Stewardship Pemberton launched with Coho census 

New environmental group offers a variety of volunteer opportunities

By Cindy Filipenko

Small steps are big victories when it comes to ameliorating environmental concerns. Local Department of Fisheries technician Veronica Woodruff is developing a way for everyone to take those initial steps.

Woodruff, who spent a decade working with Whistler Fisheries Stewardship group, is taking the next steps towards launching Stewardship Pemberton as a registered non-profit organization.

“So far feedback has been very positive from the people I’ve contacted. I think we’re going to develop a great board of directors,” she said.

Woodruff acknowledges that much of the groundwork for the project was laid by her predecessor, Lisa Helmer. One of the fledgling group’s proposed initiatives is the development of the Pemberton Interpretive Centre, slated to be built at One Mile Park next year.

In the meantime, Stewardship Pemberton has undertaken its first project, counting Coho salmon spawning stock in Pemberton Creek, Arn Canal and One-Mile Lake.

Woodruff explained that although there is good understanding of where they spawn and at what time, it is time to start keeping accurate records so the health of this population can be tracked.

An international study released by Dalhousie University earlier this month had the grim projection that worldwide fish stocks could collapse by 2048.

“That’s terrifying — 2048 is the foreseeable future. That makes a project like this is all the more important,” said Woodruff.

The goal of what can be described as a “Coho census,” is to collect the information and create a database that Stewardship Pemberton could continue to build on each year. This would allow the organization to identify trends and help to avert a potential crisis.

“Those kinds of numbers, kept in a database, become really important information. There’s such a knowledge base in the valley to begin with, but we have to find a way of bringing it all together and making it accessible,” she explained.

Sometimes that knowledge offers up some surprises. A recent sighting of a “catfish” in the Arn Canal was revealed to be a Brown Bullhead, a species related to the catfish and found in Eastern waterways. Being able to develop a comprehensive picture of the species that inhabit the valley’s rivers, creeks and lakes will also prove to be valuable. In the meantime, the focus is on the Coho.

The count is already underway and Woodruff says the response to it has been great. However, the count will continue into the New Year and more volunteers are needed.

“Stewardship Pemberton provides a number of volunteer opportunities. People with a lot of time might want to get involved with maintaining the data base while others might have a couple of hours to participate in the count,” said Woodruff.

She emphasizes that no special skills are necessary to help with the count and that it can be an ideal activity for families.

Stewardship Pemberton will be participating in Pemberton's first Community Spirit Showcase Friday, Nov. 24 at Signal Hill Elementary from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. Interested volunteers can sign up there or call Woodruff at 604-894-0008.

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