Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society members taking Coho broodstock for the Jack Brooks Hatchery. Salmon are hand netted and transported to the hatchery where the eggs and milt are extracted from the fish. (Contributed)

Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society members taking Coho broodstock for the Jack Brooks Hatchery. Salmon are hand netted and transported to the hatchery where the eggs and milt are extracted from the fish. (Contributed)

‘Street-proof fish’ have better chance of survival, says researcher

New methods eyed by Vancouver Island hatcheries

There’s something about a hatchery environment that causes the fish raised for release into the wild to be a little less intelligent and less able to survive the stresses of the natural world, according to Jessy Bokvist, a University of Calgary master’s student in ecology and evolutionary biology who’s studying hatchery-raised fish at the Nitinat River Hatchery on Vancouver Island.

It’s a finding that may have a long-term impact on how fish are raised in hatcheries, including those reared at the Jack Brooks Hatchery in Sooke.

RELATED: Sooke hatchery in a new home soon

“I’ve been in touch with Rob (Robert Brouwer, manager of the Nitinat River Hatchery) and we’re aware of what’s been going on there, but at present we’re not geared up for that sort of production in terms of cement raceways and such,” said Bill Pedneault, hatchery manager at the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society facility.

“It’s not something we’ve installed, but if it was worked into the facilities it might be worth it.”

RELATED: 20 million fry released

Bokvist’s research has shown that the hatchery environment has led to the development of what she called “naive fish” who may not know how to feed properly or possess the rudimentary survival skills needed in the wild.

“We’re trying to equip all the fish we release with appropriate life skills to improve their chance of survival when they’re introduced into the wild,” Bokvist said.

“It’s sort of like street-proofing your kids. Fish are actually very good learners and it doesn’t take much to give them a better chance when they’re released.”

At the Nitinat River Hatchery, Brouwer said there are three aspects of street proofing fish.

“We provide them with environmental enrichment, which can be as simple as introducing a current to the tanks or putting some branches into the tank so the fish have a place to hide from bullies and develop a sense of territory. We provide them with sensory stimulus … a sort of life skills training that can involve giving them food from the bottom of the pond,” Brouwer said.

“We also do some simple things like fish net scaring where we slap a net onto the top of the water to create a stressful environment that mimics natural predation.”

Thirdly, the hatchery looks to the “soft release” of its fish, utilizing lower density side channels or a sea pen that gives the young fish a chance to learn how to survive before they enter the harsh reality of the real world.

“What we do is related to what we call neurological elasticity, getting them to use their brains more than they would in an impoverished environment in the traditional tanks. We want to stimulate them so they can learn to think down the road.”

It’s an approach that Pedneault is open to exploring at the Sooke facility.

“Oh sure, absolutely,” he said, adding he is watching what is happening elsewhere and is prepared to change practices if warranted.

“We’re about giving [the fish] the best start that we can.”

The Jack Brooks Hatchery has a licence to raise 500,000 springs and 150,000 coho fry every year. A free pen operation also raises upward of 80,000 chinook salmon annually.



mailto:tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Friends have identified the man killed in Friday’s shooting in Metchosin as Shane Wilson. (Shane Wilson/Facebook)
West Shore RCMP continue to investigate shooting death in Metchosin

Man killed on Sooke Road Friday night identified by friends

Fire Chief Darren Hughes, right, pulls the old Firemans Park sign off ahead of the parks name change. The new sign for Firefighters Park is coming. (Oak Bay Fire Department Twitter)
Oak Bay changes the name of Fireman’s Park

New sign for Firefighter’s Park on the way

The WHL’s Victoria Royals will compete in a 24-game season starting March 26, <strong></strong>based out of a Kamloops and Kelowna B.C. division bubble (Kevin Light/Courtesy Victoria Royals)
‘Important to cherish every moment’: Victoria Royals not taking bubble season for granted

The Victoria WHL team’s coach and GM calls the season a ‘privilege,’ expects fierce rivalries

The Victoria Fire Department was able to contain a fire to one room after a bed placed directly against a heater ignited. (Black Press Media file photo)
Early morning Victoria balcony fire causes $20,000 in damages

Victoria Fire Department said nobody was injured in the fire on View Street

Postmark Group, an Edmonton-based development firm, bought two properties at 6641 and 6643 Sooke Rd. last year, and is reaching out to the community and local groups for feedback before they begin planning the designs for the development. (Photo contributed/Postmark Group)
Waterfront village development eyed for Sooke

Postmark Group development firm bought two properties at 6641 and 6643 Sooke Rd. last year

Const. Nancy Saggar, who has 11 years in policing, offers advice for other women who may pursue both policing and family. (Black Press Media file photo)
Pregnancy prompts sage advice from RCMP officer for women thinking about policing

West Shore constable with 11 years experience heads off on maternity leave

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Most Read