Conservation group looking for ‘survival bottlenecks’ in Shelley Creek cutthroat trout

Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES) volunteers (Pete Law, upper left; Dick Dobler, lower left; and David Erickson, right) capturing trout for tagging using a pole seine net. || MVIHES photo.
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The Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES) has begun its own program to determine the migratory habits of cutthroat trout in Shelley Creek. The goal is to learn more about “survival bottlenecks,” events that drastically reduce the size of a population.

The study builds on its participation in a regional investigation into the drastic decline of coho and chinook salmon and steelhead trout in the Salish Sea, according to MVIHES. 

Volunteers will implant passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags into the fish. The tags each contain a unique code with information such as its species, age and where it was tagged.

The study will focus on trout inhabiting the section of Shelley Creek that runs through Shelley Park, including how large their range is. 

“This is important to know if this unique population of coastal cutthroat trout is to be protected,” reads a news release from the organization.

MVIHES is also hoping to learn if the trout’s movement in the creek is obstructed by culverts, whether any migrate downstream into the Englishman River and if the fish avoid or prefer any habitat conditions.

The creek is now at its summer low flow condition, so further tagging will resume in fall, so the fish are not unduly stressed, the release said.

Peter Law, vice president of MVIHES, received a grant from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC to purchase the equipment for assembling the antennae array that will track the tagged fish.  

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