The centrepiece of the Quinsam Hatchery visitor’s centre is the new glass river floor created by Quadra Island artist William van Orden.

Quinsam hatchery revamped with cool new centre

The Quinsam River Hatchery in Campbell River is one of the largest salmon rearing facilities in the country

The really cool fish floor will impress the visitors, but what excites Quinsam Hatchery manager Dave Ewart are all the behind-the-scenes improvements to the 40-year-old facility.

“Things work!” he said Saturday, during the official opening of the visitor’s centre.

The Quinsam Hatchery, one of Canada’s largest salmon rearing facilities, has been undergoing $14-million in renovations and improvements over the past few years and everything should be completed by 2014.

“I’d like to say it’s been a breeze…it’s been a long and difficult project,” Ewart admitted.

However, in spite of construction delays, unco-operative weather and other “little emergencies,” the project was on-target and has resulted in an almost-new facility.

“We got the full meal deal here – we got the full rebuild!” Ewart said.

North Island MP John Duncan was on hand for the opening on behalf of federal Fisheries minister Keith Ashfield.

“I am delighted to be here today to mark a significant milestone in the life of the Quinsam River Hatchery in beautiful Campbell River – the Salmon Capital of the World,” said Duncan. “This hatchery is vital to the British Columbia salmon industry. Each year it produces 12 million coho, chinook and pink salmon that help sustain stocks in the Campbell and Quinsam rivers, and supports important commercial, recreational and aboriginal fisheries.”

In addition to the visitor centre, the main improvements include:

  • New siding, doors and roof to extend the life of the buildings.
  • Upgraded mechanical, lighting and electrical systems.
  • New heating, cooling and electrical systems to significantly decrease energy costs and provide a “greener” facility.
  • New tanks and resurfaced rearing ponds to provide optimal conditions for juvenile salmon.
  • New egg incubation systems and water control and monitoring systems to increase efficiency and production flexibility.
  • More efficient river water pumps to save significantly on electrical power during the winter.
  • Added security fencing and predator control structures to better protect the facility and its fish.

However, the highlight for visitors – an estimated 10,000 a year – will be the fish floor inside the centre. It’s a glass floor covering a recreation of the nearby rivers with salmon, trout and other native aquatic species.

It’s the work of Quadra Island artist William van Orden who has developed a technique of making replica fish from moulds made from real fish.

In this case, the moulds were made from the fish and other aquatic species found in the Quinsam River. Student visitors will be challenged to identify as many species as possible and then can check their tally against the list posted inside the Visitor’s Centre.

The well-designed centre also provides visitors with a history of fishing, fish rearing and other neat stuff.

“The visitor centre acts as a gateway for the public to the facility, helping us tell the story about salmon enhancement, hatcheries, habitat restoration and stewardship on Vancouver Island,” said Duncan. “Engaging the public was seen as crucial to the long-term sustainability of salmon. The updated Quinsam visitor centre will allow us to continue that process.”