about it.

There were lots of people walking the ravine, and we did some PR work, pointing out fry etc. Met one middle-aged fellow and his wife who said they had recently discovered the ravine and were so impressed that they sent an email to Burnaby Parks telling them how much they liked it! They had heard of the '98 toxic spill into Byrne Creek and were happy to hear that we were getting spawners back and that there were lots of fry.

There were lots of mayflies beneath stones wherever we looked in the ravine.

We saw a 12cm crayfish just below the Southridge culvert in shallow water, and it was acting strange, showing no fear and moving in a tight circle in the bright sunlight. Closer observation showed it was injured, with the antenna and eye damaged on the side it was constantly turning away from.

Here's a photo that Yumi took:


The Morning Glory is really starting to take off along the Brynlor trail. We pulled some off of young maples and salmonberries.

Water temp at the footbridge (Tag 516) was 12C, and at the lower end of the SedPond (Tag 514) it was 13C.

An interesting afternoon!

Posted by Paul at 07:38 PM

May 22, 2005

Educational, Entertaining Streamkeepers' Conference

Yumi and I attended Workshop 2005, a BC streamkeepers' conference that is held every two years. This time it was at the North Vancouver Outdoor School near Squamish.

It was the first time we attended the workshops and we had a great time despite the rainy weekend.

The event started off with registration and displays on Friday evening at the Totem Hall of the Squamish Nation. It was an impressive facility, and the banquet there on Saturday night was great.

Saturday and Sunday there were numerous interesting and educational workshops on the beautiful grounds of the school, and things wound up with a presentation of Mark Angelo's impressive RiverWorld show.

Since we work on an urban stream, we were encouraged by the "Saving the World" workshop, in which Department of Fisheries and Oceans Community Advisor Tom Rutherford spoke of the importance of rehabilitating such watersheds.

He said he is often asked why he spends so much time working on urban watercourses to which only a few salmon return to spawn. The bottom line is the educational opportunity. He said up north you may find relatively pristine watersheds with 100,000 spawners and 100 human residents. In urban areas you have creeks with 100 spawners, and 100,000 people -- and it is people who need to learn and change for salmon to survive.

Posted by Paul at 11:01 PM

May 05, 2005

Gladstone Students Tour Byrne Creek

Several Byrne Creek Streamkeepers took over 40 students from Gladstone High School in Vancouver on a tour of the creek this afternoon. It was a gorgeous day, and many of the participants were amazed at the beauty of the ravine.

As we walked the ravine loop, we stopped periodically and discussed various issues and what streamkeepers do. We covered CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) and its impact on the riparian zone, impacts of development on urban streams including loss of pervious surfaces leading to flooding and erosion, the spread of invasive plants species and ongoing illegal dumping of organic matter in parks, hazard tree monitoring and removal, etc.

I emphasized that there are different points of view on many issues, and we try to keep a balance and open minds. I also imparted the lesson that life is politics, like it or not, and that citizens can influence city hall :-).

I can blather on about these topics for hours, however I tried not to bore the kids to tears...

Posted by Paul at 05:38 PM

May 03, 2005

Coho Smolt Release

A class of grade 4/5 kids, Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and our DFO community adviser Maurice released 3,000 - 4,000 coho smolts (yearlings) into Byrne Creek today. The kids were great, as was their teacher, Angela Dodd.

Here's Maurice checking out what the kids had learned about salmon while I flank the herd :-).


After everyone had left, Yumi and I went to the settling pond to see if the coho were moving downstream, and sure enough, there were hundreds of them coming down to join remnants of the chum fry that we released last week.


The coho would pile up at the bottom of the culvert running under Southridge Dr., and then, sensing the danger of the open area ahead, they'd mill about, gradually gaining the numbers and the courage to make the dash into the settling pond. Unfortunately, as we sat there watching them, trouble appeared in the form of a somewhat scrawny heron.

It sailed right in and landed in the pond just four or five meters away from us, and immediately began whacking smolts.


The heron gobbled 13 smolts in less than ten minutes while we watched with a combination of fascination and horror. Should we have shooed it away? What a call to make. We let nature run its course...

Here it's got one nearly ready to slide down its gullet.


Run coho, run!

Posted by Paul at 08:53 PM

May 01, 2005

Edmonds - Byrne Creek Skytrain Station

On March 14, 2005, I emailed a contact at TransLink with the idea of renaming Edmonds Skytrain station Edmonds - Byrne Creek Skytrain station after I noticed that several Skytrain station names have had second parts added to them.

The person I contacted liked the idea and forwarded it up the ladder, however six weeks later I have yet to hear from anyone :-). I still think it's a great idea, and am contemplating mounting a more organized campaign...

Why become Edmonds - Byrne Creek Station?

- Byrne Creek runs within a few meters of the station.

- Hundreds of people pass Byrne Creek every day as they walk to the station, whether they are coming from the east or the west.

- Byrne Creek drains the largest watershed in south Burnaby.

- Byrne Creek Ravine Park is the largest ravine, and one of the largest parks in south Burnaby. It's a forest that is key to maintaining urban biodiversity.

- Translink promotes green values and the benefits of mass transit. What better connection than the most productive stream in south Burnaby with active runs of coho and chum salmon in an urban environment?

- It is the closest station to the new, high-tech, green, Byrne Creek Secondary school that is under construction and will open this autumn.

- Developers of townhouse and high-rise projects near the station tout the beauties of Byrne Creek in their advertising.

Seems like a shoe-in, dontcha think? :-)

Posted by Paul at 07:25 PM

April 30, 2005

Streamkeepers Help Edmonds Clean Sweep

A group of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and other community volunteers spent this morning cleaning up areas near the creek as part of the annual Edmonds Clean Sweep in southeast Burnaby.

We picked up enough garbage and pulled enough invasive ivy to fill two dumpsters to overflowing! Thanks to the City of Burnaby and its staff for helping to organize the event and providing the dumpsters. And thanks to the other community groups that cleaned up the streets in the Edmonds neighborhood!

We also planted 50 trees near the creek downstream of Edmonds Skytrain station. It was dirty and fulfilling work :-).

Here's a shot of the ivy team. And yes, those large log-like pieces of plant matter are ivy! They are the bottom ends of ivy that were crawling up firs and cedars. We "girdle" such climbing ivy by cutting it all around the base of the tree it is attacking. Amazing how this invasive species runs rampant and chokes the life out of native plants and trees. This is the same stuff that people use to decorate their yards....


Posted by Paul at 08:49 PM

Byrne Creek Salamander

A group of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers out pulling invasive ivy in Byrne Creek Ravine park as part of the Edmonds Clean Sweep this morning found a cute salamander.

I've never seen a salamander in the area before. Here's a photo that my wife Yumi took.


Posted by Paul at 08:20 PM

April 29, 2005

Burnaby South Green Team Pulls Ivy

Several Byrne Creek Streamkeepers met a group of students from the Burnaby South Secondary Green Team this afternoon for a creek tour and ivy pull.

As we walked we discussed issues such as invasive plant species, impervious surfaces in the watershed leading to flooding, urban biodiversity etc. When we got to the footbridge at the bottom of the ravine, we pointed out the salmon fry in the creek.

We then got down to work and pulled a bunch of invasive ivy. Thanks to everyone who came out!


Posted by Paul at 07:10 PM

April 22, 2005

Feeding Fry in Byrne Creek

There were loads of fry throughout Byrne Creek again this morning. There were hundreds between Meadow and Byrne bridges.

We spent ten minutes watching a group of coho fry that are hanging just downstream of the footbridge at the bottom end of the ravine near a midsize cedar tree. The have been quite unafraid the last few times we've observed them. You can watch them rising to the surface to snap up stuff floating downstream. Very cute!


They let us squat within a few feet of them while they focused on stuffing themselves.

They blend in with their surroundings, however if you look closely there are three in this photo.

Posted by Paul at 02:07 PM

April 17, 2005

Byrne Creek Invasives Removal, Planting

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers got permission from the city to remove some invasive plant species in certain areas of Byrne Creek Ravine Park and replant with native plants, so a crew of volunteers spent three hours this morning yanking ivy, clipping blackberry, and planting cedars, firs and alders.

It was wet, dirty, and very satisfying work!


Posted by Paul at 01:46 PM

April 14, 2005

South Slope Fry Release

Yumi and I helped grade 1 and 2 students from South Slope Elementary release chum fry into Byrne Creek this afternoon.

The kids and their teacher, Gary Thompson, raised the baby salmon from eggs in the DFO "Salmon in the Classroom" program. It was our second release with Gary, and we had a great time again.

Thanks to all the parents who drove and herded the kids :-).

Here I am giving them a short talk about the salmon lifecycle, and when their tiny fry might come back to Byrne Creek to have their own babies.


Posted by Paul at 02:36 PM

April 10, 2005

More Coho Babes in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I managed to net another coho fry in Byrne Creek today about 10m upstream of Tag 517. We got some photos and then released it. It was about 2.5-3cm long.


Posted by Paul at 12:45 PM

April 08, 2005

Frenzy of Fry in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I found fry (salmon babies) from the ravine park all the way down to the confluence of Byrne Creek and John Mathews Creek today.

There was a nice array of sizes from tiny newly hatched ones, to large coho fry that have been growing for nearly a couple of months already.

We saw over 400 in total today, and you could probably multiply that by many times to get what's really out there in that stretch. From our scrutiny with binoculars and monoculars they all appeared to be coho. Couldn't positively ID any chum, so the ones we've seen before have likely left the system already.

Details below, for those who want them.

-- Fry in pools 10-20m upstream of Tag 517. Also knotweed spreading all over the creek on both banks and in-stream, some of it 60-70cm tall already.

-- Coho fry in pools at the slide between Tags 517 and 516 (the footbridge at the bottom end of the ravine). At least 3 dozen, and occasionally a cutthroat trout or coho smolt (juvenile) would zoom through the school and try to pick off one of the smaller ones. Fry were biting at stuff floating on the surface.

-- Tiny newly hatched fry just downstream of the slide.

