Hatchery wants to stock rivers with indigenous species

Maureen Coulter
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The Abegweit Biodiversity Enhancement Hatchery one of a kind in province

The Abegweit Biodiversity Enhancement Hatchery wants to improve the river systems in Prince Edward Island by replenishing waterways with indigenous fish species.

"Fish stocking is the tool for fisheries management," said Roger Sark, natural resources director for Abegweit First Nation. "Before, they used to do quantity. We try to do quality."

The hatchery is the only of its kind in the province and operates under the Abegweit First Nation Fisheries and Natural Resources program.

The facility has contracts with the province and the Wildlife Conservation Fund to raise 40,000 brook trout and 50,000 Atlantic salmon annually.

Scott Taylor, hatchery manager, said last year the hatchery released 95,000 trout and 70,000 salmon into Island rivers in both the fall and spring.

"That was an exceptional year because we had extra fish. Normally, we would just do the fall but we had more fish so we were able to accomplish that" said Taylor. "Anything extra that we have we will put them where needed."

The trout were released into four Island rivers - Morell, Cardigan/Brudenell, Dunk/Wilmot and Mill River. The salmon were released into Morell and West River.

Taylor said they also produced 4,000 derby fish for public fishing ponds in the province.

"A lot of people who put on these family fishing days have to go off Island to get brook trout to stock their ponds," said Taylor adding, "We don't necessarily feel it's right."

In the fall season, a host of UPEI students, watershed groups and government employees head out with the hatchery to different river systems to collect broodstock, the parent fish, to bring back to the hatchery.

After the broodstock have had a chance to spawn, they put the fertilized eggs into an incubation system and return the broodstock to the river.

For several months, the eggs are in trays and are cared for by the hatchery.

The brook trout at the hatchery are currently at first feeding stage. The trout will be fed a formulated diet until they are released in the spring. The Atlantic salmon are just starting to hatch.

On top of repopulating waterways, the hatchery is taking green initiatives at their facility. The building is partially powered by photovoltaic solar power system, which converts sunlight into electricity. They also use LED bulbs to improve efficiency.

Next on the hatchery's agenda is to develop a recirculating water system.

Sark said the only issue they are having at the facility is funding and are looking for sponsorships.

To help contribute or to have a tour of the hatchery call 902-676-2353 or visit www.abegweithatchery.ca

"We are open to the general public," said Sark. "Give us a call to let us know you are coming out. We are happy to show you around."

FACT BOX

1 - The Fish friends program, a component of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, gives students in the region the chance to see the process of the Atlantic salmon's life cycle.

2 - It is getting more popular in the province. Last year there were eight schools that participated - this year there are 13.

3 - Across the region there are more than 700 schools participating.

4 - The Abegweit Biodiversity Enhancement Hatchery supplies the eggs for the Fish Friends program in the province.

5 - Over a five-month period, youth get to raise Atlantic salmon from eggs to fry in their classroom before releasing them into Island rivers.

maureen.coulter@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/MaureenElizaC

Organizations: Abegweit First Nation Fisheries, Wildlife Conservation Fund, Atlantic Salmon Federation

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Atlantic, Mill River West River

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