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Salmon returning to Lang Creek, south of Powell River

Article by The Peak - Paul Galinski Oct 2, 2020 10:00 AM

October is salmon month at the Lang Creek facility and the salmon have started to return.

This year’s collection and enumeration of salmon will be vastly different, however, with the onset of COVID-19.

Ed Oldfield, president of Powell River Salmon Society, said October is when things start happening.

“We have the start of a new broodstock and the end of the last one,” said Oldfield. “It’s busy.”

The amount of volunteer activity at the hatchery has been significantly curtailed by the pandemic, making operation of the facility much more intricate than a normal year.

There are three hired staff, but it typically relies on 10,000 to 16,000 hours of volunteer help annually.

“Because of physical distancing and the transmission of COVID-19, we have curtailed our volunteer program,” said Oldfield. “We are trying to do this with as few people as possible, which is contrary to our history.

“Our three hired people will handle the vast majority of it and we’ll have a few people who have self-isolated fill in the void.”

Fulfilling the responsibilities with the return of salmon to Lang Creek will be tiring, but it will get done, said Oldfield.

Fish have started to return to the hatchery and Oldfield expects activity to pick up significantly. “We have the first wave of them coming through with the rains that have come in,” said Oldfield. “We are expecting to see the first of the chinook in the next three weeks. We’ve probably got a couple of thousand coho coming through and up to 5,000 chum salmon. There will be a lot of fish flowing through this place in the next month and a half.”

Fish coming into the Lang Creek facility are sorted, and because of the way the facility is structured, all of the fish swim through the sorting shed, so all are counted and sorted. The largest proportion are released into Lang Creek and spawn naturally. The society has an annual allotment that it is allowed and it can keep up to 25 per cent of the fish for broodstock for the hatchery at the Catalyst paper mill. Oldfield said an egg take will likely take place in the near future. He said hatchery staff monitor the fish taken for broodstock and when they are ready to spawn it’s “go time.” “The fish tell us when we work,” said Oldfield. “It’s not a 9 to 5 job.

“Our resources are going to be really stretched. From my point of view, I have to take care of the people who work for the Powell River Salmon Society. You want to get a lot out of them this time of year but you don’t want to work them until they drop. This is a year like no other so we’ll be making it up as we go along.”

Oldfield is concerned with the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it would just take one transmission to shut down the operation.

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