-- Large coho fry in the pool at the fallen tree upstream of the footbridge (Tag 516).

-- Tiny fry hiding in stones just above the culvert at Tag 515.

-- Knotweed on the slope above the habitat, some it just a few meters from the fence. We'd better keep a sharp eye on this, as it'll be a huge problem if it gets established in the spawning habitat.

-- Large coho fry at Tag 512 in the habitat, at least 4 dozen. A few cuts/smolts in several of the pools in the habitat.

-- At least 2 dozen fry just downstream of the gate in the sediment pond (Tag 514).

-- Oily, soapy accumulation at the lower end of the sediment pond.

-- At least 8 - 10 dozen coho fry along the southwest bank of the overflow pond. The current from the spawning channel circles around the lower end of the overflow pond, and they were hanging all along the bank waiting for food to come drifting by.

-- At least 5 dozen fry just downstream of Meadow Bridge.

-- At least 3 dozen fry just upstream of Byrne Bridge (Tag 507).

-- At least 2 dozen fry just downstream of Byrne Bridge (Tag 507).

-- At least 12 dozen fry spread through pools in the creek between Byrne Bridge (Tag 507) and John Mathews Creek (Tag 506).

-- And, to our amazement, there were even a few fry in that smelly rivulet that empties out of a culvert and enters Byrne Creek just downstream of Byrne Bridge!

Posted by Paul at 02:01 PM

April 07, 2005

Chafers Draw Toxic Insecticide to Burnaby

The landscaping company at our townhouse complex has advised that we apply Merit to our lawns to head off the chafer infestation. I've been doing a bit of research on chafers and the use of Merit, and what I've found makes me think the stuff should not be applied anywhere in the city, or beyond.

1) The City of Burnaby strongly prefers the use of biological treatment using nematodes, and says "chemical treatments should only be used as a last resort."

2) The BC provincial government's restrictions (45KB PDF file) on the use of Merit include the following:

"Do NOT apply product or plant treated seed pieces within 15 meters of well-head or aquatic systems, including marshes, ponds, ditches, streams, lakes, etc."

"Do NOT apply to terrains where surface run-off may enter aquatic systems."

"Do NOT mix, load, clean equipment within 30 meters of well-heads or aquatic systems."

The info sheet also says, "This product is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates. This product is toxic to birds."

3) The manufacturer of imidacloprid, (95KB PDF file) the insecticide in Merit, also says "this product is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates."

All surface run-off eventually enters aquatic systems, be it directly, through the ground, or via storm drains. I think the various levels of government should be taking a stronger position on this issue and ought to increase monitoring and enforcement.

Our townhouse complex sits right above the Byrne Creek ravine, and diligent work by streamkeepers and the city has actually resulted in improving water quality in the last year as measured by aquatic invertebrate surveys (bug counts).

It would be a shame to see that go to waste. The coho and chum salmon fry (babies) that are popping out of the gravel now need those bugs to survive, not to mention cutthroat trout and other water animals.

Posted by Paul at 05:27 PM

March 31, 2005

Fun Streamkeeping Talk at Burnaby South

I met about 15 students from the Burnaby South Secondary Green Team over lunch break today to talk about Byrne Creek and streamkeeping.

I had a great time, and I hope the students did, too. We looked at an aerial photo of the watershed and talked about how lucky Burnaby was to have as many existing creeks as it does compared to other cities in the lower mainland.

I explained what streamkeepers do and what amazing animals salmon are.

Thanks to streamkeeper and Burnaby South student Eleanor for setting up the talk, and to Mr. Terpening, the Green Team teacher.

I borrowed this photo from the school's website.


Posted by Paul at 07:38 PM

March 20, 2005

Stormwater Out, Rainwater In

Following up on my Let it Rain conference report, Stream of Dreams Murals Society Artistic Director Louise emailed saying "I like rainwater management over stormwater... so shall we change stormdrain to raindrain?" ;-)

I think that's a great idea!

It makes a much more direct connection in people's minds to say "raindrain" -- it's one less cognitive step they have to process (backwards up the cause-effect ladder) to make the connection that most rainwater that hits impermeable surfaces such as roads, roofs and parking lots, goes down stormdrains, er, raindrains.

Instead of the idea that these systems are only for storms, people would more clearly see that they are for all rain.

And imagine if we called them "rain pipes" rather than "stormwater pipes" or "storm sewers" as a lot of people at the conference called them.

Stormwater > Rainwater
Storm drain > Rain drain
Storm sewer > Rain pipe

It all sounds less negative, cleaner, and perhaps would hit home harder when people think about pouring something down a "rain drain" rather than a "storm drain." Semantics, I know, but words are powerful.

Paradigm shift, here we come!

Posted by Paul at 04:34 PM

March 18, 2005

Let it Rain Conference

I attended the one-day Let it Rain conference at Douglas College today.

"A Conference on Managing Rainwater Runoff with Low Impact Development Methods"

It was a very interesting event. Over a hundred people attended, with lots of representation from various municipalities in the lower mainland, the GVRD, developers, engineering firms, and NGOs (environmentalists).

The very short of it: There is a paradigm shift underway.

We are rapidly moving from piping ALL rainwater to attempting to preserve natural conditions as much as possible in the face of inevitable development. People were upbeat, and many of the engineers/developers presenting were actually leading the charge. Many of them had 30+ years of experience and admitted that in that time they had personally shifted from a "pipe everything" approach to a sustainability approach.

A common theme was "it doesn't matter if it costs more, it's the right thing to do, and costs will come down in the future." This was in reference to building permeable surfaces, swales, SEA streets, "country lanes" a la recent Vancouver back lane experiments, rain gardens, roof gardens, LEEDs buildings, detention/retention facilities, etc. This was reiterated passionately by both city staff and consulting engineers in response to questions about costs, acceptance by society, etc. Of course the fact that lots/developments next to creeks and nature command hefty premiums is also a driving factor :-).

Overall a very useful event, and I hope the organizers do it again annually, or perhaps every couple of years.

Oh, one neat idea that popped up was no longer talking about "stormwater management" but shifting to "rainwater management." Presenter Don Moore said that MS Word always flagged "stormwater" as incorrect, while "rainwater" was OK, and that led him to think about changing all uses of "stormwater" to "rainwater." It is rain after all, not just storms, and "stormwater" has developed negative connotations, such as flooding.

So from now on, no more "stormwater management," its "rainwater management." :-)

Posted by Paul at 10:27 PM

March 12, 2005

Byrne Creek Coho Fry Photos

Yumi and I managed to net one of the new coho fry (baby salmon) that have been emerging in Byrne Creek.


These are a couple of photos that Yumi took.


This little fry was about 4 - 5cm long and we released it unharmed after getting its portrait.

With a lot of luck it may survive the year it spends in the creek before heading out to the ocean for a couple of years. Then against immense odds, it might be back in our creek in three years or so to spawn and die.

Posted by Paul at 08:18 PM

February 26, 2005

Spring Stirs Wildlife Around Byrne Creek

Yumi and I saw lots of fish in Byrne Creek today on our walk. We decided to check out the spawning channel, and saw dozens of cutthroat trout and some probable coho smolts in each of the pools at Tags 510, 511, and 513. Also spotted a couple of salmonid fry in the pool at Tag 512.

There were about two dozen possible chum fry (babies) in the sediment pond downstream of the gravel pile, and several upstream of the gravel pile, dangerously close to the cutthroat and coho smolts (juveniles) that hang out in the pool below the stop log. We still haven't seen any fry in the ravine.

We also found one dead cutthroat in the lower end of the sediment pond. We didn't take the time to get it out, but it looked to be about 20cm or so. We had also seen a large (30-35cm), listless cutthroat at the lower end of the sediment pond yesterday and the day before yesterday. Looked like a spawner, with abraded fins and the mottling white spots. Unfortunately we couldn't find it today, as we'd been hoping to process it when it died. Apparently cuts spawn in February to May.

For the bird lovers out there, the action is really heating up in Ron McLean Park, Byrne Creek ravine, the habitat and Foreshore Park. In the last few days we've seen thrushes, juncos, towhees, jays, sparrows, robins, chickadees, pileated woodpeckers, flickers, several species of ducks, herons, red-tailed hawks, eagles, etc. There is an eagle back in the huge nest across the Fraser from the outfall of Byrne Creek. Several species were courting -- spring is in the air!

Posted by Paul at 10:54 PM

February 20, 2005

Kaymar Creek Tour

I'd like to thank Bob and Chris for organizing a tour of Kaymar Creek this morning. The creek drains the easternmost part of south Burnaby. An avid group of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers walked it from Central Park all the way down to the north arm of the Fraser.

Originating in Central Park with two ponds, it must have been a beautiful creek in its day, and while much has been culverted and channeled, there are still a few enchanting areas.


The above photo shows a section in the ravine that was paved into an open storm drain some 30 years ago.


And above is one of the few sections that remains in a mostly natural state.

I don't know how many times Yumi and I have driven across the Kaymar watershed without much thought, however we will now view it with greater awareness.

Posted by Paul at 08:15 PM

February 10, 2005

Early Byrne Creek Fry are Chum

The wee little fish we saw the other day in Byrne Creek are chum -- and they're showing up a month early!

Yumi and I saw more today, and while we weren't able to trap any, we studied them with close-focusing binoculars and they were definitely chum.

There are only a few of them about, no large schools yet as we saw last year.

Posted by Paul at 11:08 PM

February 08, 2005

New Salmon Fry in Byrne Creek?

Yumi and I did a loop of the Byrne Creek ravine and spawning habitat early this afternoon. The viewing conditions were perfect with sunny skies and clear water (aside from the common oily film on the surface of parts of the sediment pond.)

We were not expecting baby salmon fry yet, but were keeping a sharp eye out, when Yumi suddenly yelled that she saw a few. I was skeptical but went over to her and scanned the bottom of the sediment pond in the spawning/rearing habitat. After five or more minutes I finally saw two little guys, just a few centimeters long. They were definitely tail swimmers, and were the size of new salmonid fry.

