Mike McDowall, volunteer with the Prince Rupert Salmonid Enhancement Society, (left-right) Alex Campbell hereditary chief from Lax Kw’alaams, Andrew Robinson, senior social impact advisor for Pacific NorthWest LNG and Brian Clark, environmental advisor, Pacific NorthWest LNG. Contributed photo.

Oldfield hatchery receives $75,000 to upgrade operations

Pacific NorthWest LNG gives funds to Oldfield Creek Fish Hatchery to improve salmon rearing efforts

Raising salmon at the Oldfield Creek Hatchery has been a challenge with aging equipment, but a $75,000 donation from Pacific NorthWest LNG is going into necessary rebuilding efforts and upgrading the facility.

The hatchery raises an average of 20,000 Chum, 50,000 Chinook and 75,000 Coho salmon each year from six nearby streams — totalling 145,000 salmon. However, the facility has the capacity to raise more than 660,000 eggs.

“Our efforts to raise salmon over the winter are hampered continually as our rearing area is exposed to below-zero temperatures, is open to predators, and has equipment well over 3o years old,” said Mike McDowall of the Prince Rupert Salmonid Enhancement Society.

Pacific NorthWest LNG, the consortium led by Petronas, a Malaysian state owned oil and gas company that has proposed a liquefied natural gas export facility on Lelu Island, gave its funding announcement on Wednesday, May 17 at the hatchery.

“Pacific NorthWest LNG appreciates the historic, economic and cultural importance of salmon for all those who reside in northwest British Columbia,” said Tessa Gill, vice-president of external affairs, in the press release.

McDowall said the funding will go toward an operations vehicle and engineering plans for rebuilding the outside rearing area.

The hatchery’s role in the community goes beyond raising salmon. Students from the area benefit by learning the life cycle of salmon, and they are taught the meaning of responsible stewardship for salmon and salmon habitat.

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In 2011, the hatchery became one of the few Salmon Education Centres in British Columbia with $71,000 in funding from the Pacific Salmon Foundation, Northern Savings Credit Union, BC Hydro and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Schools in the district were set up with tanks to teach students about the early stages of salmon growth.

Volunteers drive the operations at the hatchery, and support from the private sector to improve the facility was welcomed by many.

“The volunteers work tirelessly to raise funds locally, so we are pleased to see this demonstration of private-sector support for Pacific salmon enhancement by Pacific Northwest LNG, particularly given the major natural resource project they are proposing in the region,” said Dr. Brian Riddell, president and CEO of the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Another educational opportunity for youths, and adults, in the area is coming up on Saturday, May 27 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with the 9th Annual Smolt Festival. Rain or shine, there will be fishy crafts, informational displays, food and participants can help with the release of Oldfield Coho smolts. The event is by donation.

Video from last year’s Smolt Festival.