Powell River Salmon Society (PRSS) gathered a group of local politicians and other supporters to showcase its operations on March 29. The salmon enhancement program was founded in the early 1980s when a group of dedicated volunteers began building the Duck Lake facility.
The work has grown to encompass three major sites: Lang Bay, where salmon spawn, the hatchery at Paper Excellence Canada’s Catalyst Powell River mill, and rearing and imprinting at Duck Lake.
“The hatchery has been around since 1982,” said manager Shane Dobler. “We’ve been at the mill since 1986, so it’s a long history.”
The society has two full-time employees and relies on a stable of volunteers who put in 10,000 to 15,000 hours each year, he added.
The visitors toured the hatchery and were then transported to the Duck Lake facility, the source of Lang Creek, to witness the rearing and imprinting phase.
“Duck Lake is crucial for the Lang Creek returns and lifecycle of the salmon,” said Fisheries and Oceans Canada community advisor Laura Terry. “The opportunity to imprint and then travel out down the watershed and access back through Lang Creek, that’s what draws them back in the fall.”
PRSS president Ed Oldfield explained that its very important to the society to get a long-term tenure for the Duck Lake location.
“The Lang Creek site was donated to us by Weldwood in the 1980s and the mill site we have a 99-year lease on,” said Oldfield. “At [Duck Lake] we have an occupation permit, so anything we do to this site we have to run through the provincial forestry and get permission. We would ultimately like to have a long-term lease or have the property be ours.”
Summarizing the purpose of the field trip, PRSS vice-president George Illes said it was vital to enlighten the community on the work being done and ongoing issues facing the society.
“The significance of today’s event is to show and tell the MLAs and MPs who we are and what we’re trying to accomplish,” he added. “It’s surprising how many people in our community don’t really know what we do and we can’t do it without money and support.”
A dedicated fundraising arm, the Salmon Preservation Fund was established last year with the aim of making the society self-sustaining rather than dependent on government funding.
“It’s a tough racket to be in,” said Dobler. “A lot of hatcheries are closing down. We have to do a lot of fundraising. Our [government] funding is at the same level we got in 1982 and we’re doing 35 times the biomass we did then.”
North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney said organizations such as PRSS that have been running successfully for 37 years with the same amount of funding should not be overlooked.
“There are lot of issues around sea life in the riding,” she added, “so it's good to see people who are working so hard just to protect salmon.”