A little history 101

 

QISES IN THE EARLY DAYS  Community groups like QISES were springing up in many coastal towns and islands in BC. Many were part of DFO's (Dept of Fisheries and Oceans) effort to rebuild declining salmon stocks in rivers like the Qualicum and the Quinsam on Vancouver Island. 

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Helicopters were used for getting salmon into some of Quadra's inaccessible streams

In the 70s and 80s the failure of salmon runs elicited an engineering response from governments. Both DFO and Human Resources funded groups like QISES to develop hatchery sites to restock local streams. Money for materials, research and some labour was generously provided by these early grants.

QISES was started by a diverse group of islanders. Initial field work was started by Sam Hooley and Barry Bennett, who was a dedicated long time president. Incidentally, Bennett Creek is named after Barry.

Both salmon enhancement (and Quadra's trail system, incidentally) owe a lot to the Katimavik program that saw youth from across the country working on community initiatives. A wave of island volunteers – many who had arrived in the 60s – stepped up to carry the work forward.

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DFO releasing salmon into Hyacinthe Creek, 1986

The hatchery on Hyacinthe (McKercher) Creek was built and stocked at the present location of the EcoCentre. For nearly two decades Quadra's fish-bearing streams were annually augmented with hatchery-raised chum, coho, and pink salmon fry. Many islanders worked to maintain the hatchery, including a group from the Cape Mudge Band.

WHERE DID THE FISH GO?  Returns seemed promising at first. But over the years numbers of salmon coming back to island streams didn't quite yield the hoped-for results. Developing the hatchery had been a labour of love, learning, and commitment. After years of maintaining the facility – increasingly through volunteer efforts  – QISES closed the hatchery in the late nineties. As island salmon stocks seemed to be facing critical points of no return, the group shifted nearly all its efforts to habitat care and restoration as a way to save the salmon runs. 

It was becoming clear to many, however, that what was keeping fish out of the streams couldn't be dealt with by instream work alone. Ocean habitats – where salmon spend most of their lives – were increasingly impacted by poor logging practices, over-fishing, industrial development and the warming of both air and water. The oceans are also being impacted by many factors that fisheries scientists are still unravelling.

NEW DIRECTIONS  Around 2004 QISES broadened its mandate of maintaining and enhancing island watersheds to providing public education via the Salmon EcoCentre. Focussing attention on the big issues around fish habitat – and what ordinary people can do about them – was at the heart of the initiative. The EcoCentre and its later interpretive installation was made possible through the generosity of Quadra Islanders, supplemented by some regional and federal grants – and produced by an island team of biologists, writers, and artists. The Pacific Salmon Foundation has been a major supporter.

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Spawners face many challenges. Above are the lucky ones that made it to Quadra!

In 2012, the organization received DFO's 35-year Award of Recognition, presented by Community Advisor and longtime advocate Barry Peters. A 30 year award was also received by a private group at Pulton Bay, a project which was begun by QISES.