Coho fry were first spotted last year in Byrne Creek on Feb. 29, so this is early.

Inspired, we checked out the spawning channel, and saw many cutthroat and/or possibly coho smolts scooting around in the deep pools and hiding below the snags, but no fry. There were also lots of heron and raccoon tracks in the shallows. Several of the redds (nests of salmon eggs) in the channel looked in decent shape despite the winter storms and heavy sediment flow, so here's hoping we see lots of babies soon!

We'll try to confirm that fry have really appeared and what species they are over the next few days.

Posted by Paul at 09:10 PM

February 07, 2005

Spanish Bank Salmon Success Story

Yumi and I went to a presentation tonight by the Pacific Spirit Park Society featuring the revitalization of Spanish Bank Creek.

This creek in Vancouver had not seen salmon return in some 80 years, however a restoration project over the last few years has been a geat success, with over 60 spawners counted in autumn 2004.

The Spanish Bank Streamkeepers are a passionate and dedicated crew, and they made a presentation along with their Department of Fisheries and Oceans Community Advisor Sandie Hollick-Kenyon.

Considering that Vancouver used to have over 65 creeks, and only a handful remain in various states of health, this project is an inspiration.

Posted by Paul at 09:14 PM

January 29, 2005

Changing Face of Byrne Creek

We walk a loop through Byrne Creek Ravine Park nearly every day, and it never gets boring.

An unusually long-lasting snowfall here in the lower mainland of British Columbia shrouded the trees and covered the ground with satisfyingly crunchy snow for nearly two weeks.

That was followed the more usual rains, and the impact on the creek is amazing to watch.

Because we're in an urban area, all the water from roads, parking lots and buildings pours down storm drains that empty directly into the creek, resulting in very "flashy" behavior. The water level rises dramatically in a very short period, and the massive flows during storm peaks can radically change the creek.

The last series of heavy rains eroded the banks in some areas, broadened the creek in others and cut new channels.

It's also interesting to observe changes in wildlife behavior through the seasons. Even the fish move around -- while you can see dozens or even hundreds of cutthroat trout and coho salmon smolts in some areas during the fall months, they have now seemingly disappeared from the large pools. We know they're out there, they're just much harder to find now.

More bug life is also starting to appear, with lots of mayfly nymphs to be found, and even the odd batches of hatched mayflies on warmer days.

If you just slow down and look, there's always something new that Byrne Creek can teach you.

Posted by Paul at 08:05 PM

January 13, 2005

DFO Wild Salmon Policy Stirs Streamkeepers

We had an animated discussion at our Byrne Creek Streamkeepers meeting tonight about the Department of Fisheries and
Oceans Wild Salmon Policy draft. If you have any concerns, please send comments and submissions to the DFO
by the deadline of Feb. 18, 2005. Instructions for email, fax and mail delivery are at this link.

I'll post my own take on the draft here when I have time to organize my thoughts -- while it's not a long paper, it is difficult to read between the lines to grasp what is really being said.

Posted by Paul at 10:14 PM

January 10, 2005

Sun Enhances Snowy Byrne Creek Scene

After we took many shots of the snow along Byrne Creek the other day when it was cloudy, we returned on a sunny day. Unfortunately, while the colors were much richer, a lot of the snow had dropped off the branches.


The footbridge in the ravine.

Posted by Paul at 05:58 PM

January 08, 2005

Snow Beautifies Byrne Creek

We've had lots of snow in Vancouver and the lower mainland for the past couple of weeks, and it's turned the ravine along Byrne Creek behind our place in Burnaby into a frosty visual delight.


Here's Yumi at the top of the stairs near Brynlor Dr. leading down into the ravine.


The creek at the bottom of the stairs with the trees laced with snow.


Me by the footbridge near where the creek is culverted under Southridge Dr.

We don't get snow that often here, so it was exhilarating to crunch our way down the trail, stopping to stare at the wonderful shapes and patterns.

Posted by Paul at 12:46 PM

January 05, 2005

Byrne Creek Spawner Patrol - 2005.1.5

Byrne Creek Spawner Patrol 2005.1.5

It was a cold spawner patrol on January 5, with the ground hard with frost and the breeze nipping at our noses.

Yumi and I checked the area from the habitat (Tag 508) near Meadow Ave. up to the bottom of the ravine stairs (Tag 521), and saw loads of cutthroat in the sediment pond. There were two largish fish hiding in the turbulent flow right beneath the stop log at the lower end of the culvert, however we couldn't tell if they were simply larger-than-average trout, or possibly a small coho or two. Wishful thinking!

It's a letdown to think the spawning season is likely over. It's the most exciting part of the year for streamkeepers in an urban watershed like Byrne Creek. However we feel happy that the spawner count of 91 chum and coho sets a new record since the creek was wiped out by a toxic spill about six year ago.

It was sunny and clear, with an air temperature 0C - 5C from shady ravine to open sun, while the water temperature in the sediment pond was 3.5C.

Posted by Paul at 05:57 PM

January 02, 2005

Review - The Run of the River

Review - The Run of the River: Portraits of Eleven British Columbia Rivers

by Mark Hume

Hume weaves eleven tales about eleven rivers, convincingly showing that we are in the eleventh hour before much of what little wilderness remains may be lost. This eye-opening book is a must for anyone who is concerned about preserving our natural heritage and maintaining our fisheries.

"Long before the environmental stress on a river becomes obvious to most of us, it shows up in the fish. They are canaries in a coal mine -- but canaries that cannot sing. We must pay attention to what the fish are telling us, and to the whispering voices of our rivers, for they are speaking about our future."

Hume's first-hand experiences and research combine in moving prose that focuses on the human propensity to ignore environmental costs and fixate on short-term economic gain. Yet there are growing numbers of people from ever-broadening constituencies who are waking up to what we have been doing, and realizing that technology cannot solve everything.

"... while engineers can reproduce fish, they cannot replace nature. Hatcheries are technological marvels and they may be a necessity in the modern world, but they are not signs of progress; they are monuments to our failure to protect rivers."

Why does nature always have to come last in our scheme of things? "...fish have no legal rights to water. There is no base flow reserved for them."

People have been wiping out salmon runs for centuries, and B.C. and the rest of the Pacific northwest host the best that remain. We have learned that runs are genetically unique, and once gone, are very difficult to repopulate.

"The important thing is that the habitat be taken care of. Without that, no salmon can survive, for there is no genetic code that can overcome suffocation, pollution, or a lack of water."

Posted by Paul at 08:11 AM

December 08, 2004

Byrne Creek Spawner Patrol 2004.12.08

Saw 5 live coho, and processed 1 dead coho on our weekly Wednesday spawner patrol for the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.


I zipped out alone this afternoon, as Yumi and I have been very busy. I missed the second set of eyes, however there was not a lot to see as the water was still quite high and murky following last night's rain. Partly sunny, a few clouds.

Area covered: John Mathews confluence (Tag 506) to the bottom of ravine stairs (Tag 521).

1 dead coho, E-T 60cm N-F 70cm, all fins, male, spawned, 10m d/s of wooden footbridge (Tag 516).

1 live coho a few meters up underneath the downstream side of Byrne Bridge (Tag 507). This fish was nearly dead. When I got back from John Mathews, it was gone, and as I searched for it, it suddenly popped up out the water a few meters downstream of the bridge and moved awkwardly down the stream. Hope somebody finds it tomorrow!

1 live coho, also looking fairly pooped, in the spawning channel halfway between Tags 510 and 511. Visibility was very poor, I only happened to spot it because it flushed through a shallow section.

1 live coho, also very near the end, hanging in the shallows on the d/s side of the gravel accumulation in the sediment pond. Otherwise visibility in the sediment pond was zero. There was also a fairly heavy accumulation of oily guck on the surface of the water. The sediment pond was barely overflowing at around 2:15 p.m.

2 live coho at the slide in the ravine, about 15m d/s of Tag 517.

Posted by Paul at 10:55 PM

December 01, 2004

Byrne Creek Spawner Patrol 2004.12.01

Yumi and I did our regular Wednesday spawner patrol on Byrne Creek this frosty morning. We saw 12 live coho and processed 1 dead coho today.

Area covered: John Mathews/Byrne Creek confluence (Tag 506) to a little upstream of the Hedley outfall (Tag 530). Sunny, clear skies.

We saw 9 live coho in the sediment pond, nothing dead or alive in the artificial spawning channel.

On our way upstream, we ran into three women who were staring at a dead coho just u/s of the wooden footbridge (Tag 516) in the ravine. We had a lengthy conversation with them about how we monitor spawners. Yumi went in, got the fish, placed it on the bank, and it suddenly shuddered. Oops! Not quite dead yet, back you go in the creek!

By the time we came back down from our ravine ramble some 1-1/2 hours later, it was already getting stiff.

1 dead coho, E-T 57cm N-F 68cm, all fins, female, completely spawned. We planted it in the creek up near the slide.

On our way upstream we saw the 1 live coho that has been hanging in the middle of the slide for several days. Then on our way back down, we took another look, only to see 2 live coho there, and they were different fish. At first we thought it was a spawning couple, but then we realized they both appeared to have the more slender bodies and white abraded tails and anal fins of females. They were pushing each other around, so perhaps it was 2 females claiming protection of the same redd?

Excited about all the coho in the system, and also based on a chat with an elderly man the other day who claimed to have seen "big fish" going upstream past the bottom of the ravine stairs, we made our way up the creek all the way to the Hedley outfall (Tag 530), and took the steep path just upstream of Hedley back up to the bottom end of Ron McLean Park. Aside from a possible redd at Tag 522, unfortunately we did not see any spawners, alive or dead, upstream of the stairs (Tag 521).

C'mon you coho! Get your butts out of the sediment pond and up that creek!

Posted by Paul at 05:18 PM

November 27, 2004

Safeway Kicks Off Fundraising for Stream of Dreams

The Safeway store on the corner of Kingsway and Royal Oak in Burnaby has decided to make the Stream of Dreams Murals Society its fundraising beneficiary for the 2004-05 year.

