Saving salmon: B.C. business man believes hatcheries can help bring back the fish

Saving salmon: B.C. business man believes hatcheries can help bring back the fish

Tony Allard worked with a central coast First Nation to enhance salmon stocks

Salmon have always been a passion of B.C. businessman Tony Allard.

As he made his money in real estate, he spent the early 2000s becoming more and more disgusted by the sea lice and diseases running rampant among B.C.’s Pacific salmon.

So one day in 2016, he built a hatchery he hoped could be a model for salmon enhancement for the whole province.

Ten years later, the re-imagined Percy Walkus Hatchery on B.C.’s central coast is in its second year. Returns have hit higher levels than average for the province, and nearly 300,000 fry were released this season alone.

“It’s been going fantastically well. We just finished the egg take this fall,” said Allard told Black Press Media by phone. He had fished in that area in the past and felt like it would be a good spot to make a difference.

READ MORE: Wild salmon council lacks conservation voice: activist

The hatchery first opened back in the 1930s. Allard thought about buying it and the nearby Good Hope Cannery after becoming disappointed in the then-federal Conservative government’ efforts to restore salmon stocks.

He felt like Ottawa had ignored the results of the 2012 Cohen inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River, instead expanding open net-pen fish farms. So he took action.

Tony Allard with his dog, Tug. (Submitted)

He pulled together a group of business people under the name Wild Salmon Forever, an organization focused on ensuring the survival of B.C.’s wild salmon. Other activists he’d met had either given up or “moved on to a pipeline,” so he thought perhaps a business owner could add a different voice to the fight by bringing together sports fishermen, First Nations and DFO.

“I felt like I was always complaining about something. Complaining about the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, complaining about the sea lice…” Allard said. “I just thought… what are we doing with our wild salmon? That’s the life I lead.”

READ MORE: Sea lice outbreak shuts down Tofino salmon farm

He met with the Wuikinuxv (Oweekeno) Nation and Sid Keay, the owner of the nearby Duncanby Fishing Lodge to talk about how they could work together to make the hatchery a hub for salmon enhancement.

Then, lodge manager and hereditary chief Ted Walkus got a Canadian icon involved.

In 2013, a few years before the hatchery was reborn, Rick Hansen came up to the lodge. Walkus was his guide.

Hansen promised that if Walkus could catch a Chinook salmon over 50 pounds that day, he would dedicate five days a year to helping promote salmon restoration.

“I was praying to my ancestors to find this man a worthwhile fish,” Walkus said. “About 45 minutes later, the rod beside where Rick was sitting absolutely exploded and we caught this beautiful fish… it was 60.5 pounds.”

Hansen was true to his word, helping connect Walkus and Allard to others with the same passion for conservation.

Ted Walkus with a salmon caught in Rivers Inlet. (Submitted)

The next step was to move the hatchery from Bella Bella to Rivers Inlet, in the Wuikinuxv’s traditional territory, instead of spending more than $100,000 to fly the salmon eggs and sperm to Bella Coola, and then fly the fry back.

Allard admits some of the chiefs were skeptical at the start, based on their past experiences, but says now, “if you polled the community, I think they would be solidly behind it.”

Lodge manager and Wuikinuxv hereditary chief Ted Walkus said they’ve made amazing progress, both for the salmon and the community.

“In the winter, there’s probably about 60 people that live in my community, tops, so when we can hire three or four people year-round… you’re making a difference,” said Walkus. “We want to put back into the system that we’re taking from.”

The hatchery fertilizes about 300,000 eggs from 40 female salmon each year, and end up with higher returns than average.

“If we get one or two per cent back, we’re happy,” Walkus said. “We don’t want any more than that because we don’t want to start overproducing hatchery fish over wild fish. We want to keep the gene pool as widespread as we can.”

The chinook salmon the hatchery deals with are called Wannock chinook and are one of only a few species that regularly hit more than 40 pounds. Rivers Inlet, he added, is only of only two systems in the world that produce such large fish, making them extra important to preserve.

One idea that Walkus and Allard came up with for the fishing lodge is spreading: catch and release.

All lodge guests are asked to release the Chinook salmon they catch, unless the fish is going to die. Some guests were doubtful, saying that was only “feeding the sea lions,” but Walkus doesn’t agree.

“We started tagging our caught chinook and we find them when we’re doing our intake,” he said. “I would love to see this model of our Percy Walkus Hatcheries move to other nations and other lodge owners.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Commerical marijuana grow ops that are budding up in Prince Rupert’s downtown core are legal and out of the city’s jurisdiction, Mayor Lee Brain said, on June 14. (Photo:supplied/K-J Millar)
Prince Rupert downtown’s pretty dope

Marijuana operations grow in the Prince Rupert city core

Unionized longshore and port workers gather along Highway 16 on June 15 not crossing the picket line where Prince Rupert Solidarity Movement group protests the docking and unloading of the JPO Volans, a ship with Israeli designed technology and equipment. (Photo: K-J Millar/the Northern View)
Prince Rupert Solidarity Group pickets at port in protest

Demonstrations against the container ship JPO Volans lead into the second day to dissuade docking

BC Ferries has announced the welcoming back onboard of recreational travellers on June 15 after the provincial travel restrictions were lifted. (Courtesy of BC Ferries)
BC Ferries welcomes back recreational passengers

The ferries corp will relax mask-wearing in outdoor spaces

Nic Pirillo received $1,000 Youth WORK Apprenticeship Award presented to him by Erik Brooke and Catlin Chandler of Broadwater Industries, in front of the boat Pirillo built in his free time using newly acquired skills. (Photo: supplied)
Learning and earning with apprenticeship

Nic Pirillo graduated in 2020 and was awarded the Youth WORK Trades award

According to the BC Centre of Disease Control epidemiology mapping from May 30 to June 5, there was an increase of one case in the Prince Rupert area after a three-week stability of no new cases. (Image: supplied BC CDC)
Prince Rupert second dose vaccination clinic to run from June 14 to July 9

Volunteers needed for P.R. immunization clinic, recipients must register and cases back up to one

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

COVID-related trash is washing up on shorelines across the world, including Coldstream’s Kal Beach, as pictured in this May 2021 photograph. (Jennifer Smith - Black Press)
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site for unmarked graves

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Most Read