- Native Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida) are found in abundance in Portage Inlet. This species is listed as “Special Concern” under the Species at Risk Act, due to its vulnerability to natural and human-caused disturbance. Olympia oysters were a food and trading staple for First Nations, and were sold to early Victoria residents.
- Colquitz and Craigflower creeks support runs of spawning salmon. Between 200 and 400 coho, and several dozen chum salmon spawn in Colquitz Creek each year. Although these runs are probably much smaller than in historic times, they are a rare asset for an urban stream, particularly because the Colquitz stocks are not enhanced with hatchery fish.
- Most of the salmon in Craigflower Creek were wiped out in the 1970s, due to in-stream barriers caused by road construction and other development. In the 1980s, some parts of the stream were restored, and juvenile coho were transplanted from Goldstream River. Recently, restocking has ceased, and the returning populations seem to be stable. The sheltered habitat in Portage Inlet and the Gorge Waterway, including extensive eelgrass beds, is crucial to the survival of juvenile salmon.
- Sea-run cutthroat trout also spawn in Colquitz and Craigflower creeks, and take shelter in the eelgrass beds of Portage Inlet.
- Estuaries and intertidal mud flats at the mouths of Colquitz and Craigflower creeks provide important habitat for fish and invertebrates (e.g. clams and worms), and feeding grounds for birds and mammals.
- In the past, Pacific herring spawned in the eelgrass beds of Portage Inlet. Although spawning has not been observed for several decades, herring continue to enter the inlet in early spring. Many birds including the endangered double-crested cormorant feed on the herring.
Portage Inlet is one of the urban harbours of Victoria most heavily used by birds, and as such is a very important area within the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary. While this sanctuary extends throughout the Gorge Waterway
and Victoria Harbour
, Portage Inlet is the least disturbed area where the highest concentration of birds is seen.
- In the winter, the area is populated by large numbers of mallards, Canada geese, American widgeon, and glaucous-winged gulls, along with less numerous great blue herons and double-crested cormorants. These species are for the most part year-round residents of the area.
- Diving ducks, mergansers and coots winter in the Victoria area, as well as farther south along the Pacific coast. During a study in 1997-1999, these birds were most commonly seen in the spring and fall. Species such as the greater scaup and bufflehead are two of the most commonly seen members of this group, along with smaller numbers of common merganser, hooded merganser, canvasback and American coot.
- Dabbling ducks such as gadwall, green-winged teal and northern pintail are also present in the spring in Portage Inlet.
- Double-crested cormorants often feed in Portage Inlet, particularly when herring schools are present in the spring. These birds breed on the Chain Islets off Oak Bay, and are on the provincial red list, meaning they are endangered.
- During the summer, most of the migratory birds have moved on to their northern and inland summer breeding grounds, but resident species such as Canada geese and mallards remain to feed and breed in Portage Inlet.
- During the fall, many of the diving ducks, mergansers and coots return from their inland breeding grounds to winter in the sheltered waters of Portage Inlet and other harbours in the Victoria area.
- Mute swans are a frequent sight in Portage Inlet, where some pairs breed and raise their young. These swans are non-native to BC.
Information about the relative abundance of various types of birds throughout the seasons in Portage Inlet, as observed in 1997-1999