Today was the official fundraising kickoff, and nearly a dozen SDMS board members, staff and volunteers helped Safeway employees tell customers about the initiative from 10:00 - 5:00.

We had a display set up and served wild pink salmon on crackers.


Every now and then, a few of us would wander through the store carrying fish on sticks. Here are (L-R) Jane, Joan and Louise by the seafood special :-).


I would like to thank the staff at Safeway for choosing our project! I look forward to working with everyone over the next year. Your assistance is greatly appreciated in helping our society achieve its mission of educating communities about their watersheds, rivers and streams, while dazzling them with the charm of community art.

Posted by Paul at 06:36 PM

Edmonds Santa Parade

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers took part in the 2nd annual Burnaby Edmonds Lions Santa Claus Parade this morning.


It was foggy and cool, however we all had a great time. We marched along yelling "Co ho ho, Merry Fishmas!" while waving fish on sticks. Every now and then some of the marchers would break into a circling trot, shouting "Salmon run! Salmon run!"

This year we added a float.


My wife Yumi brought up the rear carrying her fish lanterns, assisted by Rob.


Posted by Paul at 06:21 PM

November 25, 2004

How Do You Count Fish?

When we talk to people about streamkeeping, and in particular monitoring salmon that return to spawn in Byrne Creek, a common question that arises is: "How the heck do you count fish in the creek? How do you know you're not counting the same ones over and over again?"

I usually start off my reply by saying that we can recognize individual fish -- that sets the hook as people stare at me in disbelief. OK, I'll explain how we really do it, however sadly it is true that we can sometimes recognize fish from day to day.

I say sadly, because Byrne Creek is still recovering from a toxic spill several years ago that entered a storm drain and killed everything in the creek, and is constantly battling the pressures of existing in an urban environment. So far the most spawning salmon streamkeepers have seen return in one year was 72 in 2002. So yes, we do occasionally recognize individual fish from day to day, particularly if they have some distinctive marking or injury.

But back to how we really count fish.

Salmon die after they spawn, so we find their carcasses. Of course a few get washed away, a few get buried in silt, and a few are dragged off into the bush by coyotes and raccoons, but we patrol often enough that we likely spot over 95% of the "morts," or dead fish.

When we find dead spawners, we measure them, cut them open to confirm sex and see if they have spawned, and -- here is the key point -- we cut the bodies in half so we do not double count. We return the processed carcasses to the creek where they provide nutrients and food for other animals.

So, particularly in a situation like ours where we are dealing with at most a hundred or so fish -- and we hope several hundred in future years -- we get pretty accurate counts.

"But on your website you have counts for 'spotted' and 'processed.' How does that work?"

That's also quite simple. There are distinct areas in the creek, such as the artificial spawning habitat, the sediment pond, spans between bridges, culverts, etc., in which it is fairly easy to spot fish and count them, especially if you have at least two sets of eyes at work. We patrol in an upstream direction, because it is much more likely for a spooked fish to run downstream than up.

Initially the "spotted" count is likely not that accurate, however our data starts to firm up over time as the salmon spawn and begin to die.

Eventually we can simply add live fish spotted during a patrol to the total of dead fish processed to get a "spotted" total. And so far the "spotted" totals and the "processed" totals over the years have been very close when the spawning season ends, though we know that we don't find and process every dead spawner.

Posted by Paul at 07:18 PM

Byrne Creek Spawner Report 2004.11.25

By chance Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Bob, Rusty, Yumi and I all converged on the habitat at the same time today under clear blue skies. Yumi and I usually patrol on Wednesdays, however it was raining and the water was too high and murky yesterday to see much.

We saw 3 live spawners and processed 1 dead coho.


Area covered: Marine Way (Tag 505) to bottom of ravine stairs (Tag 521). The water was still quite high, with the sediment pond still overflowing at 1:30. Visibility was marginal in the sediment pond, poor in the habitat, and fair in the creek.

1 dead coho, E-T 53cm N-F 67cm, all fins, male, partly spawned, in the sediment pond (Tag 514).

2 live spawners in the sediment pond, likely coho. Could have been more but difficult to see.

1 live coho, likely female, at the slide in the ravine, about 15m d/s of Tag 517.

We did not notice any new redds, or nests of salmon eggs.

Posted by Paul at 07:10 PM

November 24, 2004

Young Naturalists Tour Byrne Creek

Joan, Yumi and I took a group of young naturalists on a tour of Byrne Creek Wednesday afternoon. The projected group of a dozen dwindled to five boys and two mothers -- perhaps the cold, steady rain had something to with it :-).

The ones who did show up were game though, and spent over an hour touring the ravine and artificial spawning/rearing habitat. We even managed to spot one salmon that had returned to spawn, though the water was high and murky.

They asked a lot of questions and it was fun leading them around the creek.

Posted by Paul at 03:02 PM

November 18, 2004

Dr. Kees Groot on Migration, Orientation, and Navigation of Salmon

Dr. Kees Groot spoke on the Migration, Orientation, and Navigation of Pacific Salmon at an event sponsored by the West Vancouver Streamkeepers Society and the North Shore Streamkeepers this evening.

He is an excellent speaker and enthralled the audience with tales of his experiments that led to several discoveries about salmon migration. The variety of indicators the fish use to travel is amazing, raning from the sun, the moon and stars, the earth's magnetic field, smell etc.

What is also amazing is how closely timed the migrations are. Salmon born in fresh water migrate to the ocean and head straight out as far as 3,500km at a rate of 40km/day until they reach their ranges. Then several years later, they come back to the exact place they were born.

There is much more to the story of how they navigate, but suffice it to say that if you ever have a chance to hear Groot speak, go for it.

Posted by Paul at 10:26 PM

November 17, 2004

Byrne Creek Spawner Report 2004.11.17

Here are our Byrne Creek Streamkeeper official spawner patrol results.

We have seen enough fish to pass last year's total!
There is a coho redd in the spawning channel near Tag 510!

Processed 3 dead chum today, for a total of 60 chum processed, and 2 coho processed, for a grand total of 62 spawners processed.

Live fish seen today: 4 coho, 3 chum.

So that's at least 69 spawners in Byrne Creek this year.

Area covered: Meadow Bridge (below Tag 508) to bottom of ravine stairs (Tag 521). Clear skies, water visibility excellent.

Mort Details:

1 dead chum, E-T 55cm N-F 63cm, all fins, female, spawned, right at Tag 512 in the habitat.

1 dead chum, E-T 58cm N-F 70cm, all fins, male, spawned, right at Tag 513 in the habitat.

1 dead chum, E-T 56cm N-F 66cm, all fins, female, spawned, Sediment Pond (Tag 514).

Live Details:

2 coho, male and female, hanging around near a gorgeous redd 3m d/s of Tag 510 in the habitat spawning channel. They have cleaned a beautiful patch, just hope it is not in vain if it gets totally buried by sediment.... They are the first spawners we've seen using the habitat in a couple of years.

We'll have to monitor this area in the spring and see if we spot any fry. We noticed the redd and then saw water move *upstream* as the fish skedaddled. We quietly observed the pool at Tag 510 for awhile and they were hiding under/behind one of the stumps. Saw a small coho, likely female, dart in and out several times, and a much larger coho, likely male, once.

2 coho in the Sediment Pond, judging from size another male/female pair.
3 chum in the Sediment Pond.

Thought we might have heard something in the Southridge culvert, but no visual confirmation. Didn't see or smell anything (aside from previous morts) in the ravine.

P.S. For bird lovers, we saw two small accipiters, likely either sharp-shinned hawks or Cooper's hawks in the habitat. The sun was behind them, so we couldn't identify them positively, however when they flushed, they definitely had the long tail-to-body ratio of accipiters.

Posted by Paul at 07:41 PM

November 10, 2004

Byrne Creek Spawner Report 2004.11.10

Yumi and I patrol Byrne Creek every Wednesday to find spawning salmon. Today's bottom line: 10 dead chum processed, 3 live chum seen, 1 dead cutthroat processed.

The details:

Area covered: John Mathews confluence (Tag 506) to bottom of ravine stairs (Tag 521)
Started at 10:00 a.m. overcast and foggy, cleared steadily as the day went on.

1 dead chum, E-T 56cm N-F est. 67cm (nose partly gone), likely female, internal organs all eaten, 10m d/s of Byrne Bridge, Tag 507.

1 dead chum, E-T 61cm N-F 73cm, all fins, female, spawned, right below lower side of Byrne Bridge, Tag 507.

1 dead chum, E-T 57cm N-F 65cm, all fins, female, spawned with a few dozen eggs left, 8m u/s of Tag 510 in the habitat.

1 dead chum, E-T 54cm N-F 63cm, all fins, female, spawned with a couple of eggs left, 3m d/s of Tag 512 in the habitat.

1 dead chum, E-T 58cm N-F 68cm, all fins, female, spawned, 3m u/s Tag 513 in the habitat.

1 dead chum, E-T 55cm N-F 66cm, all fins, male, spawned, 3m u/s of stop log at the upper end of the Sediment Pond, Tag 514.

1 dead chum, E-T 57cm N-F 69cm, all fins, male, spawned, in pool right below the stop log at the upper end of the Sediment Pond, Tag 514.

We took the two above fish and planted them in the ravine between Tags 517 and 519.

1 dead chum, E-T 59cm N-F 73cm, all fins, male, spawned, 30m d/s of the footbridge, Tag 516, in the ravine.

1 dead chum, E-T 65cm N-F 80cm, all fins, male, spawned, 10m u/s of Tag 517 in the ravine.

1 dead chum, E-T 59cm N-F 69cm, all fins, female, mostly spawned with a few hundred eggs left, right at Tag 520 in the ravine.

3 live chum in the Sediment Pond

I believe that brings the total number of chum confirmed to 47 and sighted to 50.

We could not find the female coho that had been hanging around the slide. Her time is probably about up, and there was a strong fishy smell just d/s of the footbridge, but we couldn't find anything in that area.

