Major Gas Spill at Goldstream
Created: Wednesday, 20 April 2011 15:31
I’ve spent some time at Goldstream over the years, as a naturalist with the Nature House, as an inexperienced birder with binoculars, and as a father with my children. During my years as a naturalist, I spent a lot of time with the salmon run, and I thought I had dissected chum salmon for school children on every conceivable kind of day. Most vividly I remember the mornings so cold I couldn’t feel my fingers as took out a salmon’s heart to show children how strong this hidden muscle had be for the salmon struggle its way through the river current after a hard life at sea. I know there were warm days, and sunny days. Still, it’s the cold late November and December days filled with the smell of dead salmon, the cry of gulls, and frozen fingers that I remember best, and that I looked forward most to sharing with my children.
40,000 litres of gas, spilled into the Goldstream River, and carried into the Estuary and Saanich Inlet, is a shocking reminder of how quickly these a special places can be damaged or destroyed. Salmon have been spawning in Goldstream for thousands of years. That I be would be able to share that experience with my children in 2 or 3 years seemed a given. But, after a few hours one weekend, there are now doubts. It seems likely at least one year class of Chum salmon is gone. Maybe two years of Coho, who were already struggling at Goldstream (Coho spend a full year in the river, so those hatched in last spring may still have been near enough to be effected, in addition to this year’s young). Time, ultimately, will tell us what the full impact will be. That time will be anxious, worried, uncertain – and at least 4 years long.
A few years ago, I left my position at Goldstream to work for HAT. While I no longer freeze my fingers inside dead salmon each fall, I still have ties to Goldstream, both personal and professional. HAT raises money each year to send children to the fall salmon run. Over 40,000 children have attended a free Salmon Run school programs because local businesses (Goldstream Chums – get it?) have donated money to fund these iconic programs. It’s an experience Victorians have grown up with for generations. Ask anyone who has grown up here, and chances are they visited the Goldstream Salmon as a kid, and remember a program with a naturalist. What happens now, 1 weekend and 40,000 litres of gas later?
During this uncertain and anxious time, this is certain – HAT will continue to support school programs at Goldstream, and we hope you, with the Chums, will too. Now, more than ever, children need to experience the majesty and beauty of that ancient forest and its meandering river, and rich cycle of life it supports.