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Hundreds of dead fish found in Vancouver Island creek

Tuesday, June 8th 2021, 3:53 pm - Conservationist says bleach likely poured into storm drain.

Fish/CHEKNews Conservationists counted 318 cutthroat trout, 13 sculpins, 11 stickleback and three coho, along with crayfish, worms and other small species in Reay Creek that had died due to a contaminant in the water. (CHEK News)

Hundreds of dead fish were found in Vancouver Island's Reay Creek on Friday afternoon, and conservationists are concerned they were killed by contaminants flowing from a nearby storm drain.

Ian Bruce, executive coordinator with the conservation group Peninsula Streams Society, said the fish were spotted by a young boy, whose parents alerted the Town of Sidney. Town officials then called in the society to examine the fish and stream.

Bruce said 318 cutthroat trout, 13 sculpins, 11 stickleback and three coho, along with crayfish, worms and other small species were counted among the dead animals within a 150-metre span of the creek.

"There was a very strong smell of bleach coming out of the storm drain," he told All Points West host Kathryn Marlow.

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"I was hoping that people would be more cognizant of what they do with chemicals and the fact that they live next to a creek, so it's pretty disappointing that this has happened."

He said samples were taken and are being examined in a lab.

Bruce said officials from Environment Canada will be visiting the site this week to investigate and, hopefully, find the source of the contaminant.

CBC has requested more details from Environment Canada, but has not yet heard back.

In the meantime, Bruce said it could take anywhere from two weeks to two months for species to repopulate the stream, and that coho will be restocked using fish from the Goldstream hatchery, about 58 kilometres southwest of Reay Creek.

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If the contaminant is bleach, Bruce doesn't expect predators that may have eaten the fish to be harmed. He said when his group went to collect the fish, 30 to 50 weren't accounted for and they expect they were eaten.

Bruce told CHEK News this is the seventh or eighth time in the past 20 years he's come across something similar in that particular creek.

Sidney Anglers Association president Grant MacPherson agreed. His group has been managing restoration in the area since the late '70s, and other people in the area have been actively involved in the project, including Bill Collins, who calls the discovery "devastating."

"We've all worked so hard to bring this creek up to a level and it kills me to see these fish die," resident Collins told CHEK News.

With files from All Points West and CHEK News, the story was originally published on CBC News.

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