We found 1 dead cutthroat about 65m d/s of Byrne Bridge. N-F 38cm, male. He had a stab wound in his side, likely a heron, though I wonder if a heron could swallow a fish that big!

Posted by Paul at 07:24 PM

November 08, 2004

Burnaby RCMP Southeast District Commander Tours Byrne Creek

Yumi and I had the pleasure of giving the new commander of the Southeast Burnaby District a tour of Byrne Creek today.

RCMP Staff Sergeant John Buis took a couple of hours out of his busy schedule to learn about how the revitalized creek, streamkeeper volunteers and the Stream of Dreams Murals Society are a powerful source of hope and positive energy in a troubled neighbourhood.

We processed two chum salmon that had spawned and died, talked about what streamkeepers do, and what some of our concerns are. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day, perfect for a walk in the ravine.

A theme that popped up was "focusing on the positive." We have a wild and crazy streamkeeping group that firmly believes in having fun. There is enough doom and gloom in the world!

It will take time to resolve some of the problems that plague the Edmonds area where Byrne Creek's headwaters are, however I am very happy that the RCMP is taking the time to learn about community groups such as the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

Thanks for sharing your time with us today John!

Posted by Paul at 07:05 PM

November 03, 2004

Byrne Creek Spawner Report 2004.11.03

Area covered: Byrne Bridge (Tag 507) to bottom of ravine stairs (Tag 521).
Sunny with scattered clouds, mid-afternoon.

Saw 24 live salmon, 23 chum and 1 coho.

Processed 6 dead chum.


1 dead chum, female, E-T 51cm, nose eaten away N-F likely around 61cm. No eggs, save for some teeny undeveloped ones in sacs. Severely abraded tail and anal fin, so she'd been working hard. Just u/s of Meadow Bridge, halfway between tags 507 and 508. Could not do complete fin count, as top part of tail also eaten.

1 dead chum, male, E-T 56cm N-F 68cm. All fins. Partly spawned (one sac emptied). Tag 508 in the spawning channel.

1 dead chum, male, E-T 59cm N-F 73cm. All fins. Spawned. Tag 509 in the spawning channel.

1 dead chum, female, E-T 55cm N-F 65cm. All fins. A few eggs, also undeveloped ones still in sacs. Tag 510 in the spawning channel.

1 dead chum, female, E-T 60cm N-F 69cm. All fins. 1 normal egg inside plus some undeveloped still in sacs. In the SedPond, Tag 514.

1 dead chum, male, E-T 60cm, N-F 75cm. All fins. Spawned. In the SedPond, Tag 514.

Live fish:

1 chum d/s of Meadow Bridge. Getting weak.

17 live chum in the SedPond and at the lower end of the Southridge culvert. Mix of oldies and newcomers.

2 live fish 15m d/s of Tag 517 in the ravine at lower end of slide. 1 was a coho, likely female. She had what looked like a small bite taken out of the back of her neck. This is the "mystery" silver-coloured fish we saw yesterday. Today she was taking on coho colours. The other fish was larger and a couple of meters downstream of the coho. It was near a deep pool and was hard to see. At first we though it may be a male coho, however we eventually thought we could see vertical patterns like a male chum. Time will tell....

Other streamkeepers say they saw a coho in the above area today, however they didn't notice a bite mark on the neck, so there could well be another coho.

2 live chum 15m u/s of Tag 517. This is the couple we saw yesterday. They appeared to be done spawning and were hanging around protecting their redd.

2 live chum 15m u/s of Tag 521 at the bottom of the ravine stairs. We first saw them there yesterday, and they were still actively spawning. Lots of splashing. They've been a big hit with several passersby when we point them out.

Posted by Paul at 08:01 PM

October 31, 2004

A Salmon Lantern Halloween

We added Yumi's beautiful salmon lanterns to our Halloween display this year. We're calling them the "Ghost Salmon of Byrne Creek."


The fish seem appropriate since the creek is right behind our townhouse complex, and there are salmon spawning in it right now. They die after they spawn, and we've invited their spirits to join us on Halloween.


And just for fun, here's a close-up of the pumpkins Yumi carved this year.


Posted by Paul at 06:07 PM

October 27, 2004

Byrne Creek Spawner Report 2004.10.27

Yumi and I volunteer with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, and at this time of year our main activitiy is counting and processing returning chum and coho salmon that return to the creek, spawn and die. We measure them, cut them open to confirm sex and spawning activity, and then cut them in half so we don't double count, and return them to the stream to provide nutrients for the cycle of life.

While we try to walk the creek nearly every day, our "official" spawner counting day is every Wednesday.

Area covered: Byrne Bridge to halfway between Tags 516 & 517 (slide area)
We didn't have time to cover the full ravine today.
Time: 3:00 - 4:15 p.m. Sunny and clear.

There were 3 chum spawning about 7-8m downstream of Meadow Bridge, and more gravel had been cleared just below the d/s side of the bridge.

Nothing in the spawning channel and no signs of gravel/cobble disturbance.

Saw a total of 14 live chum in the sediment pond, and 2 dead (Tag 514).

Saw 2 live chum spawning in the lower end of the culvert running under Southridge Dr.

So a total of 19 live chum, 2 dead, to bring the running total by my count to 26 chum spotted, 7 processed so far this year.

Details on morts:

1 chum male, E-T 58cm, N-F 73cm. All fins. Likely spawned but plenty of milt still left.

1 chum male, E-T 57cm, N-F 69cm. All fins. Likely spawned but plenty of milt still left.

After processing them, we took both carcasses and planted them in the stream just below the slide area in the ravine, about halfway between Tags 516 and 517. We do this to encourage newly arriving fish to try to move higher up the creek, and to provide nutrients in the ravine area.

CSI Yumi held her breath for about 7 minutes, and reconstructed the badly chewed up/eaten female chum we found dragged up onto the bank beneath some blackberry bushes at Tag 515 at the top end of the culvert yesterday. Estimated E-T 60cm, estimated N-F 74cm. Yumi then returned her to the creek.

Posted by Paul at 07:43 PM

October 20, 2004

Byrne Creek Spawner Report 2004.10.20

My wife Yumi and I volunteer with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, and at this time of year when spawning salmon are returning to the creek, we check it carefully every Wednesday, while other volunteers take other days.

We are fortunate to run our own business, so we are able to get out for a couple of hours in the daytime as the days grow increasingly shorter.

We send an email out to our members when we're done, and here is today's report:

Oct. 20, 2004 Spawner Patrol
Paul and Yumi
From confluence of Byrne and John Mathews Creeks to ravine stairs (tag 521).
10:30 - 1:00. Overcast with sunny breaks.

Saw one live, listless chum just below the upstream side of Byrne Bridge. Disappeared under bridge before we could take a guess as to male or female, but it was on the large side.

Processed one dead chum 10m upstream of Byrne Bridge. Most of the head was eaten away, and there were raccoon tracks around. It was a fully spawned-out female, only a couple of eggs left inside. Eye-to-base of tail 58cm. Nose-to-fork estimated at 70cm. All fins intact.

No signs of fish or spawning activity in the habitat channel.

Saw one live chum in the sediment pond, possibly two or more, however accumulation of oily substance on surface and silt stirred up by the fish made it impossible to confirm more than one.

So today's total: 2 live chum (possibly 1 or 2 more) and 1 dead chum.

Saw nothing in the ravine, however there were a couple of mildly fishy smelling areas and loads of raccoon tracks in several places.

Posted by Paul at 09:45 PM

October 18, 2004

Chum Dance in Byrne Creek

We saw spawning chum salmon dancing in Byrne Creek today. It's incredibly moving to watch them giving up their lives so a new generation of salmon can live.

The females flip sideways and flail at the gravel with their tails, digging out depressions in the streambed called "redds" in which to deposit their eggs, while accompanying males circle them.

They are choosy -- they need a certain size of gravel or cobble for their eggs to survive, and if you look closely, you can see they have tested several areas in the creek.

I find myself moved nearly to tears as I watch these wonderful fish spawn in my own back yard, in the middle of a growing city.

We can do it. We can preserve and enhance habitat, even in urban areas. We just need the will, the effort, and the discipline.

It's amazing to hear the call of the wild, just steps from our back doors.

Posted by Paul at 10:57 PM

October 17, 2004

Chum Salmon Return to Byrne Creek

Yumi and I lucked into spotting one returning chum spawner in Byrne Creek today at around 12:30.

We were standing at the side of the creek just downstream of the wooden footbridge in the ravine when she (Yumi insists it was a girl) came zooming up the creek in an energetic sprint through the riffles.

She then disappeared into the deeper, murky water beneath the bridge and we didn't see her again.

It's not uncommon to see a male not far behind, and while we continued to watch for about 10-15 minutes we didn't see any suitors in pursuit.

We checked the rest of the creek fairly carefully as far down as Byrne Bridge, however it was too deep and murky in most places to see anything.

It was raining steadily the whole time. The sediement pond in the habitat was slightly overflowing, and the water temperature at the lower end was 12.5C, and beneath the footbridge it was 12C. Air temperature was 10C.

Last year the first returning spawning chum salmon were spotted on Oct. 18, so today's result was very consistent.

Posted by Paul at 04:48 PM

October 15, 2004

Letter to PM Regarding DFO Cuts

Here's the e-mail message I wrote to Prime Minister Paul Martin today about maintaining full funding for the Salmonid Enhancement Program run by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

I also sent variations on the message to Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan, and Industry Minister David Emerson, the senior minister in British Columbia.

Dear Sir:

I am dismayed to hear that the budget for the popular and effective Salmonid Enhancement Program run by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans may be slashed.

Dollar for dollar this is one of the most beneficial programs the DFO runs, because it has a huge multiplier effect by supporting the work of thousands of volunteers all over British Columbia.

I am proud to count myself among such volunteers, as my wife and I dedicate hundreds of hours per year to the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers in Burnaby, BC. Our passionate, community minded group greatly appreciates the support it receives through this program.

I am appalled that the government can boast of a budget surplus of over $9 billion, and then contemplate cutting back an incredibly cost-effective, grass roots program.

