At Captain Meares Secondary School, students raise salmon fry in science classrooms and later release them into the Tahsis River.
It’s just one part of the community volunteer effort behind the Tahsis Salmon Enhancement Society whose members received national recognition recently.
The society is this year’s recipient of the National Recreational Fisheries Award. On June 26, in Tahsis, society president Frank Collins accepted the award from North Island MP John Duncan, Minister of State, who presented the honour on behalf of the Fisheries minister.
“Recreational fishing is a tradition worth preserving and protecting for future generations,” said Duncan. “I offer my sincere congratulations to Frank Collins and the other board members of the Tahsis Salmon Enhancement Society for their outstanding contribution to recreational fishing in Canada.”
The Tahsis Salmon Enhancement Society created the Les Dowding Memorial Volunteer Hatchery in 1982. It started as a co-operative venture between local volunteers, the village of Tahsis and the local mill. After the mill closed in 2002, activity at the hatchery slowed down, but in 2004, a new era began.
That year a fishing festival was organized which provided a source of local funding. Volunteers gathered fertilized chinook eggs from local rivers; and, with the co-operation of the Conuma Hatchery incubation facility, fry were released in the spring of 2005.
Since 2004, Tahsis has seen many positive changes for the recreational anglers, local rivers, stream habitat and for its community leadership program that promotes conservation and awareness.
Each year, Les Dowding Memorial Volunteer Hatchery collects 300,000 chinook fry. As well, the entire hatchery has been rehabilitated.
“The goal of the volunteer hatchery has always been to bring the stocks of the Tahsis and Leiner rivers to a sustainable level,” said Collins.
In 1982, there were less than a dozen chinook in the Tahsis River. But by 2013, the Tahsis and Leiner rivers each had a returns about 500 chinook.
“The volunteers will continue their dedication to these two rivers as long as they are needed,” Collins added.
The Tahsis Salmon Enhancement Society is a remarkable group whose efforts are supported by the community of 400-500 people in a remote region of Vancouver Island.
Each year volunteers target portions of the local rivers for streambed restoration and it’s not uncommon to see 20 to 30 people show up to help with broodstock collection.
“This level of dedication and commitment has allowed Tahsis to re-invent itself as a busy sport fishing community as well as develop a new generation of informed, committed stewards of the resource,” said Duncan. “It is an exemplary group and well-deserving of this award and what it stands for.”