In just a matter of a few short years, there could be no more salmon in the Somenos watershed.
That is the sobering warning from the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society as we enter the new year.
There are multiple problems leading to this possible local extinction. One problem is invasive parrots feather in Somenos Creek, which is choking off the waterway at an alarming rate. Another is pollution of runoff and tributaries, as well as water quality problems in Somenos Lake itself, where toxic algae blooms are frequent. This is affecting the entire watershed. On top of that, stream-side habitat for salmon-bearing creeks is shrinking.
The Somenos watershed was once packed with this iconic fish, but the time is rapidly approaching when there will be nothing left but stories of what once was.
It’s a difficult problem to fix. Local governments are not technically responsible for fish, the federal government is. So far, this senior level of government has shown no interest in this local crisis. The Municipality of North Cowichan has stepped up to the plate and is looking at solutions to the issues in Somenos Lake in particular, but fixes are costly. Removing parrots feather alone is a multi-year endeavour that would cost from tens of thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the method chosen. The municipality is conducting an ongoing study of the area to try to determine what the root causes of some of the pollution are.
These are good steps, but what it adds up to is that nothing is going to happen immediately to fix the issues, and the salmon almost certainly do not have enough time left. Even if solutions are found and implemented, it likely won’t be fast enough.
That doesn’t mean we should give up. We must proceed to try to save this aquatic environment, for ourselves, and for all of the species that call it home. It is our only hope to bring the salmon back.