A stream seldom tires but it can often use a helping hand. Monitoring water flow and quality, conducting species surveys, removing obstructions and replacing invasive growth with native plants are ways to assist in the protection of these waterways.
The Sunshine Coast Streamkeepers Society is fortunate to have volunteers such as Ryan Matthews. Their work is vital to sustaining the salmon which have long been a cornerstone of our coastal ecosystems. Ryan is dedicated to the rehabilitation of three creeks near Langdale.
Ryan was born in Pender Harbour but was away for two decades before returning to the Sunshine Coast five years ago. According to local streamkeeper co-ordinator Shirley Samples, he is very conscientious and shows a lot of initiative. Through his efforts an astounding number of cedar trees have been planted along the Langdale Creek riparian zone.
Ryan can often be found walking the streams, performing assessments and reporting data. His contributions include the construction and installation of flow metres on Hutchinson Creek and Langdale Creek. He also took it upon himself to transform five neglected ponds of stagnant water into thriving and interconnected waterholes. Rotted fish ladders were rebuilt with the hope that the ponds will someday host salmon and cutthroat trout.
Despite his busy schedule, Ryan recently made time to share some information and views with us.
SCCA: When did you begin working as a streamkeeper? What motivated you to get started?
Ryan: I began working as a streamkeeper two years ago in response to an article in the local news. After many years of commercial salmon fishing, I have a special connection to fish. Also, as a child, I fished in Langdale Creek and wanted to do something to give back.
SCCA: What steps are involved in becoming a streamkeeper?
Ryan: First, decide if you are ready to make a commitment to the time and effort that is required. It takes a fair amount of physical effort and you do get attached to your “creek”. But as far as steps go, there is a training course to complete first, then you select a creek to “adopt” and start walking!
SCCA: Is there such a thing as a typical day of work? If so, what does it usually involve?
Ryan: No, not really, but a day usually involves a few main items. Collecting stream data (measuring temperatures, pH , turbidity and O2 levels). Surveying creeks for geographical features and monitoring changes to them. Stream walking for identifying spawning salmon and juvenile salmon. This includes the trapping of fry and fingerlings.
SCCA: What are some of the rewards of working as a streamkeeper?
Ryan: Walking and exploring creeks and local forests. Following salmon and sea run trout throughout their life cycles. Working with fellow streamkeepers, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other folks who are concerned with our salmonid populations.
SCCA: What qualities do you think are important for being good at the job?
Ryan: Being physically active, having patience and good observation skills plus a willingness to work in the rain.
SCCA: What sort of time commitment is required? Is it regular or occasional?
Ryan: The time requirements can be either regular or occasional. It depends upon how involved you want to be with your creek. I monitor my creek weekly for temperatures (two hours) and monthly for chemical analysis (two hours). During spawning season, I check a couple of times a week whenever possible (two hours per visit). Once or twice a year I check for and survey juvenile fish.
SCCA: What challenges or safety concerns may arise for a streamkeeper?
Ryan: Getting into and out of creeks can be challenging. Our coastal creeks are very rocky, so they can be very demanding to walk. Falls are definitely a concern. During heavy rain events our creeks can actually become quite dangerous.
SCCA: Have there been any special moments that you have experienced and wish to share?
Ryan: One that’s always special is watching fish attempting to spawn. It feels like you are watching a very unique event in nature.
SCCA: Are there other ways in which you are engaged in the environment or community?
Ryan: I am presently a director for the Tetrahedron Outdoor Club, a member of Gibsons Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue team and a director of the Hopkins Landing Water Works.
SCCA: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a streamkeeper?
Ryan: Be ready to get wet!
The SCCA is dedicated to the health and preservation of our local watersheds, including recent efforts to restore Gibsons Creek. The SCCA is spearheading the Friends of Gibsons Creek. If you would like to get involved, please reach out to us!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Sunshine Coast Streamkeepers, more information can be found here.