Upper Bulkley River Streamkeepers pour eggs into a bucket of water to “shock” them. (Submitted photo)

Houston coho hatchery in full swing

Watershed stewardship facility ready to receive final touches

  • Jan. 31, 2018 12:00 a.m.

A Rocha’s Upper Bulkley River Streamkeepers and volunteers have recently “shocked” coho eggs at the Houston hatchery.

“This is when we pour them [coho eggs] from 18 inches above into a bucket with water,” explained project coordinator Cindy Verbeek. “The eyed eggs [eggs that were fertilized and are developing] are not affected, but the shells of the eggs that were not fertilized break open, allowing water inside.”

“This turns them an orange/white colour and makes them easier to see,” she continued.

The next day volunteers went in and picked out all the non-viable eggs so that only the healthy, developing eggs remained.

“We took out just over 200 non-viable eggs and counted 1062 viable eggs that we put back into the incubating tray,” described Verbeek. “This means that we had over 80 per cent survival rate from egg to eyed egg, which we are happy with.”

“This year is about working out the kinks in our system and training volunteers so that we are ready for larger numbers of eggs this coming season,” she added.

Volunteers will care for and raise the coho eggs until the fry are released this spring.

The Upper Bulkley River Streamkeepers held a grand opening for their watershed stewardship facility in Houston last September. Although the new building still needed some final touches, construction was halted in early October because coho eggs are extremely sensitive to vibration in the first few months of development.

“We are now at a stage that we can begin [construction] again, and will be putting the final touches on the inside of the building and getting the larger system in place ready for up to 10,000 eggs for this fall,” explained Verbeek.

Although the salmon hatchery is expected help repopulate the Upper Bulkley River – considered one of the most impacted watersheds in the greater Skeena watershed – Verbeek said the main goal of the project is to increase information-sharing.

The $80,000 facility is intended to be a hub for conservation, research and education in the Upper Bulkley River watershed and geared toward school groups, tourists and local volunteers.

The next steps include fundraising for programming and phase two construction, which will involve expanding the facility, making it a 40 by 30 feet building. This will allow for the creation of the Nature Centre and the Environmental Education Centre.

“Phase two will happen in $150,000,” Verbeek explained last August. “We are expecting this to take a couple of years to raise, but would be thrilled to start building sooner if someone with a heart for salmon, education and the health of this watershed is willing to provide funding sooner.”

Verbeek added that the project would not have been possible without the contributions of over 50 local businesses and organizations, local individuals, as well as people from the Lower Mainland, Edmonton and beyond.

“Healthier watershed means healthier people, livestock and wildlife,” she said. “It’s a win win win for everyone.”

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