Every summer, as you pack up your things and head out on the highways to your favorite BC destination, our ministry is busy working to improve fish passages and restore habitats along these same highways. Because spring and fall are the busiest times of year for fish spawning, and because high winter water levels and storms make work difficult, we work long hours during the summer to help restore mainly salmon and trout habitat that has been damaged from past human activity.
Why do we spend so much time and effort to protect just a couple of animal species?
Well, salmon are actually considered keystone species, which means that these fish have a huge impact on the rest of the ecosystem. They provide food for eagles, seagulls, ravens, ducks and other birds, as well as bears, wolves, invertebrates, amphibians…you get the picture… Even forests benefits from high nutrients that these fish provide!
But Pacific salmon, named B.C.’s provincial fish in 2013 are also extremely important to our own recreational, social, economic, and cultural activities. It’s hard to beat the taste of a fresh-caught salmon. And without a healthy number of salmon and trout in our waters, we can say goodbye to many of our recreational fishing activities too.
What do we do to protect and restore these species?
- We use large woody debris along the edge of streams and shorelines to provide erosion protection on softer stream banks and for habitat diversity.
- We plant native vegetation, integrating it into the area to restore the riparian zone (the area around the stream or shoreline).
- We use a certain type of gravel; spawning areas are constructed in streams, which help to maintain a cool and well-oxygenated water flow over developing fish embryos.
- We use things like culverts and bridges to maintain fish passage at our stream crossings.
- We protect water quality by controlling contaminants from entering water ways.
- We also provide off-channel rearing areas that create sheltered and protected habitat; and installation of wildlife enhancements such as artificial bird nesting boxes and snags.
It is unfortunate that migratory fish passage and environmental protection were not really considered when first constructing things like culverts underneath highways. But today, our stewardship practices ensure the environment is considered throughout highway development and construction.
So, whether you are a fisher, a nature-lover, or a highway traveller, now if you see us at the roadside or beyond, you’ll know that we are making sure that valuable ecosystems you have come to appreciate are sustainably managed and restored everywhere our provincial roads exist.
Here are some examples of ways we’ve improved passage and habitat for fish: