Pinks begin their life journey at Nile Creek hatchery

From left, NCES president Ken Kirkby, DFO Technical Support Consultant Jack Newman and NCES volunteer Jack Gillan pour some pink salmon eggs into an ovadine bath at the Nile Creek Hatchery on Tuesday.  - Lissa Alexander photo
From left, NCES president Ken Kirkby, DFO Technical Support Consultant Jack Newman and NCES volunteer Jack Gillan pour some pink salmon eggs into an ovadine bath at the Nile Creek Hatchery on Tuesday.
— image credit: Lissa Alexander photo

Although the ultimate fate of 1.5 million pink salmon eggs that arrived at the Nile Creek Hatchery Tuesday is uncertain, one thing is for sure.

“It’s life that brings life to the river,” said Ken Kirkby, president of the Nile Creek Enhancement Society.

The fertilized eggs were picked up from Quinsam River Hatchery by Nile Creek Enhancement Society (NCES) volunteers and delivered to the Nile Creek hatchery in Bowser. They were transferred to an Ovadine bath with the help of fisheries staff, to sterilize and prevent pathogens from reaching the river.

The little pink eggs were then poured into an incubator where they will stay until they hatch in the Spring, and move on to the hatchery’s Capilano trough.

When the fish are ready for their journey, they will make their way through a pipe underground that feeds into to the river and leads out to sea.

But some of the eggs will have a different fate. About 300,000 of the salmon fry will be transferred to the Deep Bay Yacht Club for a bit of an ongoing experiment. These fish will be fed every two hours for five weeks, something that’s been done for the past four years.

“This was an experiment to see, if by doing that, and them being larger and stronger before they start their journey, would there be any significant difference in rate of return?” Kirkby said, explaining the experiment.

And indeed there has been. Although there are many variables that come into play, they have seen a return three times larger with these fish, Kirkby said. Partnering with the Fanny Bay Salmonid Enhancement Society, some of these fish have then helped repopulate the waterways in that region.

When salmon come back to the waterways from the sea, however, many of them return to Nile Creek, Kirkby said. This is because they are often guided by for the smell of the water from the area they were born.

“It’s all by odour,” he said.

What percentage of the fish return? Kirkby wasn’t certain, in fact because nature is so complex, the main consensus in the industry, from officials to volunteers, is “we don’t know,” he said.

This was echoed in the Cohen Commission’s recent report on the decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River. The report underlined how much is unknown about fish stressors, migratory and feeding patterns, and so there was no single cause explaining the decades-long decline.

But the outlook in Nile Creek is quite the opposite with hundreds of thousands of fish returning in the past few years. And although there’s uncertainty, they do know one thing. The work by NCES over the last 20 years, with help from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, has turned a dead river back into a thriving one.


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