Keeping Hatchery Volunteers Safe During COVID-19 Pandemic – 2020 Coho Bon Voyage Cancelled

The Bowen Island Fish & Wildlife Club (BIFWC) manages the Terminal Creek Salmon Hatchery located in Crippen Park under the supervision of Fisheries & Oceans Canada (DFO). We received 100,000 pink salmon eggs last November, cared for them in incubation trays at the hatchery through the alevin stage, and released the fry near the Causeway at the Lagoon on February 13th. The same day DFO delivered 13,500 coho eggs which are now fry being cared for and fed every day in hatchery water troughs. We didn’t receive our usual allotment of 100,000 chum eggs this year because of poor chum spawner returns last fall, which makes it easier to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines because there are fewer salmon for volunteers to care for. The 53 BICS ’Salmonid in the Classroom’ coho alevins were released early due to the school closure; last week they likely emerged from the gravel of Terminal Creek as fry.

Since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in early March, we’ve limited the number of BIFWC volunteers looking after coho at the hatchery to only one volunteer at a time. If more than one volunteer are required, we limit volunteers to 2 or 3 maximum and physical distancing must be adhered to. Hand sanitizer is on site and volunteers are encouraged to use it. If volunteers have symptoms of any illness they will not leave their homes and another volunteer will take their place. In late May or early June a limited number of BIFWC volunteers, under the supervision of our DFO Community Advisor, will release the hatchery coho into Bowen creeks. We will practice physical distancing and do everything we can to be safe.

It’s very important to note that almost all BIFWC salmon enhancement volunteers are seniors. We are in the high-risk category for serious health problems if we catch COVID-19. Therefore, it is essential that we follow all guidelines recommended by federal and provincial health experts. Our partners, including Fisheries & Oceans Canada and Metro Vancouver Parks, also recognize the importance of following health guidelines, not only for BIFWC volunteers but for the Bowen Island community and visitors.

Public events, such as hatchery tours and the BIFWC AGM, have been cancelled or postponed. Visitors are not allowed into the hatchery. Coho Bon Voyage, usually held on the 1st Sunday in June, is cancelled this year. Educational school visits focused on the salmon life cycle have been cancelled. Several BIFWC volunteers will complete projects maintaining and repairing the Bridal Veil Falls fish ladders and the hatchery water system during low water flow in the summer.

Personally, I feel safely caring for salmon at the hatchery is a welcome relief from COVID-19. Volunteers miss the community involvement, especially with school students who are so enthusiastic to see eggs/alevin/fry at the hatchery, but being able to observe salmon adds some ’normal’ to our lives.

Take care and be safe,
Tim Pardee