This time last year, Wei Wai Kum fisheries biologist Kelsey Campbell was preparing to get wet and muddy in Nunns Creek, which runs through the Wei Wai Kum community in Campbell River and into the Campbell River Estuary. “You must not mind a bit of rain,” she admitted with a chuckle as she described the creek assessment project she was getting under way. To study the creek’s anadromous fish and their habitat required climbing right into it, muddy gumboots and all.
Fast forward to November 2016, and the Nunns Creek project, reports Kelsey happily, is complete. For now, she can put away the wet weather gear.
Knowledge as the key to wellbeing
The goal of the assessment has been to restore the creek, which is of cultural significance to Wei Wai Kum, to healthy fish habitat. To do that required gathering not only traditional ecological knowledge about the creek, but scientific data.
With support from Tides Canada and Nanwakolas Council, Wei Wai Kum has documented and built upon vital scientific information about Nunns Creek. That information will form the basis for implementation of a raft of recommendations and projects to continue improving habitat and wellbeing of the stream along its entire path to the sea.
An eye-opening clean- up project
A major clean-up of Nunns Creek was also one of this summer’s important goals. “We are fortunate to partner with A-Tlegay Fisheries Society, which works on fisheries management with several First Nations,” says Kelsey. “Several A-Tlegay summer interns from those First Nations, all high school age, worked with us to remove more than 275 kilograms of garbage from the creek. It was a wonderful experience for all of us.”
Kelsey remarks that it was also a “real eye-opener” for the youth who participated. “They made this great connection with the creek and the fish that depend on it. They learned so much about the negative impact of the garbage. I’m sure they’ve gone back to their friends and peers to share that connection and tell them to help protect the fish too.”
Partnerships: filling the gap
This year’s continuing work on Nunns Creek has also resulted in new partnerships that have been forged around the technical work required. “That piece was missing until now,” says Kelsey. “The linkages we made this year and our collaboration with other interested groups have set the stage for a very valuable long term outcome for the creek and therefore for all of us.”
When Kelsey learned that environmental assessment company Ecofish Research Ltd. would be conducting a similar project in Nunns Creek Park, she quickly latched onto the opportunity to collaborate with Ecofish and the City of Campbell River to work together on an ecosystem inventory. Tlowitsis First Nation Guardians were engaged to trial their new drone mapping capacity over the Wei Wai Kum portion of the creek. Wei Wai Kum were then able to share and swap information with these other groups as well as A-Tlegay, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other organizations. “That level of interaction is really helpful,” observes Kelsey, “and is going to really support the work we want to do on an ongoing basis.”
Coming up next
That work includes replacing three undersized culverts in the lower part of Nunns Creek so that Wei Wai Kum can then focus on restoring the riparian zone and fish habitat throughout the community’s portion of the stream, as well as ongoing monitoring of fish numbers and health. “Taking care of Nunns Creek is hugely important to our community,” says Kelsey. “It’s wonderful to be able to see this work coming to fruition and seeing juvenile fish come back to a healthy, clean creek.”