Chum Salmon Recovery

photo: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Join our streamkeeper group to bring Chum salmon back to Bowker Creek. 

To volunteer for the Bowker Creek Chum Salmon Recovery – Streamkeepers Group, please contact the Friends of Bowker Creek Society by email and include the words Chum Salmon in the subject line. We welcome your participation!

Please consider joining the Friends of Bowker Creek Society here. There is an option to select your interest in supporting the Bowker Creek Chum Salmon Recovery project.

Here is the Design for Initial Assessment of Habitat and Water Quality for Chum Salmon Recovery in Bowker Creek.

Chum Salmon Recovery in Bowker Creek

Terms of Reference

prepared by Gerald Harris for Friends of Bowker Creek Society May 2020

Chum salmon were plentiful in Bowker Creek until around 1914. Ainslie Helmcken remembered seeing them migrating upstream behind Jubilee Hospital. He played along the creek as a boy while his father, Dr. Helmcken, visited patients. Indigenous people have fished salmon and trout in the creek for likely the past 6000 years. The goal of the Bowker Creek Chum Salmon Recovery Project is to restore Chum in the creek.

In Metro Vancouver, Still Creek welcomed Chum in 2012, after 80 years absence. Cooperative work among volunteer streamkeepers, educational institutions and city governments daylighted and restored that urban creek, improved its water quality and invited Chum Salmon back. Similar projects are ongoing on the Saanich Peninsula, and we propose the same for Bowker Creek.

A preliminary study by students of Oak Bay High School suggests that Bowker Creek might already possess fair habitat and water quality for Chum salmon.

A citizen science initiative, the Chum Salmon Recovery Project is based in collaboration among Friends of Bowker Creek Society, Oak Bay High School and Peninsula Streams Society. It will cultivate strong relationships with the District of Oak Bay, the Bowker Creek Initiative of the Capital Regional District, School District 61 and the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations. Community connections, such as with UVic’s Living Lab, neighbourhood associations and environmental groups will be vital.

Purpose and process of the project:

To restore Chum salmon in Bowker Creek by the following process:

  • combine action and study in a a multi-year dynamic process that includes these elements:
    • release Chum fry in the creek at Oak Bay High School over a period of years,
      • assessing downstream migration survival of the fry
    • assess the present potential of creek habitat, water quality and flow in the lower (Oak Bay) reaches of the stream, with reference to the needs of Chum salmon migration upstream, spawning, egg incubation, fry emergence and migration downstream, using:
      • background data from earlier assessment work in the creek
      • new assessments of habitat and water quality, performed by community volunteers between Summer 2020 and Summer 2021, emphasizing the period, mid-October to mid-May when Chum would be present in the stream
    • report on the stream’s present potential for supporting a Chum salmon population, addressing topics of carrying capacity and limiting factors of habitat, water quality and flow
    • suggest a range of possible restoration and mitigation measures, prioritizing for simplicity and immediate effectiveness
    • observe and respond to adult Chum returns, as follows:
      • observe migration and spawning
      • possibly directly assist, as necessary and practical
      • note limiting factors,
      • suggest, advocate for and initiate corrective action in habitat, water quality and flow
    • Repeat over a period of years the cycle of:
      • observing the Chum and assisting as needed in upstream and downstream migration, egg fertilization and incubation,
      • initiating corrective action
    • to establish a self-sustaining Chum salmon population.

The Bowker Creek Blueprint – A 100 year action plan to restore the Bowker Creek Watershed – a context for the Chum Salmon Recovery Project

Oak Bay, Victoria and Saanich, School District 61 and UVic have all endorsed the Bowker Creek Blueprint. The Bowker Creek Initiative of the CRD coordinated production of the Blueprint and continues to assist in its implementation.

The Bowker Creek Blueprint’s four goals are:

  • Goal 1. Individuals, community and special interest groups, institutions, governments, and businesses take responsibility for actions that affect the watershed.
  • Goal 2. Manage flows effectively.
  • Goal 3. Improve and expand public areas, natural areas, and biodiversity in the watershed.
  • Goal 4. Achieve and maintain acceptable water quality in the watershed.

The Chum Salmon Recovery Project supports all the Blueprint goals. It relates strongly to management of flows, to water quality, to improving public and natural areas and expanding biodiversity, and may combine efforts at every level listed in Goal 1. Assessment for restoring salmon stream ecosystem, we believe, is a natural extension of the spirit and goals of the Bowker Creek Blueprint.

Blueprint commitment to restoring the Bowker Creek watershed challenges us to restore its freshwater ecosystem. Chum salmon have served as a keystone species of that ecosystem for perhaps 6,000 years. Salmon have served as the economic basis for human culture on the BC Coast for perhaps 11,000 years. Human actions eliminated salmon from Bowker Creek only 100 years ago, approximately – a recent and, we believe, reversible loss.

The Chum Salmon Recovery Project will attract additional public support for the Blueprint process. Pacific salmon are a primary icon for people of coastal BC and the Pacific Northwest. People increasingly value salmon restoration to urban streams. Working with and for Chum in Bowker Creek, employing a citizen science approach, the Project will generate public attention, support and engagement for Bowker Creek Blueprint goals and implementation.

Why Chum salmon?

Evidence suggests that Bowker Creek also supported populations of Coho salmon and Coastal Cutthroat trout. Juveniles of those species remain at least a year in freshwater before migrating to the ocean. They have more complex and difficult requirements than do Chum. The Chum inhabit freshwater for essentially the winter half of the year, without a period of juvenile rearing, so they are less likely to encounter low-oxygen conditions and do not need rearing habitat for juveniles. Their requirements may be easier for us to meet.

Why the lower reaches of Bowker Creek?

Compared to Coho and Cutthroat, Chum tend to occupy portions of a stream nearer the ocean, with easier access. Measures needed to restore or assist migration will be simpler and cheaper, the shorter the stream length fish must travel. The relatively natural section of stream at Monteith and the restored section at Oak Bay High School present the best possibility at present for successful spawning.


In order to perform the assessment from October 2020 through April 2021 and to report the results in June 2021, the following timeline is suggested:

June 2020:

  • Open contact with stakeholders and advisors
  • Gather information on Chum salmon: – requirements at all stages of freshwater and estuary life – assessment of habitat and water – re-introduction into streams – habitat and water restoration – artificial transport, spawning, refuge and rearing options – existing assessment information on Bowker Creek – relevant aspects of the Bowker Creek Blueprint – Bowker Creek salmonid history – similar projects in greater Victoria, southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands
  • Initiate contacts and planning for Chum fry release next spring
  • Design scientific and technical elements of the habitat and water quality studies.

July – August 2020:

  • Begin initial stage of water quality and flow assessment
  • Build relationships with stakeholders and advisors
  • Plan and schedule the assessment field work: apportion areas of responsibility and leadership, find materials and volunteers, train and organize field work leaders
  • Plan public education/media aspect


  • Train and organize assessment volunteers
  • Begin public education

October 2020 – April 2021:

  • Water quality & habitat assessment field work
  • Prepare for fry release and downstream migration monitoring
  • Release fry in April
  • Public education

May – June 2021

  • Conclude water quality and habitat assessment
  • Recognize volunteers

July – August 2021

  • Analyze data and develop results
  • Summarize results, develop suggestions,
  • Outline report and write initial sections

September – November 2021

  • complete report
  • Present report for stakeholders and public
  • Start advocacy for most essential habitat or water quality improvements

2022 -2024

  • Ongoing assessment as needed
  • Fry release and downstream monitoring


  • Ongoing assessment as needed
  • Prepare for possible adult Chum returns
  • Monitor for adults in estuary, migration and spawning
    • Assist as needed and possible
    • Analyze and report on the above
    • Identify most-needed habitat or WQ measures needed before next year’s upstream migration

2026 – 2028

  • Same as 2025, plus
  • Essential habitat & WQ improvements as possible
  • Monitor any downstream fry migration
  • analyze, report, identify measures needed, and make improvements as possible