Tofino Hatchery volunteers help replace an aeration tower thanks to funding from the Pacific Salmon Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Doug Palfrey)

Tofino Hatchery receives vital emergency funding

“The tower was leaning, the pipes were bending, the valves were stressed.”

Tofino Hatchery volunteers will begin their annual egg collection this month thanks to vital emergency funding from the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Hatchery manager Doug Palfrey told the Westerly News he feared the hatchery would not be able to operate this season because its 28-year-old water aeration tower was in need of replacement.

“The concrete was broken, the wood was rotten and it just needed a total rebuild,” he said, adding he had informed the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada that he was unwilling to operate the hatchery any further unless the tower was replaced.

“I was not going to take that chance of having eggs in here,” he said. “The tower was leaning, the pipes were bending, the valves were stressed.”

He said DFO declined to fund a replacement, but he sent pictures of the tower to the Pacific Salmon Foundation and was relieved to see them jump into action and provide $18,600 from its emergency funding program.

“That’s phenomenal service. I can’t speak highly enough of Pacific Salmon Foundation,” he said. “They really have their finger on the pulse on the needs, especially of the volunteer hatcheries. They’re understanding of the needs of small operations like ours.”

The money covered the cost of the materials and volunteers made quick work of building the tower and connecting it to the hatchery’s infrastructure in time.

The tower stands roughly three metres high and is an essential component of the hatchery as it feeds water to the incubation systems. .

“We’re very different than other hatcheries being that we are on a water line from Meares Island, we don’t have a river here. The water passes through a couple kilometers in a pipeline,” he said. “The water has to be run through the aeration system so that the fish can utilize it.”

The hatchery has been in operation since around 1984 with Palfrey and volunteers working tirelessly to try to reverse the troubling trend of vanishing salmon populations.

Palfrey said those efforts are imperative because of the “dire straits” of Chinook salmon stocks.

“The Chinook numbers are extremely low in Clayoquot Sound and have been for a number of years,” he said. “It’s sort of sped along over the last few years…They’re up against a lot of hurdles.”

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READ MORE: Tofino Hatchery wraps up successful season

READ MORE: Ucluelet’s Thornton Creek Hatchery to release 700,000 salmon

READ MORE: Salmon populations “drastically declining” around Tofino and Ucluelet

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