The Thornton Creek Hatchery held its annual open house and Adopt-A-Salmon Day on May 30.
The event is a favourite among local youth who arrive in droves to receive buckets full of baby salmon that they carry to the nearby estuary and release into the wild.
The Thornton Creek Enhancement Society puts on Adopt-A-Salmon Day as a way to have fun with the community while highlighting the hatcheryâ€™s important contribution to the West Coast.
â€œItâ€™s just a really great family event,â€ said society member Carol Sedgwick.
â€œWeâ€™re here to restore the populations of the salmon, because theyâ€™ve been diminished, and this event brings that awareness to the general public.â€
Society member Wanda McAvoy said the event offers a solid source of family fun and motivates youth to get outside and into the ecosystem surrounding them.
â€œIt brings all the community together, especially the children,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s very fun and theyâ€™re outside in nature; itâ€™s an environmentally-friendly awesome event.â€
Society member Doug Kimoto said the event offers parents a fun and interactive way to teach their kids about their surroundings.
â€œIt brings the community and the young people out to see part of our natural world,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s important for the kids to get outdoors these days and get away from all their gadgets in the home.â€
He added that itâ€™s important for the local community to understand the value of the hatcheryâ€™s efforts.
â€œOur region and communities rely on the fishery resources for survival and economic benefits,â€ he said. Itâ€™s important to enhance these wild stocks to keep them going, without enhancement youâ€™d probably see a lot of these runs disappear.â€
Local dad Dennis Morgan was stoked to bring his two young children to the event.
â€œI brought them out so they could get a chance to see the little fish and let them go out into the estuary and continue the whole cycle of the salmon,â€ Morgan said.
â€œIt keeps the kids connected to nature, it gets them out of the house, off the screen, and into the wild where they should be.â€
The Hatcheryâ€™s manager Ray said the event helps introduce local youth to the salmon-cycle.
â€œItâ€™s important because kids have to know whatâ€™s going on around them, and the environment around them, and not only just seeing the fish but knowing the life-cycle of the fish,â€ he said.
â€œEvery year there seems to be more and more kids coming (and) the kids enjoy it; itâ€™s a fun time.â€
He said he had released about 240,000 Chinook prior to the event where 60,000 more were released.
He noted the hatcheryâ€™s open house is traditionally held in mid-June but with low rainfall, high temperatures, and a very low snowpack this year, everything moved quicker.
Ukee local Dave Hurwitz was on hand to help fill kidsâ€™ buckets with baby salmon and said he was stoked to see such a solid turnout.
â€œWeâ€™re a community based hatchery and weâ€™re all about trying to help keep the stocks of salmon alive for the future so the genetics of these strains of fish will continue on for generations,â€ he said.
â€œItâ€™s great to see all these young people out that are interested and in love with salmon and helping to keep this dream of keeping the runs of salmon alive for the future.â€
He said salmon are an integral keystone of the West Coastâ€™s culture and economy but added humans arenâ€™t the only ones who benefit from the hatcheryâ€™s efforts.
â€œThereâ€™s all sorts of animals that rely on salmon fry and salmon adults and salmon eggs as part of their life process, right down to forms of bacteria and weird little invertebrates in the stream that eat the carcasses,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a very holistic thing.â€
He noted the hatchery receives modest government funding but that this funding has not been increased in over 20 years and the hatcheryâ€™s efforts largely rely on community support.
â€œLike a lot of the non-profit organizations on the West Coast, the hatchery contributes to the fabric of our town culturally, environmentally and also economically,â€ he said noting tourists travel to Ucluelet for fishing opportunities and the local fish plants are key job creators.
â€œWeâ€™re running on a lot of love, weâ€™re supported by donations and volunteers and itâ€™s just so great to see the support here today; itâ€™s hope for the future.â€
Anyone interested in supporting the restocking efforts is encouraged to contact the hatchery at 250-726-7566