Money raised by the Port Alberni Salmon Festival Society during last year’s Salmon Fest will be going directly back into salmon enhancement for the Alberni Valley.
The society donated a cheque worth $14,000 to Omega Pacific Hatchery on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
The independent hatchery, located near Great Central Lake, uses innovative methods to raise and release chinook yearlings. Their chinook enhancement program is currently the only hatchery program to deliver consistent higher survival rates, says owner/operator Carol Schmitt.
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Omega Pacific Hatchery is currently working on a trial where the hatchery will grow comparative groups of chinook juveniles over four years to the Robertson Creek Hatchery.
78,000 juveniles were released last year in May, and Schmitt said the first big surge will start to return in 2019.
This year, she is hoping to release 90,000.
The money donated to Omega Pacific will help the hatchery tag their second release of chinook yearlings with coded wire. This tag includes information such as the year and month caught, as well as what fishery it is caught in.
“It will give us information on the fishes’ survival and where they were caught,” said Schmitt.
If you catch a chinook with an adipose clip, she said, make sure to turn in the noses.
Chris Wynans of the Salmon Festival Society explained that this money came from an added cost to tickets for fishers at last year’s Salmon Festival.
“This is a direct result of that,” he said.
The hatchery’s chinook releases will be returning over the next few years to replace the fish that were caught during Salmon Festival.
“As many as were caught in the derby, they’ll come back here,” said Schmitt.
Omega Pacific Hatchery has a GoFund Me account called Saving the Iconic King Salmon, where they are raising money to cover the costs of raising and tagging the next releases.