Alberni’s Omega Pacific Hatchery releases third batch of chinook salmon

The independent facility is located near Great Central Lake

Smolts waiting to be released on May 7, 2019. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Omega Pacific Hatchery released more than 100,000 yearling chinook salmon into Stamp River earlier this month.

The hatchery’s third group of yearling chinook smolts was released on Wednesday, May 8, under “brutally hot” conditions, according to Omega Pacific owner/operator Carol Schmitt.

READ: Omega Pacific Hatchery seeks support

Volunteers from Hupacasath First Nations, Tseshaht First Nations and Omega Pacific Hatchery boated in to the hatchery site at Great Central Lake in the morning to load the smolts. The fish were seined up in the rearing pools, then dip netted into large buckets filled with water and poured into the transport tanks.

A total of 103,306 smolts, at 16 to 20 gram size, were loaded into the two transport tanks.

The truck was barged back across Great Central Lake and arrived at Robertson Creek in the afternoon. Despite the heat, the water in the transport tanks had to be warmed up before the smolts were released into the water.

Schmitt said the release “went well,” with no mortalities.

“It was a long, hot day with a lot of biomass to load and ship, and we are thankful to the great effort by everyone to make this a success,” she said.

This is the third group of yearling smolts grown at Omega Pacific Hatchery to be released for a trial where the hatchery will grow a comparative group of juveniles over four years to Robertson Creek Hatchery.

READ: Alberni Valley fish hatchery releases second batch of chinook yearlings

Omega Pacific Hatchery uses an innovative method of releasing S1 chinook smolts, holding the fish for a year in freshwater so that their immune systems can develop. According to Schmitt, the S1 have better survival numbers, and it is important to incorporate the more hardy smolts in consideration of changing climate conditions.

In February of this year, the hatchery received the “Great Partnership Award” from Alberni Island Shuttle and Cermaq Canada, for their efforts in fish enhancement in the Alberni- Clayoquot Regional District.

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Smolts are discharged from the Robertson Creek boat launch into the river. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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