Dinner funds salmon restoration projects

Pacific Salmon Foundation fundraiser helps groups re-establish Nanaimo salmon runs

If you’ve noticed pink salmon spawning in Departure Creek or chum salmon ascending Chase River over the past few weeks, it’s not a fluke.

It is because of many local interest groups that came together to breathe life back into Nanaimo waterways, re-establishing and in some cases establishing salmon runs that were non-existent for decades.

Much of the funding for the projects comes from the Pacific Salmon Foundation, which hosts its key fundraiser Nov. 26 at Beban Park.

It’s an event salmon lovers circle on their calendar annually.

“It’s the ninth annual Pacific Salmon Foundation dinner auction, and it’s a great way for all of the people and groups involved in these projects to get together and keep the momentum going,” said Mel Sheng, dinner organizer and quarterback for many salmon enhancement projects in the area.

The event, which includes an auction and dancing, raises more than $40,000 each year with all net proceeds directed toward salmon restoration between Duncan and Fanny Bay.

Partners involved in many of the projects around Nanaimo include: the Island Water Flyfishers, British Columbia Conservation Foundation, Island Corridor Foundation, Nanaimo and Area Land Trust, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the City of Nanaimo and Vancouver Island University.

Over the past several months, stakeholders worked to re-introduce more than 2,000 chum to Chase River by installing nine baffles, with some fish reaching as far as Cat Creek for the first time since 1911. And for the first time in decades, more than 200 pinks swam up Departure Creek and successfully spawned in picturesque Woodstream Park, while 200 chum returned to Beck Creek near Pryde Vista golf course.

This year, coho expected to arrive over the coming weeks in the Millstone River and its $500,000 side channel will experience improved spawning grounds as money raised from last year’s dinner and auction was used to build new gravel beds along the channel.

“The Pacific Salmon Foundation dinner is a way for us to get funds for this area and then distribute those funds to the various groups for their projects,” said Jean-Michel Hanssens of the Harbour City River Stewards, an organization created to oversee many of the salmon enhancement projects around the Nanaimo area. “The highlights this year have been pinks spawning in Departure Creek for the first time and the chum returning to Chase River.

Future projects to benefit from PSF fundraising include introducing pinks to the channel between Neck Point Park and Pipers Lagoon Park, various water storage projects to ensure local streams and rivers have enough flow in the dry months to sustain salmon fry, and a science educational centre floated for Bowen Park near the side channel.

“It’s all about the community coming together and becoming involved,” said Hannsens. “And it’s all about the fish.”

Thanks to the dinner auction and other fundraising, a successful pink run was re-introduced to Departure Bay and Nanaimo Harbour over the past few years, providing sport fishing opportunities that have attracted thousands of people to Nanaimo’s shoreline.

Tickets for the Pacific Salmon Foundation are $60 each and can be purchased at Gone Fishin’ at 2980 North Island Highway (Rock City Centre), Wholesale Sports Outdoor Outfitters, or at DFO at 3225 Stephenson Point Rd. or DFO at 303-60 Front St.

The auction will include fishing adventures, original artwork and other unique items, while dinner includes a seafood bar, buffet, and dessert. The evening begins at 5:30 p.m.