British Columbia

East Vancouver's urban salmon stream sees no returning fish in 3 years

Biologists are sounding the alarm over one of Vancouver's few salmon-bearing streams.

Still Creek enjoyed a salmon resurgence in 2012, but no fish have returned in three years

Chum salmon returned to spawn in Still Creek in an industrial area of East Vancouver in 2012, but they haven't been back in three years. (CBC)

Biologists are sounding the alarm over the lack of fish in one of Vancouver's few salmon-bearing streams.

Nestled in an industrial corner of East Vancouver, Still Creek is one of a handful of places in the city where salmon come to spawn.

After 80 dormant years, the salmon returned in 2012 following a city restoration of the creek. Hundreds of chum salmon have been through since then.

But biologist and volunteer stream keeper David Scott says there haven't been any salmon in three years. 

"We're kind of frustrated," Scott said. "In all of the local creeks the chum salmon returns have been really poor."

Still Creek runs through industrial parts of East Vancouver and Burnaby, B.C. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Scott says all the local creeks in Burnaby have had reduced numbers of chum salmon this year.

Jason Hwang, vice president of the Pacific Salmon Foundation, says many salmon runs across the province have struggled in recent years.

"Those lower returns just mean there are fewer fish that come back and get to these small streams," Hwang said. 

Several challenges

Some experts say the biggest culprit affecting the runs is changing ocean conditions due to climate change, but they also say there are several other challenges. 

Scott says one of them is that city-led habitat enhancements have stalled since the salmon started returning.

Vancouver city officials say they're working on a rainwater strategy that could potentially reduce the amount of waste flowing into the creek, but Scott says time is of the essence.

Despite the setback, Scott thinks the salmon could bounce back with a bit of effort — which has happened before. 

With files from Jon Hernandez

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