Mackenzie Beck, Shelley Goertzen, and Michel Vallee work together to identify the species of fish caught as volunteers from the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society were at the Englishman River Estuary on May 30. (Emiliy Vance photo)

Beach combers test results of endangered Parksville river’s restoration

Volunteer group uses beach seining to track Englishman River Estuary restoration

Volunteers from the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society gathered on Thursday for their final beach seining survey of the spring season.

The team of nine volunteers, led by biologist Dave Clough, used a large green net to drag tidal pools in the Englishman River Estuary. They then sorted the collected sea life into buckets on shore for identification and counting.

They describe what they found as “the usual suspects” – a variety of small creatures including several kinds of sculpins, gobis from the minnow family, flounders, shore crabs, hermit crabs and bay shrimp.

The work is part of the group’s ongoing monitoring of the estuary’s restoration. The Englishman River was once declared to be the most endangered river in the province by the Rivers Coalition of BC. Regular beach seining is one of the ways that teams can see first-hand how effective restoration efforts have been.

“We can go out, we can do all sorts of restoration, but if we don’t do studies to determine if that restoration is working, we won’t know if we’re actually if what we’re doing is correct,” said Barb Riordan, a volunteer with MVIHES.

READ MORE: Englishman River Estuary to undergo five-year restoration

Biologist Dave Clough has been fighting to restore the health of the Englishman River for decades.

“We wanted to understand the ecological functions of the Englishman,” he said. “It’s an urban watershed and it’s under a tremendous amount of pressure. We were concerned we were going to lose it.”

Clough credits the work of the society as being the glue that saved the estuary from being demolished by development.

“We became the information-sharing group that made sure good biology and good restoration happened,” he said. “And it really did.”

The volunteer team is made up of a variety of people from different backgrounds.

“They are loggers, they are ex-government people, teachers… I couldn’t even tell you what most of them do,” said Clough. “We just leave our past behind and we all work together pulling on the net.”

Riordan’s background is in biology, making voluteering with MVIHES a natural choice for her, and one she sees as incredibly important.

“Everything is connected. We humans are connected to everything in nature. If there’s an imbalance somewhere, then we’re going to suffer as well,” said Riordan. “At this stage in my life, I’m able to give back, and this is how I’m most able to give back, and I can actually contribute some knowledge and skills towards it.”

The society’s next beach seining will take place in August.

emily.vance@pqbnews.com

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Volunteers from the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society drag a net in the Englishman River Estuary to take a sample of the area’s sea life on May 30. (Emily Vance photo)

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