Salmon runs in BC are an annual multimillion dollar renewable resource that is under ever-increasing pressure from over-fishing and environmental destruction.

In our particular case, the work of DFO community advisers and dedicated volunteers brought a dead urban creek back to life. We expect to see salmon returning to spawn beneath the shadows of high-rise condominiums any day now.

Please don't let us down.

Respectfully yours,

Paul Cipywnyk

Posted by Paul at 03:51 PM

October 14, 2004

DFO to Slash Salmonid Enhancement Program?

Apprently there are moves afoot to cut the Department of Fisheries and Oceans $25 million budget for its Salmonid Enhancement Program by $4 million. This is a very popular and effective program that has a huge multiplier effect by supporting thousands of volunteers on the west coast.

This is also the program that provides small grants for streamkeeping groups like the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, and chum fry and coho smolts to release in the creek every spring.

Please write letters or email messages expressing your concerns.

Prime Minister Paul Martin
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington St.
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
The Honourable Geoff Regan
Minister, Fisheries and Oceans
Parliament Buildings, Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0A6

The Honourable David Emerson (Senior BC minister)
Minister of Industry
5th Floor, West Tower
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5
Tel.: (613) 995-9001
Fax: (613) 992-0302
E-mail: Minister.Industry@ic.gc.ca

Find the email address and snail mail address of your local MP in this directory.

Posted by Paul at 10:50 PM

October 12, 2004

Stoney Creek Reports Chum Spawners

Chum spawners have started returning to Stoney Creek in Burnaby, so they should appear soon in Byrne Creek. We first spotted spawners in Byrne Creek last year on Oct. 18. Hope we get some rain soon!

Posted by Paul at 09:22 PM

October 10, 2004

Autumn Hues Spark Salmon Search

It's still a bit early for Byrne Creek, however the recent rains and richly hued autumn colours have spawning salmon dancing in my head.

The spawners usually arrive closer to the end of October, but there's a new bounce to my step, and a heightened awareness of the sights and sounds of nature when I ramble down the ravine and along the creek these days.

I check the pools and peer into riffles, my nose twitching for the scent of decaying fish. That's how you find the hidden ones -- you smell them before you see them....

It may sound awful, but it's nature's cycle. Spawn, die, and fertilize the creek to prepare it for the next generation of fish.

Who knows when the first returning spawners will be spotted?

It's been a bad year so far for returning salmon on the Fraser River, but I have high hopes for our little urban creek.

Posted by Paul at 08:36 PM

September 29, 2004

Green Space Letter Appears in Burnaby Now

A letter I wrote to the Burnaby Now regarding development near Byrne Creek appeared in the paper today. Here it is:

Dear Editor:

I am dismayed that an island of forest on Griffiths Ave. across from Edmonds Skytrain Station may be rezoned so it can be razed for a high-rise building and townhouses.

Over half of the site is covered with trees and brush that are home to dozens of species of animals, and it abuts salmon-bearing Byrne Creek.

My wife and I own property nearby, we run a small business, and we understand the profit motive and development. Yet I wonder why more green space needs to be destroyed in Burnaby when it has already been disappearing at a frightening pace since we moved to this beautiful city six years ago.

People marvel at Byrne Creek and the ravine park, and the hard-won revitalization and survival of this pocket of nature in an urban area has even attracted international attention. So why are we still allowing "development" to gnaw away at what little nature we have left?

The city has a plan to rehabilitate the downtrodden Edmonds area, and while I support it in general, some of the details are more detrimental than beneficial. Why not put large new developments along Edmonds and Kingsway? Both streets are lined with tired one- and two-storey buildings. Let's flatten them and put the towers and townhouses in areas that are already paved and relatively devoid of wildlife.

Why must we still cringe at the roaring of chainsaws in urban pocket forests? Why must we watch ever-increasing amounts of wasted rainwater pour off ever-expanding polluted parking lots and down storm drains to rip the hearts out of our local creeks?

Children of future generations should be able to experience the joy of exploring and playing in forests, ravines, and creeks just steps from their homes, instead of being relegated to lifeless expanses of concrete.

Paul Cipywnyk, Burnaby

Posted by Paul at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2004

Soggy Night of 2004 Lights

The Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and Stream of Dreams Murals Society were the only community groups to show up at Burnaby's Night of 2004 Lights lantern festival Saturday. Rain throughout the day may have deterred others, but streamkeepers aren't afraid of water!

We arrived in the afternoon equiped with ladders, tarps and ropes, and threw up a ramshackle shelter beneath the trees below the Shadbolt Centre at Deer Lake. And good thing, too, as later it poured.


We then set up our display of fish lanterns, along with a frog, turtle and a heron.


Taking turns going for dinner, everyone was back by 7:00 when the lanterns were lit. We were happy we hung in there, as many appreciative spectators wandered by, and the great fire procession took place in grand style.


Posted by Paul at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2004

Sleeping With Elk in Jasper

We left Prince George early in the morning and cruised east on the Yellowhead (Highway 16) toward Jasper. It was overcast with occasional rain.

Being avid streamkeepers, we stopped several times along the way to check out rivers and creeks including the Willow River, Bowron River, Slim Creek and the Milk River.

As we approached the intersection of highways 16 and 5, I recalled that there was a salmon viewing area in Valemount, about 20km south of our course. We decided to check it out, and discovered that we'd missed a chinook salmon run by a week or so. They had arrived a couple of weeks early and we saw only one carcass.

Swift Creek is billed as the home of the world's longest chinook salmon run -- the fish travel 1,280km from the Pacific Ocean up the Fraser River and to the creek to spawn. Apparently they average about 18km a day. Amazing.

Retracing our course back to the 16, we continued east to Mt. Robson Provincial Park where we stopped for a tailgate lunch and a visit to the information center.

It's hard to believe that the icy blue torrent one sees in the north is the same Fraser River that is a brown, silt-filled working channel back home in Burnaby.

We arrived in Jasper around dinner time, and headed for the Whistlers campground, the only one that was open due to the "strategic services withdrawal" underway by national park staff negotiating for better wages. Park staff were uniformly friendly and helpful throughout our trip.

As we registered at the campground, we were warned to be on the lookout for elk, as it was the mating season and the males could be aggressive.


We set up camp, got a fire going and were cooking dinner when a group of female elk appeared, three mature and three yearlings, slowly moving along while munching on grass and shrubs. Not long after a male with an impressive rack appeared, obviously the leader of the harem.


We were a bit nervous while the male was around, but eventually he trotted off, and the females bedded down less than 10 meters from our tent! We thought that eventually they would move on, but on our last bathroom run for the night, we discovered they were still sleeping there.

Posted by Paul at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2004

Foamy, Smelly Flow Hits Byrne Creek

There was a foamy, chemical-smelling dump in Byrne Creek today that had the hallmark of somebody pouring something down a storm drain.

Yumi and I headed out for our creek walk around noon, just as it started to rain. As we reached the bottom of the ravine stairs, the creek was rising, but the water was still nice and clear.

We walked into the spawning/rearing habitat below Southridge Dr., and as I was setting up to take a water temperature reading at the lower end of the Sediment Pond around 12:45, Yumi suddenly shouted that there was foam pouring out of the culvert under Southridge Dr.

It had a fairly clear leading edge, and was as high as about 15cm in places. Yumi shot some photos as I called it in to the city. I reached an environmental services officer who said she was in the upper watershed and would check a few spots and work her way down to us. The foam had a smell sort of like a cross between detergent, toilet bowl cleaner and Lysol.


The foam continued to pour in quite heavily for 10-15 minutes before the flow began dissipating. Yumi went back up the ravine and reported that the creek was still clear, with no odour, so the stuff had to be coming down Southridge.

Yumi took a pH reading at the upper end of the culvert in the ravine, and it was pretty normal, near 7. She came back down to the Sediment Pond, and the pH at the lower end of the culvert was off the scale, but it appeared to be lower than 6 (the bottom end of our paper).

The environmental services officer arrived, and just then the Sediment Pond began overflowing. As the water tumbled down the spillway, it began to foam again, and the odour intensified. The officer said she'd take a water sample.

We didn't see any fish in distress, and watched for awhile as the foam filled the Overflow Pond.

As Yumi and I headed home up the ravine around 1:45, the water was high, chocolate coloured, and somewhat foamy, but there was no odour.

Posted by Paul at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2004

Streamkeepers Enjoy a Taste of Edmonds

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers enjoyed a sunny Labour Day at the Taste of Edmonds event organized by the Southside Community Church.

It was a fun-filled and tummy filling event. For the cost of a $2.00 "passport" you could taste dishes from 10 ethnic groups and local restaurants.


We had our booth set up, and it's always interesting to talk to people in the community, many of whom have no idea they are living in the watershed of a salmon-bearing creek.

The biggest draw to our booth is our stamp-painting table. It attracts the kids, who in turn drag their parents in. We're a laid back bunch, and only talk about streamkeeping and caring for the environment to those who express interest.


People are amazed to discover that storm drains are part of the creek.

"So where is Byrne Creek?"

"You're standing on it."


This neighborhood is undergoing dramatic changes with a new shopping center and highrise residential towers, a new public library, and a new public swimming pool all underway or in the works. It will be interesting to see how the Taste of Edmonds develops over the next few years.

Posted by Paul at 08:41 PM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2004

Warming Fraser River Threatens Salmon Runs

Global TV in British Columbia led off its 6:00 p.m. news today with a story about unusually high water temperatures in the Fraser River threatening salmon runs of millions of fish.

Researchers are already finding dying salmon. They cannot cope with the stress imposed by temperatures reaching 21 and 22C in Fraser tributaries, and are succumbing to diseases and parasites that they would normally shake off.

This could have a major economic and environmental impact.

I've been seeing water temperatures of up to 20C in Byrne Creek, where I volunteer with a streamkeeper group. We've had hot periods with no rain for periods of up to three or nearly four weeks this summer.

