September 5, 2012 – Campbell River – For the last three decades the Oyster River Enhancement Society has virtually breathed life into a once dying river with traditional methods of fish production and a razor-thin annual budget of $30,000 to $40,000. To upgrade hatchery operations and expand its impact the society has hired new management and increased efforts to recruit a new generation of volunteers.
Since inception in 1983, the society has raised fish returns to near historic levels by producing more than one million salmon per year for the Oyster River. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but the challenges of the last 28 years have made the society experts at managing change.
When the society lost its annual BC Gaming Grant it turned to private donors for financial support. When the Bear Creek nature Park was created, the society became a key partner of Comox Valley Regional District in providing recreational and public education opportunities. In 2005 the society underwent expansion with a large private donation managed by the Pacific Salmon Foundation. This resulted in the creation of a new spawning channel just off the Oyster River, which is maintained by society volunteers receiving technical input from Fisheries and Oceans biologists and engineers.
Former hatchery manager Frank Petruzelka was the driving force behind many of these changes. But earlier this year, when Petruzelka decided to retire and train new hatchery manager Lyle Edmunds, the society took it as an opportunity to fine-tune operations. One new volunteer, Sonora Morin, brought a wealth of salmon and hatchery knowledge from fourteen years working as a Fisheries and Oceans Canada Community Advisor in the Campbell River Region.
“My favorite part of the job is connecting with the volunteers that are so passionate about salmon stewardship. Working with the society allows me to work with those people while leveraging my hatchery experience in my own backyard (Campbell River)” said Morin. “I’m impressed by how receptive they’ve been to adopting the new techniques we developed in consultation with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The new techniques will help increase fish production, fish survival rates and cut costs.”
The society continues to receive generous project financing from Pacific Salmon Foundation, RBC Bluewater and Marine Harvest, to name a few. The Comox Valley community also supports the society through an annual fundraising dinner held each fall in partnership with the Pacific Salmon Foundation. Since its start in 1994, the dinner has helped contribute more than $1 million to local salmon projects, according to the dinner’s volunteer chair Judy Ackinclose.
The public can help provide funding support for local groups like the society by attending the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s upcoming Comox Valley Dinner, Dance & Auction Saturday September 22nd, 2012 at the Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay. The event features raffles with top prizes of angling adventures and getaways, a seafood appetizer bar, champagne reception and music and dancing. As in past years, the society will be out in force helping with all aspects of the event, and perhaps even bidding on some of the fabulous auction items. Tickets are $60.00 and are available at Gone Fishin’ (2720 Cliffe Ave) or by contacting Judy Ackinclose at 250.335.0010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Rick Janzen, president, Oyster River Enhancement, email@example.com ,
Sonora Morin, Oyster River Enhancement Society volunteer, (250) 923-3326 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Meneer, Pacific Salmon Foundation,604-664-7664 ext. 123, email@example.com
About the Oyster River Enhancement Society
Established in 1983, the Oyster River Enhancement Society is one of Vancouver Island’s oldest volunteer hatchery and enhancement organizations. Each year they produce approximately 500,000 Pinks; 90,000 Chinook; 300,000 Chum and 140,000 Coho. Approximately 70,000 Coho are kept and fed over the winter and released as healthy smolts the following April. www.oysterriverenhancement.org
About the Pacific Salmon Foundation
The Pacific Salmon Foundation was created in 1987 as an independent, non-government, charitable organization to protect, conserve and rebuild Pacific Salmon populations in British Columbia and the Yukon. The Foundation’s mission is to be the trusted voice for conservation and restoration of wild Pacific salmon and their ecosystems and works to bring salmon back stream by stream through the strategic use of resources where local communities are mobilized. www.psf.ca