Thousands of chinook smolts are released into the Robertson Creek Hatchery raceway on Thursday, April 19, where they will be held for five days to imprint. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Alberni Valley fish hatchery releases second batch of chinook yearlings

Omega Pacific Hatchery works with DFO on innovative test fishery

Omega Pacific Hatchery has released its second group of chinook yearlings as part of a comparative trial to demonstrate its success in raising chinook salmon.

Volunteers and hatchery employees released 68,000 yearling chinook salmon from the Robertson Creek Hatchery raceway on Monday, April 23.

This is the second release in a trial where the hatchery will grow comparative groups of chinook juveniles as part of a collaborative trial with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). In 2017, Omega Pacific released 78,000 juveniles directly into Boot Lagoon. This year, the chinook were held at the raceway for five days, so that fish would imprint and return to the same location. 795 dead fish were recovered over the five days at the hatchery, but Schmitt said the bulging and bloody eyes were evidence of a mechanical error, from blunt force in offloading, rather than illness or disease.

Omega Pacific Hatchery, located at Great Central Lake, uses the innovative method of the S1 chinook smolt—the hatchery holds the fish for a year in freshwater so that their immune systems can develop, then releases them as yearlings. At this time, Omega Pacific’s chinook enhancement program is the only program that delivers consistently higher survival rates, says owner/operator Carol Schmitt.

A Pacific Salmon Foundation review noted that Omega Pacific’s S1 smolts have a 10 times greater survival rate than the S0 smolts raised and released by the DFO.

A third group of S1 chinook smolts is currently growing at the hatchery for a release next year.

Omega Pacific Hatchery fish will be recognizeable when they are caught in the Alberni Valley because they have all been tagged with coded wire. Schmitt said last Monday that this is the result of “13 years of persistence” on the part of the Omega Pacific Hatchery.

“It’s tangible,” she said. “We’ll have our first returns in a couple of years.”

Fish released from the hatchery will provide vital fishing opportunities for the Alberni Valley, as well as the rest of British Columbia and Alaska.

Chris Wynans of the Port Alberni Salmon Festival Society was present on Monday to watch the fish released from the hatchery. The society donated $14,000 to Omega Pacific Hatchery earlier this year to help tag the yearlings with coded wire.

READ: Port Alberni Salmon Fest contributes to salmon enhancement

“All these fish have a tag,” said Wynans. “So when the fishermen catch these fish, they’ll know they came from here.”

The Port Alberni Salmon Festival increased the cost of tickets for fishers last year in order to raise funds for local enhancement projects, including Omega Pacific Hatchery.

“We wanted to partner with programs that actually produce fish,” said Wynans.

Schmitt said that after almost 40 years growing chinook, she still loves her job today as much as when she first started.

“We hope as things progress, our ability to grow S1 chinooks using our naturally occuring water will become more than just trials, and instead part of rebuilding the many chinook stocks,” she said.

Just Posted

Future of McLean Mill in question after log pond incident

$200,000 allocated to dam repairs, water quality testing at national historic site

Enjoy a night of laughter at the Capitol Theatre

Outsiders Comedy Night is a fundraiser for STAGES Youth Theatre

ARTS AROUND: Mistletoe Market on at Port Alberni gallery

Decorated grounds will remain open late on Fridays

Alberni wrestlers win senior boys’ division at Cougar Invitational

Members of the Alberni Wrestling Club travelled to Mill Bay last weekend

School bus seatbelt petition gains ground in Port Alberni

School District 70 trustee has pushed for seatbelts for 40 years

Port Alberni enjoys parade of boats in annual Sail Past

The fifth annual event drew a crowd at Harbour Quay

Warning issued as forecast calls for 20-foot waves in Tofino

Dangerous waves, strong currents and upper-shoreline flooding expected for Tofino-Ucluelet area

Oil tanker ban to be reviewed by committee

Indigenous groups for and against Bill C-48 travel to Ottawa to influence the Senate’s decision

An 800-pound pig named Theodore needs a forever home, B.C. society says

‘Theodore is not destined to be somebody’s bacon’

Teenager Alphonso Davies wins Canadian Men’s Soccer Player for the Year Award

Derek Cornelius and Chilliwack native, Jordyn Huitema were named Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

B.C. teen MMA fighter shows heart

Young Unity MMA competitors bring home Ws

2,000 Canadians died of an overdose in first 6 months of the year

New data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows the crisis is not subsiding

Another B.C. city votes to ban single-use plastic bags

First six months of proposed ban would focus on education, not enforcement

Most Read