CERCA’s Funding Proposal Approved
The Cowichan Estuary Restoration and Conservation Association (CERCA) stated that their funding proposal under the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program (RFCPP) has been approved in full for an amount of $50,000 pending signing of a contribution agreement.
The project rationale is to rehabilitate approximately three hectares of prime salt marsh habitat. The targeted area provides food and shelter to a wide spectrum of fauna including Chinook, Coho and chum smolt thriving along some of the still un-disturbed sections of shoreline and in the intertidal pools and side channels of the Cowichan Estuary.
A group of scientific, biological, and local knowledge experts, with over 300 years combined experience on the Cowichan, classified the Cowichan River and Estuary critical Chinook habitat and a habitat at risk limiting the productive capacity of the Cowichan River Chinook fall run.
The Cowichan River and Estuary have undergone considerable change, bringing into question the health of the ecosystem. The Cowichan River Chinook, Coho and Chum depend on the lower river and estuary during the most critical time of their life cycle. Quality habitat in the estuary and marshlands is a key prerequisite for smolt survival.
Logs and woody debris moved around by tidal changes and storms in the Cowichan Estuary and marshes prevent and disturb the growth of riparian- and marshland vegetation, in particular around inter-tidal pools which provide smolt with food and shelter.
The return of Cowichan Chinook declined from 10,000 spawners in the early 1990s to a low of only a few hundred natural spawners in 2009. This habitat enhancement project addresses one of the key limiting factors to Chinook smolt: creation and sustainability of quality estuarine habitat.