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Salmon (Still) at Work 


June 3, 2020

By Kyle Wilson

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A nearby sign from Fisheries and Oceans Canada along the flowing creeks of Burnaby Mountain.

Each day, I walk the forested paths along Burnaby Mountain to find any new deftly painted rocks hidden by my safely distanced neighbors. Each day, the same soaked black Lab barrels through a creek culvert in a happy juxtaposition to both the ongoing pandemic and the ‘Caution! Salmon at Work’ sign along the creek.

Each day, a Coastal Salish Watch House stands vigilant, bearing witness to the impacts from the nearby oil facilities.


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The TransMountain Pipeline facilities, the Coastal Salish Watch House, and a nearby creek culvert to reconnect the upstream and downstream portions of a cut-up creek.

Walking by these gurgling mountain creeks, I think about how salmon are still at work – though I might not be. Young fish emerge from the safe confines of their home creek to embark on a downstream odyssey towards the ocean to eat and grow. And, they continue this odyssey across the ocean eventually struggling back up these same rivers and creeks to complete their life’s journey and spawn in these mountain creeks. Not only must these fish navigate the cascading pools and riffles of these ecosystems, but also natural and human-imposed changes. Dams bottleneck the natural river’s flow. Roads and culverts cut-up creeks. Fisheries harvest the biggest fish. And, hatcheries try to buffer salmon from ourselves. Yes, salmon are still at work.


I need this walk. Fisheries science thrives on connections with people and nature, and a desire to solve ecological mysteries. Sadly, the ongoing social distancing that our community needs to heal means it is also easy for us to lose those connections. The flowing creeks and the looming presence of Watch House reminds me of these connections. The ecosystems we rely upon aren’t going away, but neither are the centuries-old challenges we placed upon them. Yet, for each walk that I see this happy black Lab flopping through these salmon creeks, I know there’s joy to be found in this quiet routine. And, each day I find a new painted rock, my mind wonders “who painted this one?” renewing the mystery and the work begins to flow onward. If salmon continue to work to face their challenges, then so can I.

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Some painted rocks from the neighborhood community, hidden along the forested paths of Burnaby Mountain to support one another.

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