Small fish, big goals

As the ice breaks up on the Bulkley River, the Buck Creek Canfor hatchery prepares for the Goodbye Fry salmon release event on April 27. Guests are welcome to arrive as early as 9 a.m, and salmon fry will be released at 11 a.m. The event promises to be festive with a BBQ, a hatchery tour with some fish on display and a campfire to raise spirits and bring the community together to protect the watershed.

Cindy Verbeek is an environmental educator working for A Rocha, an international Christian conservation organization dedicated to scientific research, conservation, education, and sustainable agriculture. The fry release is really just a small part in a much greater, holistic strategy that is needed for these conservation efforts to be successful. “We’re in the business of engaging the community” explains Verbeek, “and getting them more involved in, hopefully, caring for the watershed so the salmon that are already there can have a healthy watershed to live in”

Verbeek has been operating the hatchery with the help of volunteers, raising salmon fry for release and tending to the watershed through organizing stream keepers to monitor the watershed. They are not, however, in the business of restocking the watershed with salmon, rather the Buck Creek Hatchery is a stewardship hatchery, focusing mainly on community engagement and habitat rehabilitation and protection.

The main goal is to work with landowners to keep the riparian zone healthy. “We want to create a better ecosystem for the salmon, I mean we can pump as many fish as we want to, but if the river isn’t able to produce it doesn’t matter what we are going to put in there, they’re not going to survive,” says Verbeek. The Bulkley River is already a low flowing and warm river. Salmon need cool temperatures, less than 15 degrees Celsius, and the Bulkley River can get up to 25 degrees.

Verbeek’s work with A Rocha is a beckoning call to anyone interested in actively working together to protect our ecosystems. They do need help though, and anyone willing to volunteer at the hatchery, get involved or even donate can contact Verbeek at cindy.verbeek@arocha .ca. For now, stopping by and showing your support is a good first step to help raise awareness and participation. By working together, everyone can help keep the rivers pristine for generations to come.

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