Posted by Paul at 07:53 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2004

Netting, Moving Fish in Byrne Creek

It's time to clean out the sediment pond upstream of the Byrne Creek spawning/rearing habitat, and before that can be done, all the fish have to be trapped and moved out.

Chris and Yota from City of Burnaby Environmental Services and Pete from Envirowest brought drag nets, and nearly a dozen streamkeeper volunteers brought hand nets and buckets.

First nets were placed upstream and downstream to keep fish from entering the pond. Then drag nets were pulled through by hand, and trapped fish were transferred to buckets.


Those buckets were taken downstream, where streamkeepers counted, identified, measured, and released the fish.

It was arduous, yet enjoyable work under the hot sun. We netted and transferred for over four hours. We moved about 400 fish today!

Posted by Paul at 08:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2004

Japanese Homestay Kids Help in Byrne Creek

Ten kids from Japan visiting Canada on three-week homestays volunteered to pull invasive plants in Byrne Creek yesterday.

Streamkeepers gave them the option of either painting yellow fish next to storm drains or pulling invasive plants, and to our surprise they chose the dirtier job.

There was a bit of miscommunication, as several of them showed up in shorts and thongs or sandals, however they still worked hard pulling English Ivy. The rest with long pants and running shoes helped remove Japanese Knotweed.

After working for about an hour and a half, we took them to the Fraser Foreshore Park for a picnic. It was great fun.

Posted by Paul at 08:06 PM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2004

Fascinating Air Photo of Lower Mainland

We picked up a 20 x 20" air photo poster of the lower mainland at IKEA Coquitlam yesterday. We'd seen the shot before in larger sizes, but even in the smaller poster one can easily make out Burns Bog and Byrne Creek Ravine.

You can immerse yourself in the poster, tracing the mighty Fraser River, picking out the border between the U.S. and Canada, marveling at the swirling sediment flow into the Gulf of Georgia....

It makes you appreciate how beautiful Earth is -- and what a huge impact humans have had upon it. It's hard to believe that the vast checkerboard expanse of urban sprawl was all forest as little as 150 years ago....

It's a great conversation piece, and we're going to frame it and hang it on a wall in our townhouse.

Posted by Paul at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2004

Crucial Rain a Mixed Blessing for Byrne Creek

It's been so hot and dry for so long that being woken up by the sound of rain early this morning had me sighing with relief -- at least until I got down to Byrne Creek later in the day.

I reached the bottom of the Brynlor Dr. stairs in the ravine at 11:15 in a steady drizzle to find the creek looking like someone had dumped a couple of boxes of detergent into it. Soapy brown water and piles of suds all along the ravine.


I arrived at the Sediment Pond in the spawning/rearing habitat at 11:45. It was still overcast, and spitting. The water temperature at the lower end was 18C and about the same at the upper end, while the air temp was 17C. I was surprised that the temps were still that high -- even after four or five hours of rain I guess the water coming in was still picking up road/land heat.

Heading back up the ravine the water temperature at the footbridge just above Southridge Dr. at 12:40 was 17.5C, and the air temp was 16.5C. The water was still very brown and soapy though the rain had stopped nearly an hour earlier. It was still too dirty to be able to see fish, but I did spot a huge crayfish.

It's unfortunate that in an urban setting, rain can be both a blessing and a curse for a creek. All the oil, antifreeze and car washing soap that accumulates on roads and in parking lots during long, hot, dry spells, is all flushed into the creek in one concentrated dose.

Posted by Paul at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)

July 23, 2004

Heat Wave Endangers Fish in Byrne Creek

Joan and her dog Toby joined me in taking a series of water temperatures in Byrne Creek today. The results were worrying.

We also found a dying cutthroat about 15cm long in the Settling Pond with no visible external damage. We tried to assist the fish by moving it through the water, and even took it to a cooler, fresher area, to no avail. It fluttered a couple of times, but kept turning belly up when released, and eventually gave up the ghost.

The scary numbers:

2:40pm Griffiths Pond near Edmonds Skytrain Station
Water temp 18C, air in shade 23.5C

2:55pm Walking across Ron McLean Park in hot sun 31.5C

3:10pm Bottom of ravine stairs off Brynlor Dr. Tag 521.
Water temp 17.5-18C, air in shade 24C

3:30pm Footbridge at lower end of ravine. Tag 516.
Water temp 18.5C, air in shade 24C

3:40pm Walking across Southridge Dr. in hot sun 33.5C

3:50pm Lower end Settling Pond. Tag 514.
Water temp 20C, air in shade 32.5C

4:00pm Upper end Settling Pond.
Water temp 19C (faster-moving, fresher water).

Salmon and trout start experiencing problems near these kinds of temperatures, and with more hot days forecast, I hope the dying cutthroat today was not a sign of things to come....

Posted by Paul at 08:36 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

Byrne Creek Mailing List

I recently signed up with PairList for a mailing list for the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

Members of the group and other interested people communicate extensively by email, and it was becoming difficult to maintain CC lists. I hope people will transition to the new list.

In the 24 hours since I announced the list, five people have signed up, so that's a start.

Posted by Paul at 07:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2004

Edmonds Reborn

Stream of Dreams co-founder Louise Towell wrote an eloquent letter about the rebirth of the Edmonds area of Burnaby that appeared in the Burnaby Now newspaper on Saturday.

It's a vision of hope, with the community, business and the natural environment co-existing and improving. It's a definite read for anyone who cares about our community.

Way to go, Louise!

Posted by Paul at 08:18 PM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2004

Policeman's Helmet Overruns Byrne Creek

On our daily walk today we went downstream on Byrne Creek below Byrne Bridge, and were shocked to see thick stands of invasive Policeman's Helmet, AKA Himalayan Balsam, lining both sides of the creek as far as the eye could see.

This highly prosperous plant is not native to Canada, and loves water, choking out native species and clogging waterways.

Streamkeepers have been plugging away at removing it, however the task seems overwhelming.

I'll go back again when I'm wearing heavier clothing, as I could only get as far as the confluence with John Matthews Creek. Thick Himalayan Blackberries (another highly succesful invasive plant) and stinging nettles blocked my path today, and I wasn't going to fight through those painful species in a T-shirt!


The tall plants with the purplish-pink flowers along both sides of the creek are Policeman's Helmet. Some are well over 2m tall! You can't even see the creek, which runs on a line from the top center of the photo to the bottom right.

The BC government recently announced it will spend more on fighting invasive species. You can read the press release here.

Posted by Paul at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2004

Happy Canada Day!

We spent a gorgeous, sunny Canada Day volunteering at the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers booth at Richmond Park/Eastburn Community Centre.

City, provincial and federal politicians showed up, and we spoke with several of them. It was fun checking out the other displays and watching the crowds.

Several people who dropped by our booth had interesting stories to tell about Byrne Creek and its neighborhood. We really need to record some of this oral history before it is lost.


Posted by Paul at 06:36 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2004

Water Temps Rising in Byrne Creek

Water temperatures rose in Byrne Creek over the last two hot, sunny days. We did the same spots again today, and added two more. All the water temperatures were 1 - 2C higher today than on June 20.

Thinking our new thermometer may be wonky, I tested it against an aquarium thermometer at various temps between 10 - 30C and they were within 1/2 a degree of each other. I was also careful to leave the thermometer in the water for at least 5 minutes at each spot.

Today, water temps ranged from a low of 15.5C at the bottom of the stairs into the ravine from Brynlor Dr., to a high of 19.5C in the overflow pond! I guess that makes sense, as that's the most stagnant water in the system.

Streamkeepers conducted a tour of the watershed this evening, and I took the opportunity to check the temperature in the sediment pond again, and found it had risen from 17C to 18C from 12:50 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. That's getting pretty high for salmonids.

Posted by Paul at 09:45 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2004

Collecting Water Temp Data

Yumi and I got an armoured streamkeeper thermometer at Dynamic Aqua-Supply the other day, and tried it out on our walk around Byrne Creek ravine today.

It was yet another hot, cloudless day in the lower mainland, and I was surprized that the water temperatures were almost exactly the same from Griffiths Pond near Edmonds Skytrain station, to the Sediment Pond just above the artificial spawning and rearing habitat near Marine Way.

Three of four water readings were 15C, and one at the bottom of the stairs from Brynlor Dr. into the ravine was 14.5C. Not harmful, but getting warm for salmonids.

I found it interesting that the water temperatures were so close, though reading depths varied from 16cm (in creek areas) to 75cm (in the Sediment Pond). Just for fun, I also took two readings at the same depth in the Sediment Pond, one on the sunny side, and one on the shady side, and they were exactly the same.

All water readings were taken with the thermometer just above, but not touching the bottom.

Air temperatures in the shade varied from 20C - 22C, and direct sunlight was 25C.

Looking forward to accumulating more data :-).

Posted by Paul at 07:23 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2004

Streamkeepers Plant Native Vegetation with Canada Lands

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers helped landscaping contractors plant new native vegetation at the northeast corner of Glenlyon Business Park in south Burnaby this morning.

We met at 8:45 a.m. and it was already scorching hot. The project supervisors set out the plants, and we all got to work -- over a dozen streamkeepers, and four or five landscapers. In two hours, we had all of the several hundred plants in the ground, and watered!

I was soaked -- in sweat.

I would like to mention that the wheelbarrow and spade that Yumi and I brought today, are donations to streamkeeping efforts from G. Barry Morris, my Mom's husband :-). Thanks, Barry! They've come in handy two weekends in a row already.

And thanks to Larry Morgan from Canada Lands Company for coordinating the event. Larry has been doing an incredible job as a developer who listens to local input.

We may be doing more planting with Canada Lands in the future.

Posted by Paul at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2004

Stream of Dreams Wins Environmental Award!

Louise Towell and Joan Carne, the founders of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, won the 2004 Canadian Environmental Award for Environmental Learning last night.

The award comes with $5,000, and you can read about it at the Canadian Geographic's website here: Community Awards Winnners 2004.

Congratulations and thanks for all your hard work, and thank you to all the volunteers who have helped make Stream of Dreams grow over the last five years.

