Comox Valley salmon conservation community receives $139,000 boost in grants

August 17, 2022

The Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) is pleased to announce $139,298 in grants to three salmon conservation, stewardship, and enhancement projects in the Comox Valley through PSF’s Community Salmon Program. The total value of the projects, which includes community fundraising, contributions, and volunteer time is $6,571,352 and is focused on habitat restoration, education, outreach, and stock enhancement.

  • Comox Lake cold-water salmon hatchery: Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association
  • Kus-kus-sum: K’ómoks First Nation, City of Courtenay, Comox Valley Project Watershed Society
  • Eco-cultural restoration: Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries, K’ómoks First Nation

New state-of-the-art hatchery at Comox Lake

Hatchery build progress.

The Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association (or Courtenay Fish & Game) has been involved in the conservation and restoration of Puntledge River fish stocks since the Association was established in 1937. The group’s 85-year track record includes coho enhancement efforts, salmon habitat restoration projects, countless studies on fish populations and habitat, and long-lasting partnerships with stewardship groups and volunteers.

Currently, Courtenay Fish & Game is building a new, state-of-the-art cold-water coho hatchery in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to re-stock the Trent River. This hatchery relies on access to a dependable cold-water source, an opportunity provided by the cold-water supply from the deeper reaches of Comox Lake.

The new hatchery, proudly supported by PSF, will enable Courtenay Fish & Game to restart coho smolt production on the Puntledge River and to rear summer Chinook from egg to smolt stage in their historic waters, increasing the potential for them to imprint on the Comox Lake waters and return to these waters for spawning.

Hatchery construction is well underway and Courtenay Fish & Game anticipates the facility to be operational by fall of 2022, just in time for the return of Trent River coho salmon.

Kus-kus-sum: giving K’ómoks Estuary salmon a fighting chance

Caitlin Pierzchalski of Project Watershed stands at the Kus-kus-sum site

Caitlin Pierzchalski, executive director of Project Watershed, stands at Kus-kus-sum. (Photo: Alanna D Photography)

Kus-kus-sum is a PSF-supported collaborative project between the K’ómoks First Nation, City of Courtenay, and the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society. The restoration partnership will create 8.3 acres of fish and wildlife habitat in the Comox Valley. The partners are restoring a former industrial sawmill site in the heart of the salmon migratory corridor of the K’ómoks Estuary. Prior to its development, the site was a tidally-influenced, forested wetland and riparian area that continues to be an important site for the K’ómoks First Nation. This project aims to restore natural ecosystem elements, remove current industrial infrastructure, create a climate mitigation asset for the community, and recover the land to its traditional stewards.

Eco-cultural restoration at Vancouver Island estuaries

K'omoks Estuary natural enclosure fence

A natural enclosure fence at the K’omoks Estuary to protect grasses from geese predation.

The Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries and the K’ómoks First Nation have developed a unique Canada Goose management solution called eco-cultural restoration to protect critical salmon estuary habitat. Overabundant Canada geese have grazed estuarine marshes on Vancouver Island for decades, leading to the loss of more than 90 per cent of this important juvenile salmon habitat.

The eco-cultural restoration technique involves installing alder and willow fencing around carex and sedge grasses to keep geese out and allow salmon to utilize the grass habitat, similar to ancient Indigenous fish trap technology. This PSF-supported work takes place at six estuaries across Vancouver Island.

Funded primarily from sales of the federal government’s Salmon Conservation Stamp purchased annually by saltwater anglers, PSF’s Community Salmon Program provides grants for salmon conservation projects. Proceeds from the $6.24 stamp are returned to British Columbia through PSF, generating nearly $1.5 million annually for community grants. In addition to the funds generated by the Salmon Conservation Stamp, the Community Salmon Program also benefits from corporations with sustainability goals. BC Hydro, Mosaic Forest Management, Seaspan, and Paper Excellence, among others are all corporate supporters of the Program.

The Comox Valley community is also a strong financial contributor to this work through the annual PSF Comox Valley Gala Dinner & Auction, presented by Mosaic Forest Management. The event will return in-person this year as the volunteer organizing committee looks to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the fundraiser, which will be held on Friday, September 23 at the Florence Filberg Centre. Details here.

About the Pacific Salmon Foundation:

PSF is the independent, thoughtful leader and catalyst in conservation, restoration, and enhancement of Pacific salmon and their ecosystems through strategic partnerships and leveraged use of resources.