VIDEO: Campbell River condo owners rear salmon fry for release into the sea

Salmon fry are deposited into the net pens at the marina at Hidden Harbour condominium complex in Campbell River. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror
Hatchery workers install nets in the marina at Hidden Harbour. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror
Hatchery workers install predator nets over net pens at Hidden Harbour condominiums in Campbell River last week. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror
Salmon fry are deposited into the net pens at the marina at Hidden Harbour condominium complex in Campbell River. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror
Hatchery workers pump salmon fry into a net pen at the marina at Hidden Harbour condominium complex in Campbell River. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror
Salmon fry released into net pens at Hidden Harbour condominiums in Campbell River are sourced from Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Quinsam River Hatchery. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror

A group of neighbours gathered at the marina at Hidden Harbour condominiums last week as the rain drizzled down and a pair of workers dragged a light six-inch hose along the deck.

They were there to witness the installation of fish netting and then the filling of those nets with 160,000 salmon fry from the Quinsam River Hatchery. The fry will stay in the net pens for a few weeks in order to grow and will later be released to set off to the wide Pacific and grow to adult size before returning to find their point of origin.

Hidden Harbour condominium complex on the Campbell River foreshore has been one of the sites for fry release for a number of years. The condominium residents began this project a number of years ago and its been an annual event since.

“It’s been going for years and years and years,” said Ray Hughes, a Hidden Harbour resident and one of the organizers of the fish release.

The Hidden Harbour site is one of four marinas in Campbell River where fry are released into net pens and then allowed to grow to a size that will give them a better chance of survival at sea.

“It’s the highest return of any of the fish (release) places in Campbell River,” Hidden Harbour resident Gary Farwell said of their holding pen.

The fry might be a little confused about their exact point of origin given that they didn’t enter the sea via the mouth of a creek or river.

But they’ll most likely remember or have been imprinted with the scent of the fresh waters of the Campbell River further north which has mixed into the saltwater off Hidden Harbour. Then they will seek out those sources in the belief that is their natal streams and hopefully spawn in them.

But you can see the results in the fall when chinook school off Hidden Harbour as they try to figure out where they should go to spawn. The evidence of their schooling is the congregation of sports anglers off Hidden Harbour. The condominium complex sits right at the border of the no-fishing zone between there and the Campbell River so anglers gather at that point to intercept the fish mulling about.

Amongst the condominium residents gathered to watch the release of the fry into the nets were representatives of companies and organizations supporting the effort either through donations or in-kind service. Badinotti Net Services repaired the aging nets in time for this year’s release and aquaculture company Grieg Seafood supported the effort financially.

“It used to be funded by Fisheries and over the last couple of years, Fisheries doesn’t have the money to do that,” Hughes said.

So, Hughes went around and did some fundraising. The Salmon Foundation provided about $3,000 for the food to feed the fry. And because the condo’s marina was expanded, they needed bigger nets. Grieg Seafood was contacted to replace the nets and working in partnership with their net supplier Badinotti Net Services, they did about $8,000 worth of net replacement, Hughes said. The hatchery workers installed the nets on two wharf fingers and pumped the fry from holding tanks hauled by truck to the condominium complex.

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