Posted by Paul at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

Interviewed by CBC French TV

I was interviewed by CBC French TV yesterday about the relationship between the Stream of Dreams Murals Society and the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers.

Joan Carne and Louise Towell, the founders and operators of Stream of Dreams were one of three finalists in the 2004 Canadian Environment Awards for Environmental Learning, and the award was to be presented that evening at a gala near Calgary.

The reporter, cameraman, and I spent about half an hour down in the habitat, and about 20 minutes of blathering on my part was whittled down to three 4-second sound bites in the actual news item.

It was great fun!

Posted by Paul at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2004

Lots of 'Good' Bugs in Byrne Creek Today

Yumi and I checked the Byrne Creek habitat today, and just after we arrived, the water from the heavy rain stopped spilling over into the overflow pond. As the pools in the spillway began shrinking we noticed they were crawling with mayfly nymphs. It was amazing, there were hundreds upon thousands of them!

We called our buddy bug lover Maho, and she came down and joined us. We were scooping up mayfly and midge larva with a small glass jar and transferring them to a bigger jar. We were scooping mayflies and baby stickleback out of the overflow pond with a little aquarium net. It was astounding.

The poor little bugs were being left high and dry as the pools in the spillway evaporated.

Dunno where they all came from, but it might be interesting to do a sample bug count at a location or two ASAP for interest's sake. We also saw many caddisfly larva below the footbridge....

We're talking a lot of Category 1 Pollution Intolerant bugs here! We also think one of the bugs we got was a riffle beetle, which is also Category 1.


Posted by Paul at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2004

New Coho Fry ID'd in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I netted and photographed new fry in Byrne Creek today, and were surprised to see they were coho salmon, about 3.5 - 4cm long.

We first netted and photographed coho fry on March 2 this year, so why are these new babies popping up 2 1/2 months later? Streamkeepers counted only 6 coho spawners last autumn, between Nov. 20 - 29. I suspect this means a few late coho entered the creek in mid to late January, and were not noticed, for we had quit regular spawner patrols at the end of the year.

The other surprise was that we netted them in two places, Tag 518 about midway between the wooden footbridge and the Brynlor stairs, and also between Tags 532/533 way up near the Hell Hole. That likely means coho spawned a lot higher up the creek than we had thought.


Aaiiii! Help! I've been trapped by streamkeepers!

No animals were harmed in taking this photograph -- this little fellow was returned to the creek in good health :-).

Posted by Paul at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2004

Stream of Dreams Receives Environmental Leadership Award

Louise Towell and Joane Carne of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society received the 2004 Environmental Leadership Award tonight at a Burnaby Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission meeting.

The city nominated the society for the award, which comes from the British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association.

The award was presented at a BCRPA conference, was accepted on the society's behalf by a Burnaby Parks commission member, and passed on to Joan and Louise tonight.


From left, Louise, Joan and Parks Chair Leslie Roosa.

Posted by Paul at 09:45 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2004

Too Much Burnaby Development?

Several Byrne Creek Streamkeepers showed up for a rezoning meeting at Burnaby City Hall this evening.

There are huge development plans slated for the Marine Way/Byrne Road area, which is already congested.

Many citizens expressed concerns about storm water management, increased traffic flows in an area that already has traffic problems, and the drawing of shoppers away from established town centres.

They questioned the need for yet more malls and big-box stores, accessible mainly by cars, in an area that has few local residents. Why create more traffic flow, more pollution, and more impervious surfaces in an area that used to be a natural bog?

The city has been on a big kick to "revitalize" the Edmonds area, which is a 5-minute drive up the hill from these new developments. Developments which could starve Edmonds Town Centre and a lot of businesses on Kingsway.

I own my own business, we're members of the Board of Trade, I'd place myself slighty to the right of centre in the political world, but I think Burnaby is getting too much "building permit" growth on its brain.

The whole affair tonight had the feel of an act in a play, and I'm sure the development is a done deal. Sad.

Posted by Paul at 10:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2004

Japanese City Councillors Visit Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers hosted a group of seven city councillors from Okayama City in Japan this morning. They were in Vancouver and Burnaby on an unofficial visit and wanted to meet a volunteer group working on environmental issues.

It was interesting to see a group of men in suits with nearly no English-language abilities loosen up and have a great morning with a bunch of T-shirt clad streamkeepers. We are fortunate to count two Japanese volunteers in our group, Maho Hayashi, and my wife Yumi, who helped AK Travel Canada Ltd. owner Masaaki Kawabata interpret throughout the morning.

Our visitors quickly shed their ties as we explored the creek, and initial awkwardness on both sides blossomed into animated exchanges of questions and answers about storm drains vs sanitary sewer systems, flap gates and tides, city contributions and volunteer work, and even some mutual "testing" of playground equipment and a seesaw in Ron McLean park.

We presented our guests with our own brochure, a City of Burnaby storm drains brochure, and a Japanese-language streamkeeping synopsis and history of Byrne Creek prepared by Yumi and Maho.

Louise Towell and Joan Carne, streamkeepers and founders of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, gave each councillor a small dreamfish. We were also pleasantly surprised when they all bought Byrne Creek Streamkeeper T-shirts!

This was the second time that Byrne Creek Streamkeepers have hosted a group from Japan through Masaaki's auspices, and we'd like to thank him.

Posted by Paul at 06:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2004

Amazing Fish Website

I just ran across an amazing fish website called FishBase.

Here's the intro blurb on their search page: "28,500 Species, 188,300 Common names, 36,300 Pictures, 33,200 References, 1,090 Collaborators, 9 million hits/month."

I can see myself spending hours on this site :-).

Posted by Paul at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

Released Coho Smolts Die in Byrne Creek

We got an e-mail yesterday from a Burnaby environmental services worker that there were about 250 dead coho smolts in the Byrne Creek sediment pond. My wife Yumi and I called fellow streamkeepers Bert and Bob, and we were all down at the habitat yesterday afternoon.

Yumi and I walked down the ravine, checking the creek along the way, and found one dying coho smolt about 10m d/s of the footbridge.

Good news: We also saw live coho smolts and cuts in some pools, coho fry between the footbridge and the old weir, chum fry below the old weir, lots of chum fry below the new weir, tiny fry (new cuts?) below the new weir.

We counted 254 dead smolts in the sediment pond.

There were also live fry, coho smolts and cuts in the sediment pond, so perhaps the few live coho smolts we saw are indigenous and tougher having grown up in the occasionally polluted water.

Yumi and I then went through the spawning channel. Growth was very thick in places and it was hard to access all portions, but we came up with a total of 32 morts, mostly in the pools.

When we came out the bottom end of the spawning channel, we could see at least 25 morts in the overflow pond, and it would probably be safe to double that figure.

There were three morts visible from Meadow Bridge.

We then ran into Bob, and he joined us in going further downstream. There were four morts u/s of Byrne Bridge, and a crow snagged one of them as we watched, and carried it away.

It was difficult to walk the creek below Byrne due to thick growth. We gave up about two-thirds of the way to Marine Way, as we had not seen any morts. Saw one live small-smolt-sized salmonid in the creek about halfway between Byrne and Marine Way.

So of the several thousand coho smolts schoolchildren released last week, the death toll was:

Conservative total: 315
Probable total: 350
Possible total: 400+

We call this the "first flush" effect. It's the first heavy rain after a fish release that carries all sorts of stuff into the creek from storm drains. Oil and antifreeze from leaking cars, soap from washing cars, pesticides, herbicides, you name it.

If it's not too bad, the native fish survive, however it appears that it doesn't take much to kill hatchery fish that grew up in a pristine environment.

You can see my photos of a first flush in May 2003 here.

Posted by Paul at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2004

Rain Brings Heavy Silt Flow to Byrne Creek

Executive Summary: A heavy rain resulted in a silty, dark brown flow in Byrne Creek today, with water visibility in pools down to about 10cm. It looked like a river of chocolate milk.

I called it in to the city. Environmental services officers checked up on it, and advised me that there were similar flows in many Burnaby creeks today, and chalked it up to the rain.

I could see schools of fry swimming at the surface of the sediment pond, and the occasional coho smolt/cutthroat jumper, but no mortalities, so the fish were surviving.

Details: I reached the bottom of the stairs in the ravine in light rain at about 10:35. The water was nearly opaque, with a dark brown flow. At 11:00, still in light rain, the flow out of the culvert under Southridge Dr. into the sediment pond was brown and visibility was nearly zero. Just as I was recording a water-flow gauge reading, the sediment pond began to overflow.


On a good day, the water in the above photo would look crystal clear.

I decided to backtrack. At 12:00 Griffiths Pond near Edmonds Skytrain station was murky and the flow from the fish ladder was very bubbly. At 12:15 Susan's Pond was murky, however the inflow didn't look that bad.

I checked the pipes under Griffiths Ave. and the Edmonds line was dirty as usual, yet the pipe that passes the creek beneath the street was even dirtier. That's when I called it in to the city, and the rain stopped at about the same time.


I returned home and had lunch, and then drove down to the sediment pond, concerned about the smolts schoolkids released into the creek last week. At 1:10 p.m. I couldn't see any mortalities. I saw smolt-sized fish jumping, and fry swimming near the surface, leaving ripples behind their schools.

Levels were down considerably from an hour and a half earlier, with the surface about 12-15cm below overflow. I took another gauge reading.

I walked the spillway and found 4 dead chum fry that had floated over and were trapped when the water receded.

I drove down to the Fraser Foreshore Park to check the outflow, and at 2:30 there was a dark sediment plume extending from the creek, distinctly visible at least 5-7 meters out into the river. There was a lot of stuff going down the creek today!


Posted by Paul at 08:18 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2004

Invasive Turtle

My wife and I finally managed to sneak up and get a good enough angle on the turtle in the overflow pond near the Byrne Creek spawning habitat to identify it as a red-eared slider.

We have a red-eared pet that we got in Japan some seven or eight years ago, and we soon learned they are not native either to Japan, or Canada.

When we moved to Canada in 1999, we had to get an import permit from the Feds, and a possession permit from the BC