THE number of fish returning to West Vancouver streams jumped this fall, and so did the number of young people counting them.
Beginning with 28 post-secondary students six years ago, the amount of youth involvement in the West Vancouver Streamkeepers Society has risen steadily, according to president John Barker.
"Last year we had 76 students doing it and had no idea how we were going to manage that many but we got through it OK," Barker said. "This year we've had 104."
After spawning in the fall leading to hatching in the spring, chum tend to return after four years at sea. Coho follow a similar cycle, returning after three years, said Barker. It's that all-important return the students are watching for.
"These kids survey the streams for seven weeks, and once a week they go out as a team with a streamkeeper sponsor and look for returning adult salmon," Barker said.
On Dec. 2, the students concluded their work, and according to Barker, the preliminary indications are very good.
"It's been a banner year for fish," he said, adding that the returning salmon are both big and plentiful.
With more than 100 sets of eyes on the streams, the possibility of double-counting has to be factored in, according to Barker.
"When I filter that out, by Week 5 of 7 we'd already surpassed what we'd seen in any other year after seven weeks," Barker said.
Following spawning, the fish form the nutrients which sustain bug life, which in turn feeds juvenile fish when they emerge from gravel in the spring, according to Barker.
After six years of working with students, the student contingent of the WVSS is becoming increasingly knowledgeable, according to Barker.
"They know all about invasive plants, they know all about native vegetation, they know about streams, water colour, clarity, health of the stream," he said.
Working with young people is a method of ensuring stewardship of the streams in the years to come, said Barker.
"We're spreading the word that there actually are salmon in an urban environment, quite a novel idea," he said.
The student salmon counters were recognized at a year-end wrap-up at West Vancouver secondary on Thursday.