Randy Laslo, left, and Robin Hayes finish releasing 5,000 chinook smolts into a netpen at Centennial Pier on Port Alberni’s waterfront. The pen will be used as an educational tool by West Coast Aquatic and the Alberni Aquarium. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

200,000 salmon smolts released in netpens for Alberni salmon enhancement

West Coast Aquatic has released 205,000 chinook smolts into two net pens as part of an annual enhancement program.

Approximately 200,000 smolts were released earlier this month into a netpen at WCA’s Underwood location, WCA representative Bob Cole said. Five thousand were released into a netpen at Centennial Pier, in between two wharf fingers in front of the Swept Away Inn tugboat.

The smolts will spend time in the netpens getting used to saltwater, said Scott Melville from Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery, which raised and released the smolts. “There’s 21 different changes salmon go through when they transition from freshwater to saltwater,” Melville said after releasing the smolts into the Centennial Pier netpen.

READ: Chinook fry released into Alberni Inlet

READ: West Coast Aquatic releases 187,000 fry

The educational netpen at Centennial Pier will be there for another week or two—depending on how fast the smolts mature. The smolts will be released into the harbour beneath the net and the net removed.

“These fish, not only are they going to educate…we’re hoping some of these fish will come back and spawn in the Stamp and Somass river system,” he said.

Robin Hayes, a recreational fisher who happened to be at Centennial Pier when the smolts were released at the pier, is excited to see how successful this year’s smolts will be. Just like workers at the hatchery, Hayes is hoping the salmon will imprint on the Alberni Inlet and ultimately strengthen Port Alberni’s salmon run.

“I hope in five years the derby winner’s going to be in there,” he quipped.

For more information on the netpen, stop into the Alberni Aquarium at Harbour Quay and ask.



Gavin Purewal, left, of West Coast Aquatic and Josh Retallick from Robertson Creek Fish Hatchery watch as 10,000 chinoook salmon fry are released into a net pen off Centennial Pier at Harbour Quay in May 2017. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

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