Tranquil Creek is located within the traditional territory of the Tla‐o‐qui‐aht First Nation approximately 20 km east of Tofino, in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. The sharp decline in wild Pacific salmonids in this watershed is not well understood and has sparked research, monitoring and habitat a restoration initiatives to address knowledge gaps and restore habitat in hopes of fostering a the recovery of wild fish populations within the Tranquil Watershed and contribute to the broader recovery of wild pacific salmon. The project was initiated in 2016 and is a direct partnership between CWFS Restoration and the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. Funding support for the project has been provided in-part by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Ocean Outfitters with additional research funding provided by the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, and in-kind support from the Tofino Resort and Marina, Clayoquot Salmon Roundtable and the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.
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The Tranquil Creek watershed is located in Southern Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island and is located within the territory of the Tla‐o‐qui‐aht First Nation. Tranquil Creek once supported healthy stocks of Chinook, coho and chum, salmon as well as small numbers of pink and sockeye salmon, the watershed also supports populations of both resident and sea-run rainbow and coastal cutthroat trout. Unfortunately wild fish populations in the watershed have been in decline since the 1970’s. While there has been observed decline in all salmon populations In Tranquil Creek, Chinook and chum returns have been particularly poor; the system is estimated to be able to support 1000-3000 returning adult Chinook and 15,000-25000 Chum. In 2017 saw 89 returning Chinook and 2018 saw just 59. In 2017, 7876 chum returned to tranquil with only 2672 in 2018. Declining Pacific salmon population are a result of a multitude of factors, one of which is habitat loss due to resource extraction.
Tranquil Watershed 1956 (left) 1972 (Center) & 2012(Right)
On the sparsely populated west coast of Vancouver island much of the freshwater habitat loss is related to poor forestry practices. Industrial scale logging began in Tranquil Creek watershed in the 1960s. At that time, no protection was afforded to the riparian zone or fisheries resources; heavy machinery was used in-stream and throughout the riparian zone. By 1971, the riparian corridor was harvested and a network of roads constructed in the active alluvial floodplain . Today, no continuous old-growth stands remain in the riparian corridor on the lower salmon bearing reaches.
Forestry operations in the watershed continued through the 1970’s and 1980’s. The riparian corridor above the anadromous barrier was logged between 1980 and 1995. No protection was afforded to the fish habitat found in the upper watershed. Current timber harvesting regulations in British Columbia now require reserve zones of riparian vegetation adjacent most fish bearing streams. Prior to the introduction of the Coastal Fisheries / Forestry Guidelines in 1988, and the Forest Practices Code in 1995, most riparian areas were logged to the stream edge. As a result of increased public sentiment for Clayoquot Sound, even more extensive stream protection practices were adopted in 1995 with the development of the Clayoquot Sound Scientific Panel Recommendations (CSSP) and subsequent legislated watershed plans. Because alluvial streams are well known to be highly sensitive to disturbance, the CSSP afforded significant restrictions for forestry operations around alluvial streams.
It is reasonable to assume the majority of the habitat loss in the Tranquil system stems from removal of the mature riparian forest resulting in destabilized stream banks and loss of natural LWD recruitment (Johnston and Slaney, 1996). These issues are compounded by the upslope instability and resulting landslides caused by harvesting and road building practices in the upper watershed (Eggers and Ferguson, 2018). Assessment of the Tranquil Creek found six main factors that are likely limiting salmonid production:
Limited large woody debris
Extensive bank erosion
Lack of off channel habitat
Limited cover overhead and in-stream
Limited pool frequency
Presence of fines in substrate composition
Restoration efforts have been designed to address limiting factors to salmonid productivity within the Tranquil Watershed in order to aid in the recovery of local wild salmon populations. Restoration activities involved in-stream works focusing on channel excavations and the construction of engineering log jams, these works are designed to restore natural riffle/pool sequences, mitigate erosion and bed load movement while increasing habitat complexity. Riparain restoration activities include the construction of “bar-top” jams, native tree planting and live-willow staking. Bar-top structures are designed to catch fine sediments, stabilize active gravel bars and promote vegetation growth while tree plantings and willow staking will aid in bank stabilization and speed up natural forest recovery process.
to date: 8 in-stream structures and 8 bar-top structures have been built along with 30,000 alder,10,000 native conifers, 500 native shrubs planted during the first phases of restoration.