It might have felt a little different from past years, but the annual release out of the Buck Creek Canfor hatchery saw approximately 5,000 fry released into both the Buck Creek and Bulkley River.
Over 40 people came to the June 13 event to help A Rocha Canada project coordinator for Northern B.C. Cindy Verbeek and a number of other volunteers release fry into the Buck Creek.
“There was a lot of logistics this year,” she said with a laugh. “But people had lots of fun and we got some really good feedback about how it flowed smoothly.”
In response to COVID-19 there were a number of changes to this year’s event, namely the cancellation of the normally-held open house in addition to the release. Participants had to sign up and come at specific times so that organizers could stagger how many people were present to comply with provincial guidelines in place and keep total numbers under 50.
Once participants arrived they went through a hand cleaning station and picked up their supples — pre-packaged into Ziploc bags — before moving to separate stations to maintain distancing.
Participants then took a cup full of fry and poured it down a chute into the creek, with Verbeek estimating some 300 fry released into the creek.
After the public portion of the event ended, volunteers moved onto the Bulkley River portion of the release sending some 4,700 other fry into the river through a firehose connected to a tank filled with fry.
She noted that as a stewardship hatchery, the Buck Creek Canfor hatchery is focused mostly on community engagement and education, with the small supplemental numbers of fish acting more as a teaching tool and less as a population supplementation, although she said it does accomplish the latter goal but on a smaller scale than something like a production hatchery.
Verbeek said construction has also begun on the Nature Centre being built alongside the hatchery.
“They’re pouring the [concrete] tomorrow (June 17),” she said, adding that they are hopeful construction of the exterior will be completed during the end of the summer.
In terms of upcoming events, Verbeek said she will still be hosting her annual “bio blitz”, with participants joining her to catch or identify as many insects as they can in the Houston area within a 24-to-48-hour period. She said due to COVID-19 the event may have to be smaller than in previous years due to restrictions.